Chashmish is a derogatory term in Hindi that is used to refer to someone who wears spectacles. I had my first experience of this term when I was just about 5 years old. I must be among the rare breed of kids in my generation who got spectacles at such a young age. We were in Sitapur, a small town in UP, where dad was posted back then. In those days, it had one of the largest eye hospitals in Asia. The place had large rooms with contraptions that had jumping monkeys and tigers and bright red and green dots. Kids had to do fascinating stuff with these animated thingies including putting the animals in the cage or out. I was spellbound. With no video games or gadgets, this was my first experience of animated characters. I still remember being very excited while peeping through those intriguing gadgets.
Fun and games over came the painful part of eye testing for kids — the dreaded drops. The doctor would put them in my eyes to dilate the pupils. They stung. Confused, I would protest but mom would hush me.” It is needed, beta,” she would cajole. Sulking I would sit with my eyes shut in a dark room for what seemed like interminable time with mummy who sat quietly commiserating with her young daughter.
And when I came out of the room, everything seemed blurred. I hated that. The doctor who greeted me seemed nice enough. But I was upset at him, at mom, at everyone for making me go through this, my fascination with those animated animals gone by now. And then the doctor started my eye test. I read everything down to the last line. He tried again, changing the power in the humongous device that was perched on my tiny nose. No problem! I read everything again perfectly. The doctor was confused. He tried again with the same result. Now mom understood. She whispered something to him. He changed the slide to numbers. This time I could not even read the first line. Of course I had mugged up the lines and was just vomiting them out which mom had smartly figured out. So finally, I was given a prescription.
Then began the nightmare. A very ugly-looking plasticky thing in a shade of brown with glasses was given to me to be worn. I started crying as soon as I saw it. Why did I have to wear it? Well, dad wore spectacles but they were for the adults, weren’t they? Children did not wear specs. I WILL NOT wear them! After much coaxing, bribing and threatening, I was forced to wear that detested thing. I felt very self-conscious. It was painful as that ‘thing’ kept sliding down my nose very often. But I had no clue of the nightmare I was about to face at school.
The children in my class teased me mercilessly. Everywhere I heard ‘chashmish’ ‘chashmish.’ It was relentless. I remember crying but to no avail. The first day was the worst so much so that I had silently vowed never to wear it again. So, I wore the spectacles when my sister came to drop me off to class, and promptly took them off and kept them in my bag as soon as she left. I was careful to wear them back after the classes ended. This went on for a few days till my sister found out and brought an end to this. The teachers were then roped in to ensure that I wore my spectacles and also to rein in the kids. But you know how kids are. They found ways to bully me.
I also tried other tricks in my book. I would ‘accidentally’ drop my specs in the toilet in the morning. I must have ‘accidentally dropped’ at least 5 pairs. Then mom put a tight, rubber band kind of thing to hold my specs. That used to hurt my hair and I resented that adding to the ugliness of my specs. But slowly I stopped dropping the specs ‘accidentally’ anywhere. As days passed, the kids got bored and I guess more used to seeing an alien with glasses among them. It also helped that I was a very bright student. That always has its perks in terms of gaining friends and followers.
So slowly the teasing got reduced and perked with regular doses of gyan by my mother, I became more confident and understanding of the reasons as to why I had to wear glasses. I did get lenses a long time later after I had done my graduation.
Today I feel very comfortable in my spectacles. I do switch between lenses and glasses and certainly feel no complex about my appearance as I used to when I was a little girl. That word ‘chashmish’ still makes me flinch though!
Why am I reminiscing? My younger son on his recent eye checkup a couple of days back has been told that he will need spectacles. I take both of them for routine eye checkups every year. Many kids in his class already have spectacles and so do most kids he knows. So, it is not much of an aberration as it was for me. You get fantastic glasses these days so I got him one with Spiderman design and in the colours he liked. The Disney case is really lovely. Mom and brother praised him to the skies when he tried them out. I am sure he will feel a bit awkward when the school reopens. But what I am certain of is that he will have none of the nightmarish experiences that I had.
Of course, the word Chashmish has been banned in my home!
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