THE EYES ARE NOT HERE BY RUSKIN BOND
Introduction: 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 (1934 – ) is a noted Indian wither of fiction in English. He spent most of his Childhood in Shimla and Dehradun. These places provide the background for many of his short stories. He was awarded the ‘Sahitya Academy award in 1992 and the Padmashri in 1999.
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
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.
calling’ on my memories: recalling; remembering
dahlia: beautiful ﬂower seen in many bright colours
delicious: here, beautiful
log—fire: ﬁre from burning logs of wood.
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 hisof the engine
tumble: the sound of heavy machinery
mind’s eye: inside the mind imagining
few girls can resist ﬂattery: many girls are taken in by praise
ringing laugh: resounding laugh
gallant: very polite and courteous to ladies.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.