I quite enjoy flying. So the journey from Singapore to Birmingham was meant to be a breeze. It was a flight during the day and it was sunny and in my usual go-with-flow attitude, I had my contact lenses in and put my glasses in the hold. Big mistake.

All was good and I watched a rom com called The Holiday. A movie with Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet doing something romantic with Jude Law and Jack Black respectively.

Halfway through the flight, feeling sick of Jude Law’s mocking good looks and Jack Black’s brilliant humour and feeling adequately inadequate, I decided to get some sleep.

What I forgot about flying though was that the air conditioning makes everything really, really dry and a couple of hours into the flight, my eyes were in pain and the contacts proved to be a bad idea.

I asked the stewardess for a cup and put some water in it. I asked her to please not throw the cup away as I was removing my lenses and keeping them in the cup to put back in when I woke up. You shouldn’t really put contact lenses in water but I have before and survived for a short time.

Drifting off to sleep for a few hours, I was quite happy and the pain subsided. I woke up and eyes were better and I was feeling refreshed.

As I said I enjoy flying so was looking forward to looking out of the window and doing some plane people-watching.

Now, I am blind, blind as Stevie Wonder playing pin the tail on the donkey without my glasses or contacts (slight exaggeration). I had to squint really hard to realise that the cup with my contacts in was no longer there. Hoping the stewardess had put them somewhere safe I called for some help and asked. It was another steward that came and looked very confused. We were on the approach for our change in Dubai and after checking, the steward came back and said he didn’t know what had happened to them and if he could help find my glasses. Explaining they were in the hold – I was screwed.

Raj without glasses

We landed and I managed to get my stuff together in a blurry haze. I was dizzy, dis-orientated and feeling surprisingly vulnerable. This was from a guy that had just finished a solo 1400km bike ride through New Zealand and conquered Southeast Asia, the most confident I had ever been and I felt very very small. I had to wait until everyone else was off for them to tell me I could leave. I explained the issue again and they said they didn’t know what to do!

Eventually I convinced them to get me some help and escort me to a waiting area. As it turned out, they got security to take me to a room and just sat me down. I asked for my luggage to be found but they couldn’t get to it.

Dubai Airport

So where did this leave me?

Guided by security to and from the connecting plane and landing home after my year away, utterly blind!

It was surreal and not the journey back home I expected.

What surprised me most was that I felt extremely useless without my sight. I guess I got a taste of what it must be like for some people who can not get eye-care or who are blind. It was a difficult experience and despite all of the things I had already learnt and seen, that humbled me.

It seemed my journey was intent on humbling me to the very end.

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