The Eyes Are Not Here By Ruskin Bond

Introduction: The Eyes Have It (other titles: The Girl on the Train & The Eyes Are Not Here) is a marvellous short story written by Ruskin Bond and was first published in Contemporary Indian English Stories. The narrator of this story, a blind man with sensitive eyes to light and darkness, was travelling by train to Dehradun when he met and chatted with a female. The narrator discovers the girl’s blindness only after she has departed and another passenger has entered the compartment.

This story describes traveling experience in life in a light-hearted and simple style. The blind narrator is not self-pitying. He is very matter-of-fact about his disability. This is what makes them so touching. The reader is struck by the pathos of the incident. The narrative ends with an unexpected and startling revelation.

The story gives us a glimpse of the world as experienced by a visually challenged person. We are reminded of Helen Keller and her story about how she overcame her handicap through will and courage.

About the Author

Ruskin Bond born on 19 May 1934 in Kasauli, Himachal Pradesh, and raised in Shimla, Jamnagar, Dehradun, and Mussoorie is a noted Indian writer of fiction in English. He spent four years as a young man on the Channel Island and in London. He was awarded the ‘Sahitya Academy award in 1992 and the Padmashri in 1999.

The most of Bond’s writings are heavily influenced by the social life of the hill stations near the foothills of the Himalayas, where he spent his youth. His debut work, “The Room On the Roof,” was written at the age of seventeen and published at the age of twenty-one.

It was somewhat inspired by his experiences in Dehra, specifically in his modest rented roof room, and by his companions. In 1957, he was awarded the John Llewellyn Rhys Memorial Prize for “Room On the Roof.” He has since published over 300 short stories, essays, and novellas (including Vagrants in the Valley, The Blue Umbrella, and A Flight of Pigeons) as well as over 30 children’s books. Additionally, he authored two books of autobiography. Scenes from a Writer’s Life, which chronicles his formative years in Anglo-India, and The Lamp is Lit, a compilation of essays and journal entries.

Outline of the Story

It is an excellent short storey written by Ruskin Bond, who employs the first person narrative approach. Everything is recounted here by a blind individual. His eyes are completely blind to everything but light and dark. He meets a girl while on his way to Dehradun by rail. He initiates conversation and develops an interest in her gradually. To captivate the girl, he deftly conceals his blindness. However, the exchange is brief. As the train approaches her final stop, the girl bids him farewell. A male passenger enters the cubicle shortly after she departs. The narrator learns of the girl’s total blindness from that man. The storyteller is taken aback by the reveal. He has fooled himself, he believes. This is an ironic turn of events that contributes to the story’s attractiveness in the conclusion.

Summary of The Eyes Are Not Here

The narrator is alone in the compartment. A girl enters the compartment at that station. Her parents bid her farewell and counsel her on her safety, directing her on where to store her possessions, not to lean out the window, and to avoid strangers. In this passage, the narrator unexpectedly discloses that he is blind. Once the train departs from the platform, the narrator approaches the girl and inquires about her trip to Dehradun. She is taken aback by the voice, as she had assumed she was alone in the cabin. The girl informed him that she would be travelling to Saharanpur to meet her aunt. The narrator speaks about Mussoorie, the destination he was on his way to, describing the area’s beauty in October (the month in which the storey takes place).

Throughout the conversation, the narrator maintains the conscious pretence of having an excellent vision. Though he is generally circumspect in his word choice, he recalls at one point that he came dangerously close to giving up due to some sloppy remarks. Following some more fascinating conversation, the narrator boldly informs her that she has an fascinating face. She cheerfully responds that it was a wonderful diversion from the frequently repeated comment, “You have a pretty face.” Soon, the girl’s train arrives at her destination, and she bids farewell. The author then overhears a disturbance near the carriage’s door and an apology from a man.

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The man then enters and apologises to the narrator for not being as beautiful as the last travel companion. When the narrator asks how the girl’s hair was worn, the other person says that he only saw her eyes, which were beautiful but useless to her because she was blind. The man asks the narrator if he had noticed it too. The story wraps up with the narrator resuming his game of posing as a person with sight.

Meanings and Explanations

I had the compartment ……. October is the best time.

Compartment: section of a railway carriage.
Rohana: name of a place
Anxious: worried; concerned
Pulled out: left
Sensitive : (here) reacting to
Slapped: beat noisily
Startled: surprised
Exclamation: a sound that expresses surprise or any other sudden feeling.
Take in: to observe; to notice.
Essentials: necessary things
registers; make an impression
Most tellingly: most powerfully
Remaining senses: human beings have five senses-sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch. Here since sight is lacking, the other four senses are referred to.
Formidable: frightening.
Calling’ on my memories: recalling; remembering
Dahlia: beautiful flower seen in many bright colours
Delicious: here, beautiful
Daring: courageous
Remark: comment
Log—fire: fire from burning logs of wood.
Deserted: empty

The narrator who is blind encounters a girl while traveling on a train. He tries to know more about the girl without revealing his disability to her.

She was silent …… two or three hours.

touched her: moved her; affected her.
romantic fool: someone whose Views on life are idealistic, not practical.
making a pretence: pretending; appearing to do something without really doing it.
Panting: breathing in a short quick manner; here, the noise his of the engine
Tumble: the sound of heavy machinery
Mind’s eye: inside the mind imagining
Daring: bold
Few girls can resist flattery: many girls are taken in by praise
Ringing laugh: resounding laugh
Gallant: very polite and courteous to ladies.
Troubled: worried

The two converse about the beauty of the landscape and other ordinary matters. The narrator is careful not to reveal that he is blind. He learns that the girl is pretty. When the girl asks him why he is so serious, he decides to try to laugh for her but is overcome by loneliness.

Yet I was prepared ….. notice?
Sparkle: here, merry and bubbling sound.
Encounter: an unexpected meeting
Shrieked: screamed the carriage wheels changed sound and rhythm: slowed because the train was reaching the next station.
Plaited: braided, woven into a thick braid
Vendors: people selling goods
High-pitched: shrill
Tantalizing: tempting but disappointingly out of reach
Lingered: remained even after the girl had gone.
Stammered: spoke nervously
Apology: say one is sorry
Fascinating: irresistibly charming
Puzzled: confused
The blind narrator collects small details about the girl from hints dropped by the girl herself. The girl gets off at her station. Another stranger enters the compartment and makes the shocking revelation that the girl is also blind.

Style and Setting of the Story

The Eyes Have It is the perfect brief storey. It’s a quick read and can easily be completed in a single sitting. There are only three characters in the film: the narrator, the girl, and the new passenger. It exemplifies Bond’s simple but universal style of storytelling. It is a simple story told transparently with a keen understanding of men’s psyche. It concludes with a stunning revelation, and its plot is tightly wound. By employing the first-person storytelling approach, Bond brings the story to life.

The story is set in a very straightforward and engaging manner. Everything takes place in the railway compartment, and the month of October is chosen to highlight Mussoorie’s beauty. It is teeming with ironic twists and turns. The narrator’s efforts to conceal his blindness contain genuine hilarity. However, when he learns that the girl is also blind, his humour takes an ironic turn. It demonstrates Ruskin Bond’s pity for the blind, their difficulties, and their loneliness. Bond concentrates on universal human experiences through the unique perspective of the blind narrator. It exemplifies Bond’s expertise in character development. Bond, like the great French master Maupassant, used everyday people to create intriguing settings.

The two passengers shared similarities and contrasts.

The narrator was blind and wanted to conceal his condition from the girl. He was a talkative person. He was adept at concealing his deafness. He was an outright romantic buffoon. The narrator is symbolic of all guys who adore a woman’s presence.

The girl, too, was blind, and she, like the narrator, strove to conceal her condition. Despite her parents’ warnings, the young lady was also a talker. The girl was more cunning than the narrator in concealing her blindness. The young lady was laser-like in her focus. She had no desire to savour a fleeting contact with a man. The girl embodies all women who crave safety in the company of a guy and then disappear without saying goodbye once she has arrived securely.

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Questions and Answers

Short Answer Questions

1. Why did the narrator think that the couple who saw the girl off were her parents?
A: The couple seemed to be very anxious about the girl’s comfort. They fussed over her and gave her detailed instructions about how to take care of herself and her belongings.

2. Why was the narrator unable to tell what the girl looked like?
Ans. The narrator was totally blind. His eyes were sensitive only to light and darkness.

3 How did he know that the girl wore slippers?

Ans. The slippers made a slapping noise as they hit her heels.

4. What did the narrator like about the girl?
Ans. He liked the sound of her voice and even the sound of her slippers.

5. Why, according to the narrator, was the girl startled when he spoke to her?
Ans. The girl may not have seen the narrator sitting in the dark corner.

6. What was the real reason for the girl not seeing the narrator?
Ans. She was blind.

7. Why do people with good eyesight fail to see what is right in front of them?
Ans. They have too much to observe through their five senses.

8. How are blind people different in the way they observe things?
Ans. Blind people observe only the essential things right in front of them. Having only four ., senses, they take in the powerful impressions created by them.

9. How did the blind narrator plan to keep his blindness from the girl?
Ans. The blind narrator decided not to get up from his seat.

10. Who would be meeting the girl at her destination?
Ans. She would be met by her aunt.

11. Why did the narrator say that he would not talk to the girl too much?
Ans. The girl said that she would be met by her aunt at her destination. At this, the narrator humorously remarked that he would not be too friendly with her as aunts are frighteningly protective people.

12. What was the narrator’s destination?
Ans. The narrator was going to Dehra Dun and from there to Mussoorie.

13. Why did the girl remark that the narrator was lucky?
Ans. The narrator was lucky to go to a beautiful place like Mussoorie.

14. What did the girl like about Mussoorie?
Ans. The girl liked its beautiful hills, especially in October.

15. Why is October the best time to be in Mussoorie?
And. In October the hills are covered with wild dahlias and delightful sunlight. It is peaceful.

16. Why did the narrator feel that the girl would consider him to be a romantic foal?
Ans. The narrator described Mussoorie as if he enjoyed the peaceful beauty of nature. His preference for solitude and the lovely sights of nature might make him look like a romantic fool.

17. What was the mistake the narrator made?
A: The narrator forgot his decision not to reveal to the girl that he was blind. He asked her how the landscape looked.

18. Why did the narrator feel that the girl might have noticed that he was blind?
Ans. The girl did not seem to think it strange when he asked her how the scenery outside looked.

19. What made him sure that she did not know about his blindness?
Ans. When the narrator asked the girl about the scenery outside, she responded by telling him to look for himself.

20. How did the narrator keep his blindness from the girl when she asked him to view the landscape?
Ans. The narrator moved easily along the berth, felt for the window and pretended to study the landscape.

21. What did the narrator see in his mind’s eye?
Ans. The narrator imagined the telegraph posts flashing by.

22. Why did the narrator think that it was safe to make a personal remark about her face?
Ans. The narrator was of the opinion that girls like to be flattered.

23. What was the girl’s reaction to the narrator’s comment about her face?
Ans. She laughed and said that it was a pleasant change to be told that her face was interesting. She was tired of being told that she had a pretty face

24. How did the narrator find out that his companion was pretty?
Ans. When the narrator remarked that she had an interesting face, the girl laughingly told him that it was nice to be described as interesting.
She was tired of people telling her she was pretty.

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25. Why did the girl say that the narrator was a gallant young man?
Ans. The narrator flattered her by saying that she had an interesting and pretty face.

26. What did the thought of laughter evoke in him?
Ans. The thought of laughter made him feel troubled and lonely.

27. How does the narrator describe the girl’s voice?
Ans. The girl’s voice had the sparkle of a mountain stream.

28. What impact did meeting the girl have on the narrator?
Ans. The narrator wanted to continue listening to her voice. He felt that he would not forget the girl for a long time. Her memory would linger around him like a perfume.

29. Why was the girl glad that it was a short journey?
Ans. The girl hated long train journeys. She could not bear to sit for more than two or three hours.

30. Who got into the compartment when the girl got off?
Ans. A man got in.

31. How did the narrator occupy himself on such journeys?
Ans. The narrator played a guessing game using hints dropped by fellow travelers to form an idea about them and the surroundings.

32. Why did the fellow travelers that the narrator must be disappointed?
Ans. The man said this because he had replaced the attractive girl as the narrator’s traveling companion.

33. What was the shocking revelation of the new traveling companion?
Ans. The man told him that the girl’s beautiful eyes were sightless.

34. What evidence have we to believe that the narrator was not blind all his life?
Ans. The narrator says that he was “totally blind at the time”. This means that earlier he could see and that he had lost his vision gradually.

Paragraph Questions and Answers

1. Describe the narrator’s meeting with the girl?
Answer: The narrator met the girl on a train journey. Her parents who came to see her off fussed over her. She told him that she would be received by her aunt at the end of her journey. When he told her that he was going to Mussoorie, they exchanged their views about that place. The narrator took care not to reveal his disability to the girl. He did this by making only general remarks which were safe. When the girl got off at her station, another man got into his compartment. It was then that the narrator came to know that she was blind like him

2. What were the narrator’s thoughts and impressions about the girl who was his traveling companion?
Answer: The narrator liked the sound of her voice which he felt had the sparkle of a mountain stream. She was a friendly and pleasant girl. She had a clear ringing laugh. When she responded with silence to his emotional description of Mussoorie, he Was afraid that she would think of him as a romantic fool. He learned from her that she was considered to be pretty. When she left the compartment her perfume lingered on. He would have liked to go on talking to her. He found her very interesting.

3. What hints can we pick up from the narrative about the girl’s blindness?
Answer: The girl’s parents gave her detailed instructions as to where to keep her things. They seemed to be very anxious about her traveling alone. She had not seen the narrator in the compartment and was started to hear his voice. She became silent when he gave a vivid description of Mussoorie probably because she was deprived of such visual pleasure. She did not find it strange when the narrator asked her what the view outside the window was like.
She asked him if he saw any animals outside. When she was stepping out of the window, there was some confusion in the doorway and the man who was entering stammered an apology. These hints point to the girl’s disability but the blind narrator did not notice anything.

4. What do you understand about the character of the narrator?
Answer: Blindness made the narrator sensitive to minute things in his surroundings. As he said, lack of sight makes the other four senses more acute. He liked to play guessing games about the people and places around him. Though he seemed to take his disability philosophically, the presence of the girl made the youth in him want to keep it a secret. His description of Mussoorie shows him as a nature-lover. He made sense of things by giving an imaginative colour to the hints dropped by people and knowledge gained through the other four senses. He was serious and never laughed much. The thought of laughter made him feel troubled and lonely.

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