Ruskin Bond

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Justify the title of the story "The Eyes are Not Here".

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The title of the story “The Eyes are Not Here” can be justified on the grounds that the two main characters in the story are blind. Because they are blind, they are unaware of each other's blindness during their encounter aboard the train.

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In Ruskin Bond's short story, the meeting which takes place is between two people who are unable to see each other. The title is justified, then, because Bond's point seems to be that being able to see one another does not really help us to make human connections. There are no functioning eyes involved in this key meeting, but moreover, eyes were not needed in order for it to have an effect on the two people involved.

On the contrary, we hear from the girl the narrator speaks to that her blind interlocutor is better able to pay her a compliment than all the seeing people she encounters. The narrator tells her that her face is "interesting," and the girl says that this is "nice." She goes on to say that she's usually told that she has a pretty face. When it is revealed at the end of the story that the girl, like the narrator, is blind, and her beautiful eyes are of no use to her, this acquires a deeper meaning.

Obviously, the narrator does not know whether the girl is pretty, or visually interesting to look at, or anything else pertaining to her visual appearance. However, by noting that she is "interesting," he is paying her a compliment which, on one level, she can understand. As a blind person, the concept of visual beauty is not as important. It is notable that only another blind person thought to tell the girl she was "interesting" instead.

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“The Eyes are Not Here” is one of a number of titles attributed to Ruskin Bond's short story. However, one could argue that it is the most appropriate, as the two main characters in the story are blind. In that sense, there are no eyes “here” on the train, during their brief encounter; at least, not a functioning pair of eyes.

In the absence of sight, other senses inevitably take over. The man's hearing amply compensates for his blindness, as he notices that the young lady's voice has the “sparkle of a mountain stream”. This confirms his impression, cunningly obtained by getting the girl to admit that she has a pretty face, that the young lady he's talking to is beautiful.

As it turns out, the young lady is indeed very beautiful, as the man finds out from his new traveling companion after the girl gets off the train. Apparently, even her eyes, her useless eyes, are beautiful. But her eyes, like those of her blind traveling companion, are “not here.” That is to say, they are in the world, but not of it, as they are unable to register anything visual. In that sense, they don't belong to the world; they are “not here.”

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Well, before justifying the most-used title, please realize that this story is often given other titles as well:  "The Girl on the Train" and "The Eyes Have It."  In short, the title refers to the fact that the two main characters, the girl and the man, are blind.

Well, it often happens that people with good eyesight fail to see what is right in front of them. They have too much to take in, I suppose. Whereas people who cannot see (or see very little) have to take in only the essentials, whatever registers most tellingly with their remaining senses.

We learn at the beginning of the story that the man waiting in the train compartment is blind.  Truly his "eyes are not here" in that he can only distinguish between light and darkness.  The first sign that the girl shares his blindness is the concern of her parents when they put her on the train.  They tell her where to put her luggage and how to act. 

The next sign the girl is blind is that she is startled when the man begins a conversation.  The girl obviously thought she was alone in the train compartment.  The two eventually talk with general conversation about where they are going before the girl reaches her stop.  Before she exits, the man tells her she has an "interesting" face, which the girl loves because she is usually told she is simply "pretty." 

The true realization of the story comes when the next passenger enters and apologizes for not being as attractive as the previous one.  Due to his blindness, the man asks if the girl had long or short hair.  The new passenger didn't notice because he was entranced only with her eyes:  the things that were of no use to her because she was blind. 

So, truly, the passenger "with good eyesight fail[s] to see what is right in front of [him]."  The title of the story shows that the eyes of the girl and the man "are not here" because both are blind.  The irony is that people who can see are "blind" as well.

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