Blackness surrounded me and all I could do was burst into uncontrolled laughter. My other senses were vibrating and tingling, as if they had never been used before.
The Dialogue in the Dark trainer gave us participants candy to taste. Once the taste was named, we then to had to find our way to a table, just for the group with the same taste.
“Durian! Durian!” I cried out loud and listened for an answer. Far away I heard a cry, “Durian! We’re over here!”
Nervously, I moved my white cane from left to right, slowly making my way across a room that felt like the size of our universe. After what seemed to be the longest journey ever, I reached the durian group.
Have you ever imagined trying to cross a street in Bukit Bintang without sight? How about taking money from an ATM? Dialogue in the Dark, a new sensory exhibition at Petrosains, allows you to experience all these things.
During my visit, our tasks involved using touch, smell, sound, and taste to take us on a daily routine in Malaysia. Our journey ended at a coffee shop, where we had to pay RM5 for coffee and cookies. Would you be able to tell the difference of a RM1 and RM5 note without sight?
“With the Dialogue in the Dark exhibition now making its debut in Malaysia at Petrosains, we hope to impact more Malaysians not only to gain more empathy but also hopefully to appreciate what they have, who they are and of course appreciate their God given good eyesight,” said Stevens, a Dialogue in the Dark guide.
The concept behind Dialogue in the Dark is simple. Groups of participants are lead by blind guides through dark constructed rooms. Participants must use their other senses to complete the 45 minute adventures: a task which is daunting for those who have always relied on sight.
“When I was a child I was very afraid of the dark, as most children are, because I couldn’t see through the darkness, I didn’t know what was in front of or behind me,” said Anis Ibrahim, who tried Dialogue in the Dark at the same time as me. “So when I was confronted by that pitch black room we all had to enter, it reminded me very much of growing up.”
Dialogue in the Dark reminded me that my primary sense is sight. When that was taken away from me, I panicked. It forced me to pay more attention to what I heard, because I had lost my main sense. The noises, as strange as they seemed, were always there, but I wasn’t alert before.
Stevens also told me that, according to the World Health Organization, 80% of all blindness can be prevented or cured and one of the main reasons for unnecessary blindness is the lack of awareness and lackadaisical approach to eye care. “To date, the world has more than 387 million visually impaired people and the number is growing daily. In 2010, one person became visually impaired every five seconds and a child every ten minutes.”
Dialogue in the Dark will take you by surprise when you enter the darkness and when you return from it. Not only did I learn to be aware of my other senses, I learned how to switch them on.
Dialogue in the Dark is now at Petrosains until 31 May 2014. Each guided tour lasts 45 minutes and costs RM25. Find out more here.