Everyone knows Santa – the iconic figure that is pervasive in Christmas culture, the jovial fellow who animates the imagination of young children around the world, and the portly chap who, with the help of his Missis, elves and reindeers, never fails to distribute delightful gifts to all the nice and well-behaved kids on the planet. Since I enjoy overthinking and cerebrating everything, I reckoned it might be amusing to make an outlandish hypothesis and analyse all its objective implications. What if Santa Claus, Saint Nicholas, Kris Kringle, Father Christmas, whatever you prefer to call him, suddenly went blind? Would he be able to continue fulfilling his annual promised of delivering presents to the nearly billion children (U-10) keenly awaiting him? Let us take a look.
All residents of the North Pole were disconcerted. Mrs. Claus was thunderstruck upon receiving the news. The elves congregated solemnly, too bowled over by the message Dasher, one of Santa’s reindeer, had conveyed to them. Prancer, another of Santa’s reindeer, returned wordless to the gathering, with Santa seated on the sleigh he was carrying. There was no trace of exuberance or bonhomie on Santa’s face that previously underscored his very persona.
A week ago, while Santa was putting his upgraded sleigh to the test, an engineering error had resulted in a grave accident. Despite the initial shock that swept the North Pole, the clever reindeer kept their cool and immediately transported Santa to the nearest hospital for professional medical diagnosis. It being an early October morning, the doctors were pleasantly surprised to be greeted by Santa and his reindeer, but sensing the urgency that the expressions of the reindeer were emanating, the doctors got to work. It was declared that nothing with Santa was irremediable, and this announcement was reportedly followed by almost a week of progressive convalescence. This impression that Santa was alright, this illusion rather, was what North Pole was under. That is, until Santa regained consciousness on the 7th day, and opened his eyes to the glaring nothingness that he was never prepared for, but which would forever accost him everytime he opened his eyes, again and again.
(1) Saving Santa
“My optic nerve has gotten irreparably damaged. I’m now blind, for life, and the doc tells me that the sooner I accept it, we all accept it, the better off everyone will be,” staccatoed Santa, losing his composure with every word he had to utter, he knew he must utter, because the reality had to be faced.
“But Sir, Christmas is only two months away, and those eager little,” piped up an innocent young elf, cut sharply only by Santa himself.
“I would hate to think what happens to them,” spoe Santa with uncharacteristic iciness.
Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer, was the only one deeply aware of the tough choices and that Santa was making, the emotional turmoil that was going through his mind, and how badly he was silently seeking external help. Rudolph had proved himself a hero by leading Santa’s sleigh and illuminating his way during inclement weather, and he mentally pledged that he would save Santa, once again. He had already mapped their journey to Canada (one of the four countries that had claims on the Arctic territory of the North Pole), and conducted preliminary research on how he planned to rehabilitate and revive the old Santa Claus.
“My elfish buddies: make no alterations in your toy production strategy. This Christmas shall be the best there has ever been!” enthused Rudolph as he gestured to Prancer to allow him to take charge of the sleigh seating Santa. And he took off leaving behind a dumbstruck North Pole crowd but taking along an even more startled Santa.
(2) In Canada
“Where are we finally, ruddy Rudolph?!” exclaimed Santa, merely irritated by this state of unknowingness but otherwise trusting his faithful reindeer.
“At the doorstep of the Canadian National Institute for the Blind rehabilitation agency,” panted Rudolph, huffing after such a long and arduous journey. But before Santa could exclaim again, Rudolph had made their presence felt by knocking, or rather thumping, the main door of the institute’s office with his impatient hooves.
A CNIB representative opened the door, then opened his mouth to emit a greeting, took in the sight of Santa Claus and his eminent red-nosed reindeer, and shut his mouth again with nothing more than some guttural sounds. The debonair Rudolph took charge again; he instructed and assisted santa in disembarking from the sleigh, parked it outside, and escorted Santa by his hooves and verbal hints. The man kept on retreating frightfully and indecisively, until Rudolph guided Santa to a comfortable chair, and commenced speaking directly to the perplexed CNIB executive along with people who seemed to be his colleagues, who had apparently assembled to get a closer look at the queer party that had just entered their premises.
Rudolph introduced himself and the visually challenged individual he had brought along (although there was an unspoken unanimous agreement between all present CNIB staff members that that formality was unnecessary), and proceeded to explain the cause of Santa’s recently acquired visual disability. “What I plead from you, every single one of you, is to ensure that my beloved, everyone’s celebrated, Santa Claus, is rendered with quality rehab services which facilitate and enable him to continue doing what he does every year,” ended Rudolph on an untaintedly sincere note. A round of intense murmurs began, accepting the petition proposed as a personal quest, determined to succeed.
(3) Surmounting The Insurmountable
“Good morning Santa. My name is John and I shall be your special educator, your rehabilitation specialist, and mobility trainer, all rolled into one,” said a cheery youngster CNIB had assigned the very next day exclusively to Santa. “Please describe for me some of the challenges you are most likely to face and apprehensions you presently have in regards to going about with your daily activities, which, as I understand, is more or less making toys and travelling round the world once a year to deliver them,” John asked crisply.
“I’ve got to generate a list of children in the world and sort them into naughty and nice ones, something I cannot do since handwriting is no longer possible for me. I have got to make substantial contributions towards coordination and leadership of all toy production efforts at the North Pole, something I hardly conceive myself capable of now that I am blind, a liability. Thirdly, since I cannot see, I doubt I shall be capable of circumnavigating the globe this time,” stated Santa, with brutal honesty and a tinge of acrimony directed at no one in particular.
“Those are no biggies at all. For 1, I’ll acquaint you to the world of the computer, screen readers, and database software. For 2, I’ll give you a feel of working on handicraft without vision along with other expert visually challenged craftsmen and craftswomen. For 3, hmm, would you prefer a white cane or a guide dog?”
“Neither,” interjected Rudolph perkily. “A guide reindeer such as I would suffice.”
John excogitated the proposition momentarily, but finally smiled his approval to Rudolph, who indicated that to Santa by nuzzling him fondly. “Alright then, let us begin, shall we?” proclaimed John.
And student, teacher, and reindeer set to work. Since Santa was an innately exceptional engineer (apart from his one error in the modernized sleigh), which is the very reason why Santa can manipulate the laws of physics and those of nature to accommodate his need for speed, grasping the concept of assistive technology was a piece of cake for him. With the comprehensive guidance of John, Santa managed to create a reasonably advanced database program in no time.
Akin to his mind which latched on to the knowledge of talking computer usage and database management, his hands amended their functioning naturally to disclose to him all the subtle intricacies and nuances of the toy he was modelling nonvisually. John had fed Santa with ample motivation by narrating the rags to riches story of a blind candle-maker from India. If Bhavesh Bhatia could testify his tenacity by expanding his candle-making venture, Sunrise Candles, into a multi-million company despite his blindness, Santa Claus too would affirm his grit by leaving no stone unturned in his endeavour to up Christmas a notch each year.
“Seeing that our plump friend,” chuckled John and Rudolph to a grunting Santa, “Mr. Claus has successfully attained computer usage and handicraft proficiency, we are drawing towards the close of this rehabilitation course. Once I impart to Rudolph the abilities requisite to become a dependable guide animal for the blind, though he might just go down in history as not only the red-nose but also the first guide reindeer for the blind, we shall be bidding our farewells,” said John swelling with pride along with a hint of wistfulness in his voice.
The intelligent reindeer was the most vocal describer and methodical sighted guide in town; that was undisputed. After finishing their training with John, after Santa had articulated his wholehearted gratefulness for all his help, and after man and creature were reinvigorated with a newfound sense of resolution and purpose, the duo headed back to the Arctic.
(4) The Conclusion
From the moment santa Claus pronounced his and his saviour’s arrival at the North Pole through that unmistakable bellowing “Ho-Ho-Ho!” laughter that belonged to him and him alone, up until Christmas Eve, Santa doubled his own preparatory efforts and constantly pushed his assistant elves to ramp up toy production. In the meantime, he switched from letters to e-mails for corresponding with earnest children. Santa created a Microsoft Access database of all the nice and not-so-nice children on his computer using a screen reading software, but decided to scrap the categorization for once and spread smiles to all without any exceptions. Stripped of the ability to see, Santa’s admirable art of sculpting the loveliest toys remained intact and unchanged.
The 32 hours of of flying across the globe with tons of benevolences loaded on his older sledge occurred without a hitch. The night was pitch-dark in most parts of the world making eyesight largely redundant anyways. Rudolph was always at Santa’s side, should he need any special assistance, and had become increasingly indispensable for all of Santa’s mobility. With minor modification, attitudinal adjustments, and simple adaptations, Santa Claus and his team had pulled another Christmas off once more, that too in style!
Maybe the idea of a blind person being Santa Claus isn’t all that paradoxical anymore. Maybe those with vision loss are smarter, more capable, and better-equipped than we sometimes give them credit for. Maybe persons with visual impairments are equally qualified to occupy more significant roles in society than those that our mentalities confine them to. Maybe, just maybe, in the spirit of giving that Santa Claus embodies and the joy and positivity that the festival of Christmas propagates, if we promise to give others a fair window of opportunity and be less judgemental and presupposing, this world could become a more inclusive and convivial place to live in.