The Amazing Eyes of Kuda Bux – Roald Dahl (1953)

THE NURSE entered the doctor’s room carrying a small bundle, and behind her came a man with light brown skin and black hair. He was dressed conventionally in a dark blue, double-breasted suit.

“Mr. Kuda Bux,” the nurse said, pronouncing it ‘Kewda,’ the way he had told her.

The doctor found himself looking into a pair of bright black eyes. The iris of each eye was so black it was almost indistinguishable from the pupil in the center, and the effect–that of a huge black pupil surrounded by white–was curiously disturbing.

“Nurse here tells me you can see without the use of your eyes.”

“Yes,” the man said simply.

“And that you want me to bandage them up for you?”

“Yes, please, if you would be so kind.”

“Well, I don’t mind doing that. Have you got that dough, nurse?”

“Here it is, doctor.”

“You don’t object if I use dough in your eye sockets, do you? It won’t harm you, and it’s an effective way of blocking sight.”

“I don’t mind at all.”

“Come on, then. Sit down here, please, and tilt your head back and shut your eyes.”

The doctor took a lump of dough from the nurse, broke it into two large wads and pressed them firmly into the man’s eye sockets. The dough overlapped each socket all around so that the overlapping edges could be pressed tightly against the skin, making a seal.

The doctor then took a thick pad of absorbent cotton and swathed it over the man’s dough-filled eyes. On top of that he wrapped three or four layers of cotton gauze. Then he took a roll of four-inch-wide bandage and proceeded to wind it around the man’s head to hold everything in place. The nurse leaned forward and pinned the bandage. The doctor stepped back to survey his work.

“Get me two more bandages, nurse.”

“Two more?”

“Yes, please.”

He wound these tightly around the man’s head. When he had finished, the upper part of Kuda Bux’ face was completely covered with layer on layer of swaddling, except for a small aperture at the nostrils which was left so that he could breathe.

“Now, my friend,” the doctor said, “you may go riding around town on your bicycle as much as you want. But I should be careful of the traffic, if I were you.”

“I am most grateful to you, doctor.” Kuda Bux said. He stood up, made a little bow to the doctor, then to the nurse, and he turned and walked straight to the door and grasped the knob in his hand. “Please don’t worry about the traffic. I can see perfectly.”

Before the astonished doctor could say a word, he was gone. He walked swiftly along the narrow hospital corridor, down the stairs, around several right-angled corners and finally out through the main entrance of the building into the hot mid-morning July sun. There in the courtyard stood his bicycle with its two large placards, at front and back, announcing:

Kuda Bux, the Man Who Sees
Without His Eyes.
Appearing Tonight, Seven-Thirty
at the Hippodrome.

A reporter from the local paper waited beside the bicycle, as well as the theater manager, a fat man in a black bowler-hat, a person in a wheel chair from the hospital. and three small boys. Up above, a few of the patients were leaning over the balconies in their dressing gowns, watching in silence. Kuda Bux greeted the group of bystanders, told the reporter briefly what had taken place in the hospital, then mounted his machine and rode off into the traffic.

He was a remarkable sight, this blue-suited cyclist with bandages covering the whole top half of his head. Soon there was a whole army of small boys running beside him on the pavement. Women with shopping baskets in their hands, messenger boys, road menders, old gentlemen out for a stroll, all stopped and stared at the astonishing cyclist as he went by. Terrified motorists swerved away from him, and a number slowed down and followed behind him so that they made a procession along the street. Everywhere he went, more and more children joined the throng that ran beside him. Policemen at the intersections started forward to stop him, but he merely laughed, waved a hand to them and rode on.

That night all seats at the Hippodrome were sold out.

This description of Kuda Bux’ visit to Manchester, England, could be applied to the many other cities and towns he visited on his vaudeville tour of the country. The routine was nearly always the same: the effect was invariably sensational. But quite apart from any theatrical success that the achieved, another more interesting development ensued. The doctors began to sit up and take notice.

Three eminent members of the profession were ready to examine and test Kuda Bux in London at the end of his tour. The doctors were Professor Edward Andrade, professor of Physics, London University; Dr. I. G. Porter Phillips, superintendent of Bethlehem Royal Hospital, and Dr. C. Jennings Marshall, surgeon of Charing Cross Hospital.

These 3 men together gave Kuda Bux as thorough a testing as they knew how. They filled his eye sockets with dough, bandaged him with wool and gauze, covered his eyes with metal foil, and even sealed his eyelids with collodion. Then, to obviate the possibility of thought transference, they selected books that none of them had read, placed them in front of Kuda Bux and asked him to read. He never had the slightest difficulty.

To these 3 doctors, Kuda Bux also demonstrated that he could stop the beating of his heart.

“Hold my pulse,” he said to Dr. Phillips. Then the man’s body seemed to stiffen, his mouth shut tight and his face took on a look of intense, pointed concentration. The pulse stopped beating.

Electro-cardiographic tests corroborated this phenomenon. The graph showed a series of tiny, tight ridges, indicating that the heart had ceased to beat and gone into a series of muscular oscillations.

To the doctors, the heart-stopping merely attested to the extraordinary muscular control. But the business of seeing without the eyes was something that confused them terribly. Scientifically, it was impossible. Yet they had to admit that Kuda Bux could do it. It was, to put it mildly, the damnedest thing they had ever seen, and they were unable to venture an explanation.

In an effort to discover how Kuda Bux might account for this gift, I met him in London and persuaded him to tell the story. he told it simply, without apparent exaggeration. I got the impression that he was speaking the truth in every respect.

Here is the story he told:

“I am an Indian, a Hindu, born in Akhnur, Kashmir State, in 1905. My family are well-educated, middle-class people. My father is an engineer. When I am a small boy of thirteen, an Indian conjurer comes to our school and gives a performance. His name, I remember, is Professor Moor–all conjurors in India call themselves ‘Professor’–and his tricks are very good. I am tremendously impressed. I think it is real magic. I feel a powerful wish to learn about this magic myself, so two days later I run away from home, determined to find and to follow my new hero, Professor Moor. I take all my savings, fourteen rupees. This is in 1918 and I am 13 years old.

“I find out that Professor Moor has gone to Lahore, two hundred miles away, so all alone I take a ticket, third class, get on the train and follow him. In Lahore I discover the Professor. He is working at his conjuring in a very cheap-type show. I tell him of my admiration and offer myself to him as assistant. He accepts me. My pat? Eight annas a day.

“The Professor teaches me to do the linking-rings trick and my job is to stand in the street before the theater dressed in funny clothes doing the linking-rings and calling to the people to come in and see the show.

“For a few weeks, this is very fine, much better than going to school. But then what a terrible disaster when it comes to me that there is no real magic in Professor Moor. that all is trickery and quickness of the hand. Immediately, the Professor is no longer my hero. I lose every bit of interest in y job, but at the same time my whole mind becomes filled with a very strong longing, a longing to find out about the real magic, to discover and to understand something about the strange power that is called yoga.

“Religious? No, I was not religious. It is, of course, true that the yogi himself is always fanatically religious, but that was not how I felt about it. I was, in a way, what you would call an imposter, a little bit of a cheat, because for me the idea was not religion, or seclusion or abstinence, but the exact opposite. I wanted to acquire yoga powers for two reasons and two reasons only: Fame and Fortune. Now this was something that the true yogi would despise more than anything in the world, so I know that if I was to have any chance of success I should have to pretend to be an extraordinarily religious man.

“Anyway. after two and a half months I leave Professor Moor and go to Amritaar and join a traveling theatre company. I have to make a living while I am searching for the secret, and already I have had success in amateur acting at my school. So for three years I travel with this theater group all over the Punjab, and by the end of it, when I am 16-1/2 years old, I am playing top of the bill. All the time I am saving money, and now I have altogether a very great sum, two thousand rupees.

“I feel it is time to find a yogi. 6 months later, in 1922, I am given a letter to a yogi in Hardawar. Because I have a letter, he consents to give me instruction. This consists of my having to practice the most difficult physical exercises, all of the concerned with muscle control and breathing. But after some weeks of these, I become impatient. I tell the yogi that it is my mental powers I wish to develop–not my physical.

“He replies, ‘If you will develop control of your body, then the control of your mind will be an automatic thing.’ But I want both at once, and I keep asking him and in the end he says. ‘Very well, I will give you some exercises to help you to concentrate the conscious mind.’

“‘Conscious mind?’ I ask. ‘Why do you say conscious mind?’

“‘Because each man has wo minds, the conscious and the subconscious. The subconscious mind is highly concentrated, but the conscious mind, the one everyone uses, is a scattered, unconcentrated thing. It is concerning itself always with thousand of different items, the items you are seeing around you, and the items you are thinking about. So you must learn to concentrate it in such a way that you can visualize at will one item, one item only and absolutely nothing else. If you work hard at this, then after about fifteen years you should be able to concentrate your mind, your conscious mind, upon any one object you select for at least 3-1/2 minutes.’ Thus speaks the yogi.

“And so I began. Each day, in the evening, I sit down, close my eyes and visualize the face of the person I love best, which is my brother. I concentrate upon visualizing his face. But the instead that my mind begins to wander then I stop the exercise and wait until next evening before trying again; because the slightest little wandering from the object means that the conscious mind is tired and must be rested.

“After two and a half years of daily practice, I am able to concentrate absolutely upon my brother’s face for two and a quarter minutes. I am making progress. But an interesting thing happens. In doing these exercises I lose my sense of smell absolutely: and never to this day does it come back.

“Then the necessity for earning my living forces me to leave Hardawar, and I go to Calcutta, and there I do ordinary conjuring performances, but always I continue with my exercises. And one day I travel to Dacca, in East Bengal, to give a show at a college there, and while in Dacca I happen to be present at a demonstration of walking on fire. After the performance, the man who does it calls. in a mocking way, for volunteers to do likewise and I and three others step forward. I am last. The three others all injure their feet very greatly and the crowd laughs and my turn comes. I try to remember my lessons. I concentrate my conscious mind upon one thing: upon the fire being cold. This fire is cold, I say. It will not burn me. I concentrate to such a degree that I see nothing except the fire and the fire being cold. And behold, I walk across it an I am not burned at all.”

(A few years after this, the University of London Council for Psychical Research asked Kuda Bux whether they might make a careful investigation of his ability to walk on fire. He agreed, and a demonstration was arranged on the lawn of a private garden in Carshalton, Surrey.

(The British Medical Journal afterward contained a full report of this event, and stated: “The trench was 25 feet long, six feet wide and nine inches deep… 7 tons of oak logs, one ton of firewood, 10 hundredweight of oak charcoal, 10 gallons of paraffin and 50 newspapers were used in making a fire which was lit at 8:20 A.M…. By 2:30 P.M. the red-hot embers were level with the ground (nine inches deep). the heat was very intense and those who were stoking were compelled to wear goggles…. There was a high wind which fanned the charcoal to almost white heat…. At 3 P.M. Professor Plannet examined Kuda Bux’ feet. took their temperature (32.2 F) and remarked that they were very cold…. Swabs were also taken…. which were handed to a pathologist who later pronounced them negative…. No signs of preparation were apparent…. His feet were washed…. The epidermis of his feet was soft and not thickened or tough…. Professor Plannet stuck a 1/8-inch square of surgical plaster to the sole of Kuda Bux’ right foot…. At 3:14 P.M. Kuda Bux entered the trench…. making four strides…. He was in the trench 4.5 seconds…. Professor Plannet took the temperature of his feet 10 seconds later and found a slight decrease (93 degrees F)…. The plaster was not scorched in any way and the man’s feet were not injured…. The surface temperature of the fire was just over 800 degrees F…. After Kuda Bux had walked the fire a second time, Mr. Digby Moynagh, a medical student, removed his shoes and socks, stepped into the trench, took 2 rapid paces… 2.2 seconds…. He was badly burnt, two blisters were bleeding and he had to receive medical attention….”)

“Of course,” Kuda Bux continued, “I am excited when I first walk on fire. ‘It is coming to me,’ I say. ‘Now the power is beginning to come to me.’ And all the time, I am remembering for some reason something else. I am remembering a thing that the old yogi in Hardawar had once said: ‘Certain holy people have been known to develop so great a concentration that they could see without the use of their physical eyes.’ I keep remembering that saying and I keep longing for the power to do likewise myself; and after my success with the firewalking I decide that I will concentrate everything upon this single aim: to see without the eyes.

“I continue the exercises, but in a better way. Each night now I light a candle before me and I begin by staring at the flame. A candle flame, you know, has three separate parts, the yellow at the top, the mauve lower down, and the black right inside. I place the candle sixteen inches away from my face, the flame not above or below my eyes, but absolutely level, so that I will not have to strain an eye muscle by looking up or down. Then I begin to stare at the black part of the flame. All this is merely to concentrate my conscious mind, to empty it of everything around me. So I stare at the black spot in the flame until everything around me has disappeared and I can see nothing else. Then slowly I shut my eyes and begin to concentrate upon the face of my brother.

“I do this every night before bed and by 1929, when I am twenty-four years old, I can concentrate upon my brother’s face for three minutes without any wandering of my mind. I always time myself with a stop-watch. That shows me my progress, second by second, and gives me the encouragement and strength to continue. So it is now, at this time, when I am twenty-four, that I begin to become aware of a slight ability, just a tiny little feeling. an exciting little imagining, that when I close my eyes and look at something hard, with fierce–oh, such fierce concentration, then I can see, or I imagine I can see, vaguely, dimly, the outline of the object I am looking at. And of course I know, or think I know, just how it is happening, just what I am doing. By concentrating with my eyes shut upon my brother’s face, I am slowly developing my inner sense of sight. You see, all of us have two senses of sight, just as we have two senses of smell and taste and feel and hearing. There is the outer sense, the highly developed one which we all use, and there is the inner one also. If we could develop these inner senses in the same way that we have developed our normal senses, then we could smell without our noses, taste without our tongues, hear without our ears, feel without touching and see without our eyes.

“And so it is that I am all the time striving to develop my inner sense of sight. Each night, now, I perform my usual exercises with the candle flame and my brother’s face. After that I rest a little while. I drink a cup of coffee. Then I blindfold myself and I sit there in my chair trying to visualize, trying to see, not just to imagine, but actually to see, without my eyes, every object in the room. And gradually success begins to come. Soon I am working with a pack of cards. I am blindfold. I take a card from the top of the pack and hold it before me,, facing me, trying to see it, and then with a pencil in my other hand I write down what I think it is. I take another card and do the same again. I go through all the pack like that, and when it is over, I take off my bandage and check what I have written down against the cards which are piled up in order beside me. Almost at once I have a sixty to seventy per cent success.

“I do other things. I buy maps and complicated navigating charts and pin them up all around my room. I spend hours looking at them blindfold, trying to see them, trying to read the small lettering of the place names and the rivers. Every evening for the next four years I do this.

“By the year 1933, when I am 28 years old, I can read a book. I can cover y eyes completely and I can read a book right through.

“So now at last I have it, for certain, this power! At once I include the blindfold act in my ordinary conjuring performance. In Calcutta it causes a sensation. Soon the doctors over there are beginning to examine me just as they do now everywhere I go. And none of the can understand.

“A question? Yes? Can I see through a sheet of metal?

“No, I cannot see through anything, not even my bandages. My eyes themselves are not in use at all when they are covered. Instead it appears to me–although I confess I am not quite sure of this–that it is with the pores of my naked skin that I see on such occasions. I can see anything at all so long as a part of my naked skin is in view of the object. Put a sheet of metal in front of me and I cannot read a book which is on the other side of it unless you allow me to put my hand around the sheet of the metal in view of the book. Then I can read it. You like to test it?”

“I should like to test it.” I said, “but I haven’t got a sheet of metal. We’ll use the door instead.”

I stood up, went to the bookshelf and took the first book I saw. It was Boswell’s Johnson, Volume 2. I opened the door and told Kuda Bux to stand behind it. I opened the book at random, propped it on a chair on the other side of the door from him and stationed myself in a position where I could see both him and the book.

“read the left-hand page.” I said. “From the top.”

There was silence for perhaps 10 seconds, then he began, “Pray teach Veronica to love me. Bid her not mind Mamma. Mrs. Thrale has taken a cold, and been very much disordered…..”


Aspiring Remote Viewer by night

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