Before you, like a lantern whose walls are worn so thin you glimpse only the light inside, is the incandescence of a man. The body, almost irrelevant, exists only like a case made of shadows. So that I, no believer in eternal souls, know that this is what each of us is; everything else an accessory.
     “What do you think is the best thing about being disabled?” I had asked him earlier.
     “I don’t think there is anything good about being disabled.”

     “I think,” I said, “you do discover how much kindness there is in the world.”
     “Yes,” he said; it was a disadvantage of his voice synthesiser that it could convey no inflection, no shades or tone. And I could not tell how enthusiastically he agreed with me.
Kanga uses a beautiful metaphor to show how much depth Hawking held within his paralysed body. He affirms as to how one's body is only like a cloak and does not play much significance in life. He compares Hawking to a lantern whose walls are worn out thin, but has an illuminating light within it. One does not pay attention to the thin walls as long as the light emanating from within is shining. Likewise, Hawking's mind and soul makes one ignore the fact that his body does not function properly. The light inside the lamp is the incandescence of Hawking, and the thin walls are compared to his body. People tend to give more prominence to how one looks or one's body is. But one can have all the looks in the world and the best body and still feel empty inside. It does not matter how one looks or how fit one's body is if they do not have the right approach to life, right intelligence, right people to love, or a peaceful and happy mind. Kanga, who was so far not a believer of eternal souls, understands the true meaning of life and that everything else is a mere accessory.
A Lantern
Kanga had asked Hawking as to what was the best thing about being disabled. Being disabled himself, he asks this question only to know if there is a different approach to the disability. But he gets the same answer from Hawking, which he knew to be true. Hawking says that there is no best thing about being disabled. People also tend to romanticise hardships and disabilities. But in reality, one has to understand that it is a painful way of existence. One can understand this without necessarily sympathising with it. But Kanga's views differ from Hawking as he feels that there is one good thing about being disabled. One gets to see how much kindness there is in the world. They get to see how people can selflessly help each other and be there for one another. People who lack or miss something easily recognise the little things that are good around them, whereas the rest do not notice it in their busy world.
Hawking agrees with Kanga with a yes. But the computer generated voice does not reveal the tone of Hawking or the emotions behind it and Kanga is not able to identify the enthusiasm behind the yes.
Meaning of difficult words:
LanternA lamp
IncandescenceThe emission of light from the body
AccessoryA thing added to make it more necessary
IrrelevantNot important
InflectionChange in the form of words to express tense, gender etc
National Council of Educational Research and Training (2008). Honeydew. A Visit to Cambridge - Firdaus Kanga (pp. 96-104). Published at the Publication Division by the Secretary, National Council of Educational Research and Training, Sri Aurobindo Marg, New Delhi.