‘The Eyes Have It’ is a short story penned in the 1950s by Indian author Ruskin Bond. It is one of Ruskin Bond’s most famous stories and is well-loved by the Indian populace, especially children. Ruskin Bond is India’s most beloved writer who has had a prolific career. He has written many novels, short stories, essays, sketches, spanning over seven decades. This short story, ‘ The Eyes Have It’, narrates in the first-person narrative the interaction between two young blind people who never realized that both were blind during their meeting. The story’s narrator is a romantic and contemplative soul who has lost his vision and tries to trick his train companion, a young girl, into thinking that he could see. However, the joke was on him because she, too, could not see but could keep this fact away from him throughout the train journey traveling from Rohana to Saharanpur in the hills of India. The story has this appealing and unique twist at the end, where two blind people have a conversation with each other, not knowing of the other’s visual impairment. Ruskin Bond gained a lot of fame for this story titled ‘The Eyes Have It’, especially in the early years of his writing career.
As we read the text, we notice that both the narrator and the young lady were not blind from birth; both had been able to see in the past. The narrator himself states that when this event took place, he could not see at all back then, indicating indirectly that now he could see. On the other hand, she remembered the hills of Mussoorie during October, which was impossible for her to know if she were unable to see at all from birth. Also, she is aware that when a train moves, the trees and telegraph poles outside the window seem to be moving along with the train while the passengers within it seem to be standing still. Where the narrator is concerned, we again realize he could see in the past because he too remembers how Mussoorie looked during the October season. He remembers the dahlias in the hills, the delicious colors of the sun, and the contentment he would feel sitting by a log fire sipping brandy.
As mentioned earlier, the narrator in this story is a romantic and wishes to fool his new train companion into making her think that he could see. There are several instances where we, as astute readers, realize that she, like him, was also blind by accurately reading the clues in the short story titled ‘The Eyes Have It’:
- When the narrator called out to her the first time, the girl was startled because she was unaware that anyone was in the compartment. It was not because she did not notice him but because she was blind. She was unable to realize that someone was there with her.
- She was given a list of instructions by her parents about not talking to strangers, not putting her head out of the train, and where to place her luggage because she was blind and not because they were overprotective.
- The young girl mentions that she could not tolerate long train journeys. This was because she was blind and could not entertain herself adequately by looking at the scenery of the hills unfolding out the window.
- When the narrator asks the girl about the view from out the window, instead of looking out herself, she suggests that he should look out instead of asking her.
- She would be picked up by her aunt at Saharanpur for her safety, even though it was a short train journey.
These are the various clues one will come across to make us realize that the girl was indeed visually impaired like the narrator. Concerning the characters of the narrator and the girl, they both were friendly. The girl was a good looker, as her admirers used to tell her, because, as we see from the text, her friends often said to her that she had a pretty face. However, since she was blind, she could not see her beautiful face, which made these compliments seem futile. The young girl was as daring as the narrator, if not more, but could keep her composure in any situation. On his part, the narrator was daring and a risk-taker. We notice this because he bravely compliments the girl on her ‘ interesting face’. He is also a joker of sorts and jokes with the girl about the formidability of her aunt, little knowing that the aunt was coming to pick up the girl because her ward’s sight was impaired. The narrator and the young girl loved the hills, just like Ruskin Bond himself loved the mountains. They had fond memories of their time in Mussoorie and loved to contemplate those times. The narrator was haunted a bit by the fact that he could not see, and that is why he does not laugh at the girl when she asks him why he was so earnest in his manner with her. He loves beauty and was romantic enough to fall in love with the girl’s voice which he describes as a mountain stream, indicating vitality, youth, and freshness.
The reader, through the deftness of Ruskin Bond’s narration, is left wondering whether the narrator will be successful in hiding the fact from the girl that he was blind little knowing the twist in the tale at the end of the story, where the new train passenger, a man who can see informs the narrator that the girl had beautiful eyes that were useless to her because she was blind. This brings us to the title of the short story. The mystery to this story centers on the fact that both the narrator and the girl had visually impaired eyes. It would seem that we, too like the narrator, are blind because we too pay attention to every other detail about the girl except her ‘eyes’ or rather ‘her vision’, which makes us grope in the dark.
The theme of this story is that we only notice those aspects about a stranger which speak immediately to our passive senses, not going deep into the matter and deductively realizing what a person really and truly is. We must not judge a book by its cover and be too overconfident about our analysis of people. This story is also a beautiful and humble tribute to the visually impaired and how they experience the world through their senses and cognition patterns. The story ends with the girl walking out of the train when her destination arrives. She was aware that she had to get down because of the change in the train’s rhythm. She had trouble getting out of the train because she banged into the incoming male passenger, who was the one who realized that she had beautiful but useless eyes. He conveys this to the narrator as a potent climax to the reality of the girl, and the most important thing about her personage, her eyes.
I enjoyed re-reading and analyzing this short story titled ‘The Eyes Have It’ by Indian writer Ruskin Bond. A Braille version of this review is available here for download. I hope to read and review more of Ruskin Bond’s short stories and books soon. If you are interested in reading more of my Ruskin Bond reviews, you can check them out here. Ruskin Bond is my second all-time favorite author and has influenced my writing style greatly. If you want to read my tribute to him, you can check out my memoirs: Scenes of a Reclusive Writer & Reader of Mumbai or The Reclusive Writer & Reader of Bandra. I hope to read and review more short stories by other Indian writers soon.
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©2022 Fiza Pathan
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