This I Believe

Roy, Subodh Chandra, Dr.

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Dr. Subodh Chandra Roy describes how his life changed when he became blind at age seven, and states his belief that suffering can cause personal growth.

BlindSocial conditions
New York (N.Y.)
New School for Social Research (New York, N.Y.)
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ID: tufts:MS025.006.004.00007.00001
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And now, This I Believe. Here is Edward R. Murrow.
This I Believe. Professor Subodh Chandra Roy was born in India. At the age of seven he became ill with Cholera and Ophthalmia and when he lapsed into a comma the doctor s gave him up. He was carried out into the garden to die. Suddenly he folded his hands as if in prayer and said “God, let me live this time.” Miraculously, he recovered but when he was again able to open his eyes it was discovered that he was totally blind. Now Dr Roy states the creed which has permitted him to surmount this handicap and become a leading philosopher and educator.
To the people endowed with normal physical vision, blindness is one of the most baffling and misunderstood phenomena. Consequently, when I became totally blind at the age of 7, as a result of the combination of Ophthalmia and Cholera, I at once became the victim of an unwholesome public attitude. At the outset of the visual deprivation, however, I, myself, was not keenly aware of my differences from others and of the possible consequences of this misfortune. With the passage of time, I became more and more convinced that my blindness, instead of being a hindrance in my life, was a blessing in disguise, conceived from the standpoint of life as a whole, and not indifference to isolated and specific situations. This led me to the firm conviction that suffering is the source of many positive and durable values.
I believe, with Emerson, that suffering is the “extract of experience.” The aim of life is not happiness, despite the teachings of the hedonistic ethic, but the joy of overcoming. I should make it clear that I did not accept this philosophy of suffering as an expedient measure in order to derive consolation for my own visual handicap. It is one of my strongest spiritual convictions. Having lost my sight at a very early age and coming from a country where welfare work with the blind is dreadfully backward, I experienced almost insurmountable difficulties in obtaining education and finding a respectable place for myself in the social structure of India. By dint of strenuous efforts and through the grace of God, I was fortunate in getting both.
It may be relevant to mention only one of the numerous handicaps and sufferings I went through in order to attain the opposite objectives. During my school and college days, not a single book in Braille was available in India. I had to spend days and months in order to transcribe all my textbooks, with my own hands, from the dictation of sighted friends and relatives. This was very hard, but it had its compensation in the fact that this process of slow transcription rendered my course more clear, and my knowledge of language and spelling more accurate.
Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy of nonviolence is entirely based on the principle of self-suffering. He declared that “the law of suffering never fails.” While fighting for the freedom of India, he told us that “we should match our capacity to suffer with our opponents capacity to inflict suffering.”
I believe that we suffer very often because of our inability to accept suffering as a necessary process of growth. I do not maintain, however, that suffering should be unnecessarily created and multiplied, but I believe that I always obtain immense inspiration and sustenance from this philosophy of suffering.
A Chinese proverb has illustrated a part of this talk rather beautifully: “You cannot prevent the birds of sorrow from flying over your head, but you can prevent them from building nests in your hair.”
There the beliefs of Doctor Subodh Chandra Roy, who is a professor of philosophy at the New School for Social Research and has made important contributions to the welfare of the blind, both here and in his native India.