Mumbai, April 30 (IANS) It was a disorienting experience for actress Taapsee Pannu when she tried virtual reality (VR) for the first time. On Thursday, Taaapsee

How did you feel the first time you wore glasses?

I felt relieved.

My Arabic teacher in third grade seemed to hate me. I could never finish my classwork on time and would forget my notebook at school. When she made me sit in the front, I’d talk to a classmate across the room.

I was a rambunctious little girl.

There was something wrong with me, and I realized it long before my parents did.

In Kindergarten, my eyesight was already extremely bad. I used to sit in the front, but I’d have to squint to see the board. My classwork would be in illegible scrawl, and being the only lefty in the class only made me feel awkward, not special.

Finally, the day came. The long-awaited checkup. Three years later (third grade).

My pediatrician was a lovely lady. She told me to stand on the red triangular tile and look at the chart across the hall:

I could only recite the first two rows, with at least two mistakes. I felt ashamed. I knew how to read. I could tell my circle from my square! What was wrong with me?

The doctor is flabbergasted. Then she spots something. My dad wears glasses.

“Honey, would you wear yo’ father’s glasses fo’ me?” she asks in that lovely Southern drawl. I oblige.

My eyes widen. The world is tinted sepia (he was wearing glasses with a light brown tint) and my hazy vision is suddenly lucid!

I easily read the fifth row of the second chart. “P, E, C, F, D” I proudly say. I beam at my father, who smiles back. My heart is beating in rhapsody, my world, in harmony. It only lasts for a few moments, because I have to return these glasses to my father.

My mother, though, is not so pleased. “Memorize the chart!” she snaps, and goes inside the checkup room to discuss the outcome of this visit. I smiled blankly, hurt. I tried to do so, but to no avail. It didn’t matter anyway. Eye charts are not meant to be memorized.

The next week, after a visit to the eye doctor, I got my first pair of glasses. They looked something like this:

I hid them behind my back until the right moment: Arabic class. Then, for the first time that year, I completed all my classwork and received a star sticker on my paper. My teacher was not surprised. She knew it all along (apparently, she recommended this to my father, who was also a teacher in my school).

Note: Eight years later, I saw a question that asked me: How did you feel the first time you wore glasses?

I did not think of my emotions at the time. I did not think about how beautiful my glasses were. I did not think of clarity, lucidity, or sharpness. I thought of my mother’s comment:
“Memorize the chart!” I thought of my muddled feelings then, the tone of disappointment in her voice, the nonsensical order that seemed like a punishment.

Tonight, I have finally asked her why she commanded me to do so.

She said:

“I knew you needed glasses. Deep in my heart, I wanted to deny it, that my child was still fine, that she needed nothing. I felt upset, not at you, but at myself. I thought I had failed you, and this made me frustrated. I vent it out on you, even though I knew you were not to blame.” She apologized, and my heart is still grateful for this question. I needed that answer.

Today, I wear contacts most of the time, but on the rare occasion I wear a pair, the feeling of relief is still present.


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