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forewordMarch

Photographic words. The everyday with the not-so-routinely stuff that makes life – LIFE

Month

July 2015

Darkness is soothing. I never understood it’s charm, never understood why people prefered it to brightness. I could never feel its attraction before, but suddenly, as if for the first time my eyes were clearly seeing, I discovered it. It was not the absence of light which was soothing but the complete and total presence of oneself; of being in one’s company. The completeness of solitude. I realized I was never really alone before, even when there was no one around. There was always something around me, a sound, a color, a vision, a distraction. Darkness, the complete wholesome solid tangible darkness, took away the distractions and gifted me with my solitude. The senses came together for the first time, they worked as one. I could hear the ant like neurons twitching impatiently in my brain, forever busy. I could see the slight glint of phosphorescence of my own skin, it wanted to be seen. I heard myself breathe and told my heart, “Yes, I am aware of you too.” Then the limbs, tendons, organs, tissues, muscles, everything asked for attention, as if saying that they have been in service before I became a person and yet haven’t been acknowledged in any way, the invisible minions of our body. I became aware of this all and myself.

Have you visited yourself recently?

© Shivani K | forewordMarch
© Shivani K | forewordMarch

Dal like Dida’s

One of my favourite ones. A relook, a revisit

forewordMarch

We lived in a small one bedroom-hall-kitchen government flat in south Delhi. They were our neighbours who belonged to West Bengal. Bengalis, as Indians would call them. We Indians have a way of tagging people. Instead of simply calling them as Indians we give them tags. So they were Bengalis, while we were Punjabis. The lady’s mother, a 5 feet tall lady in her early 70s, was called Dida (grandma) by her two daughters. I too called her that.
Such a pretty word : dee-da. Like a song. Deeda.

I used to come back from school at 2pm sharp and my brother, whose classes ended a little later, would reach around 2:30 pm. My mother and father both worked, so Dida used to help out us kids with after-school meals. Everyday, she would come to our place in her signature blue-bordered white sari, keys tied at one end of her…

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Love story, of ordinary

She comes on time every day, unlike the other one. Her work involves sweeping and cleaning the house, that she takes good one hour to do. In between work she steals time to watch TV, if running, and comments on whatever plays on it.

I am an introvert and do not talk much, beyond the basic minimum. She is vociferous. I am about 30 and she must be 40 or closer to it. I stay alone for most part of the day and she lives in a big family comprising of her kids, her pets, her brother in law and his family, while her husband works outside. He works as an electrician employed by an army contractor. Our worlds don’t merge except in that one hour when she comes to my place. That one hour is common to both of us. She discusses the shows they play on TV, tells me about her goat that recently gave birth to three calves, tells me excitedly about the dresses she got stitched, about the annual fair that we are too “sophisticated” to go to, about a lot of things that are insignificant for my “developed” brain. How silly we educated are! We lose ourselves to so called knowledge and elitism, discuss the fundamentals and philosophy of life, discuss socio-economic factors defining and redefining the world, debate on the global and local political scenarios, we feel our opinions matter as if without it the world would collapse, thinking that we have what it takes. We ignore and overlook that what it takes to live and be happy is the happiness that lies hidden in small things, the everyday musings. That one hour brings that up everyday. I fail to correct my behavior though, despite the fact that the simplistic truth stares straight at my face.
She dresses up the way she is- colorful. She brings those colors to my too-neat-too-clean-museum-like house. Pinks, purples, yellows, blues, oranges, all bright and all happily clashing with each other. I know it’s her when the bell rings a long irritating “trrrrrrrrrr” sharp at 9:15 am. Today she came late. Almost at 10:00. My punctual self wasn’t too pleased. 45 minutes of delay was earth shattering! It didn’t occur to me that once in a while we all get delayed. Once in a while, it’s okay. While the heart was trying to get a say (the above lines), my fussy non-compromising brain was stuck at “She is late.”

She looked unusually dull. “Was that a farce? They are smart these maids.. they know how to put up an act” my brain whirred in an overdrive, having been taught over the years by all aunties and other ladies. I asked her sharply the reason. She said it’s her time of the month. She was in pain. Oh well, that’s plausible. Brain was appeased and heart was shyly guilty. I said that she could have taken a day off and informed me. She said “Nahi madam, Kaam to karna hota hai. Koi Nahi, kar loongi” (No madam, work needs to be done. It’s okay, I will manage). Frankly, I was surprised. I was more guilty, but surprised too. I looked for medicines in my medicine box and got her a painkiller, which she took along with water and a lot of gratitude. That was hardly anything in my corporate-sector elitist world, but to her it was a big generous magnanimous gesture that she would proudly tell her family. Not that they will care, but she will.

The pain subsided after a little while and her subsided effervescence floated back. She asked me about getting hair straightened, “Ma’am parlor girl will do it for 4000 Rs.” I suggested her not to. She told me about her four new dresses that she bought for her son’s impending nuptials. All her last month’s pay was spent on them. While I stood shocked, she grinned toothily. I would have suggested saving and spending practically, but her happy face punctured my logic. I just looked at her, confused. She laughed. She got talking and told me that her husband works in Suratgarh. It was a second jolt. I didn’t know that. She has been working with me for 2 months and I never asked her about her family. What’s wrong with me? When did I become this uncaring, aloof person? I don’t remember being this ways when I was young. I asked her in softer, and a bit shocked tone, about her being all alone with her kids and goats. How do they manage? Isn’t it scary? She said that they all live in a joint family and it’s fine. Her husband keeps visiting monthly and the nature of his job is such that his postings keep him on the move. She told me that earlier she used to tag along, so they have lived together in Chandigarh, Amritsar where he built a girls hostel, Ludhiana where he built army accommodation, and so on, but not anymore. She has bought land here now and built a house on it. They had to settle and make a house, which wouldn’t have been possible if she kept tagging along everywhere he got posted. Me, who thought she was impractical, who thought of lecturing her a while back on saving and planning, who thought much of being well-read, that “me” was taught, then and there. This woman, who spent all her life cleaning houses and moving along every few years, who wasn’t educated, wasn’t even worldly wise, knew good enough. There was no need for me to patronize her. I smiled. I was relieved too.

She continued talking, as usual. She told me that I have hairfall. I just stared, not sure what to say and how to react to that. She repeated herself, thinking that I didn’t hear. She told me about the other “ma’am” whose hair fall is severe and who got her long hair cut short because of it. We jointly complained about the local water. She told me that Amritsar and Ludhiana has good water quality, that her hair quality improved there. She told me that in Chandigarh she grows fairer, the water helps. She told me that in Jaipur the vegetables taste so much better, again because of the water. She told me that in Bikaner one gets tasty snacks. I asked her if she too belonged to Rajasthan like her husband and she let out a “hmmmphh” and said proudly that she is from Chandigarh. I suppose everyone suffers from a bit of superiority. “Her” Chandigarh was better than “their” Suratgarh. She married him when he was posted in Chandigarh. It was a love marriage.
I did a double take. A love-marriage?! Why I felt it’s impossible, I don’t know. Maybe because it was unheard of back in her heydays, but mostly because I never thought people in that strata married for love. How wretched is a well-read brain. How arrogant!

It was so new to me that I couldn’t help but enquire. My taciturn self finally decided to take a break. She smiled coyly and said it was a love marriage and then told me.
“I was young and worked with an army couple who had built a three story bungalow in Chandigarh. I helped clean the house. I was young, lean and very naughty (she said that twice, as if to reassure herself). When they would go out I would cover my face with powder or cream. After returning they would look at me and instead of scolding me they would say that I looked like a cat. I loved eating dirt and broke their earthen pots and ate them. Madam asked me who broke the pots and I said that a cat broke them.
Sahib then laughingly told her that I am the cat and all pots were in my tummy (she let out a hearty laugh at this). Madam then took me to doctor for medicine on pretext of getting a chocolate. She told me to eat whatever was in the house but dirt. Sometimes, I would eat whatever was in the refrigerator and tell them about it later. The sahib would say that as far as you eat and not throw the food, that’s fine. I frolicked around all day long, running between the three floors. They laughed at me and said that I brought in sunshine. Madam would laugh and shake her head and say “who would marry you, you silly girl.” Now I am grown up madam but back then I was very immature. Their children were growns ups and one of them worked abroad. He would come to stay sometimes with his firangi* wife, who was so fair and had cat eyes. The daughter-in-law would call me to her room and give me things. Once she gave me a nightgown and explained to me that I were to wear it only at night. I didn’t understand anything and asked my madam if she was cursing me. My madam laughed and explained. The couple liked my presence because they didn’t have anyone else and I kept the house alive.

They kept tenants on the upper floors, who were either very fair foreigners or very dark. I didn’t understand their chattar-pattar**. They spoke in English. Someone told me once that the dark ones would kill and eat me. On learning that I ran away and refused to go to their house. My madam laughed at it and explained that it isn’t so. That they are as nice as any other. I was so stupid.

I told my madam one day that the boy, who worked in the house being built next to theirs, smiled at me. She laughed and said “You are too innocent.” I told her that I wasn’t lying, he really did smile every time he saw me. Then one day when he was working on the terrace of the neighbouring house under construction, I took my madam’s hand to our terrace and “showed” her. She smiled, he laughed and I stood looking with wonder. She knew him as he belonged to a place they had been posted prior to settling in Chandigarh. They were from army too. He had worked there for good time and belonged to that place. She told me that he was a good boy and that I shouldn’t be alarmed. Her saying this made me think. He approached me after a few days and asked for marriage. Straight and direct. In our times love meant marriage, madam. Boy and girl didn’t roam around holding hands. If you loved someone, then marry. I don’t understand why people waste all those years and then say that they won’t marry because they are not compatible. He was not very good looking, but he was a good man. He had a smiling face, I realized later. He had seen me working and jumping around in the house and liked me despite my silly immaturity. I liked him because he was kind and nice to me. What other reason does one need?
My madam and sahib spoke to him and to my parents and arranged our wedding. I got married to him, the man I loved. I think my sister-in-law is jealous of this. She always refers to our love-marriage in derogatory tones. These days it’s fashionable. Yours must be love marriage too (she asked imploringly). You both look like you married for love. But in our time it wasn’t like that. Sometimes my in-laws taunt, but it’s okay.”

 
I smiled at her words and asked her how long has she been married? She told me that they have been married for 20 years and never did she feel that she acted too quickly or it was a hasty decision.
Unlike the city bred people who are forever riddled with self doubt and find it difficult to coexist, even in love marriages, there stood this lady who was so comfortably married despite living separately from her husband. There were no doubts, no problems, no confusions, no finger-pointings, no self pity, no air of sacrifice, nothing. This simple woman was simply happy. She chose that. Her life was her family, her house and her goats; to her, place didn’t matter, the separation didn’t matter, money issues didn’t matter.

Why does it matter so much to the rest of us? This was a way to live too. She didn’t need fancy phones and big screen TVs and bigger problems creatively created by the big people from big cities.
I think I will try her way. The weightlessness of leaving behind the heavy modernities and going back to the easy, albeit “rural”, light-weightless life is worth a try.

 


* firangi :               A foreigner, especially a British or a caucasian.
** chattar-pattar :  chit-chat

 

Shahrukh meets Shahrukh

Sometimes the most extraordinary things happen when you least expect it.
It was past 9:30 in the night and though we (my husband and I), had had our dinner long back, thought of going for a late night local roadside plate of chow mein or better known as “cho-main”, for old times’ sake. We walked to the local place, 50 metres from our house, dressed casually in lounge clothing and flip-flops, without worrying about stepping out dressed like so.

It was pleasantly cool that night and pitch dark. Very few people walked about, the market still had its lights on but closed shops. The “thela” (cart) was on its regular spot, thankfully not crowded. We approached him and ordered two plates of local indianized version of oily (perhaps unhygienic) chow mein. While waiting for the cook to prepare the dish we stood at a distance talking about the mundane. I couldn’t help but notice the curiously named cart. On the top it read “Dilli ki mash-hoor chat” (Delhi’s famous chaat) and the bottom half read “Bombay’s famous burger.” I laughed at that, pointed at it and asked the owner-cum-cook. He shyly answered with a look of deference, that it is actually “Bombay’s famous burger” but recently a film scene was shot here for which they used this cart and wanted a ‘Delhi’ board and got that made and covered the original ‘Bombay’ board with a pink cloth.

Everyone in Delhi gets excited on hearing about a movie shooting, no matter how trivial, and I most certainly was one of those kinds. I had heard about it too; a big actor had come down to shoot for a movie in our local market and within minutes he had attracted about 500 people. There were Facebook updates all over my wall. Those who witnessed, not him but the crowd, recalled how some people just stood there clueless, craning their neck to get a better look, without actually being aware of what was all the hoopla about. Onlookers had their own versions of the cause, ranging from “Bhai, bada raada ho gaya shayad” (brother, looks like a big mishap) to “chori-chakaari ka mamla lagta hai” (looks like a theft took place) but few got it right.

I asked him excitedly and my excited tone probably communicated itself and infected him. He, initially shyly and later more easily, began talking. He told us that he had been doing this business for years and initially had a different corner. His prime work involved making local burgers, which he has been making for over 20 years since he had come to Delhi, when he was still young and without any idea what to do with his life. He found odd jobs, where he learnt to make food. He saved money and took the cart on rent and later bought it with his savings. After the movie shoot he started making chow mein noodles and few other things besides his burgers. He was busily chopping, tossing, mixing, sprinkling, scraping and doing lots of things at his big wok at the same time while telling us about it, as if on auto-pilot mode. He told us that the film unit wanted his cart for a scene and decorated it for him. He shyly told us that he had a small scene too and we would perhaps see him in the movie. He proudly pointed at the chinese string of lights and the new pretty placard like board that read “Delhi’s..” and told us that this was all given by the “film people.” He told me how “Shahrukh sir ” was nice and kind with him and even spoke to him between shots! To him that itself was a big gesture by a big man from the big city! He didn’t want any compensation and was happy with the sparkly lights and new board that was given to him and the fact that a big Bollywood superstar had spoken to him nicely.

I didn’t say that the kind gesture by the film unit was probably the least that they could have done, that they didn’t need the board and lights and would have thrown it away anyways. I didn’t want to steal the proud happy light in his eyes.

In between his story he had poured the steaming hot slightly bland noodles in two paper plates and given it to us. His helper handed two plastic fork to us and gave us bottles of vinegar, ketchup and green chilli sauce. I asked for some salt and the cook apologetically came running from the other side of his cart to give it to me personally. He told me that he was new to it and asked us for an honest feedback. We gave him the feedback and I asked him about him. He continued sharing his story, which wasn’t different from thousands of others like him working day long for survival. I asked him if it’s late and we are keeping him from closing his shop and he smiled nicely and told me that his prime selling hours had just started. People, mostly younger lot, came up till 11 pm and sometimes as late as 11:30 pm and we were amongst the first customers that day.

After we ate and paid him the due amount he said “I hope you liked the noodles. Please come again.” I was moved by this simple man. He didn’t have much, he didn’t expect much but he was happy, focused and energetic. He was an entrepreneur, he was not complacent and at his age he was still trying new things with ageless energy. He was excited by simple things and didn’t expect much from life, but was full of gratitude for whatever little life offered him. This man had met Shahrukh, the superstar, and that was his life’s shining point. He was a fan of the star as thousands of lakhs of people around the world were, and the close encounter had left him entranced. They must both be the same age, both from Delhi, both self-made, met in one of life’s miraculous chance meets. But he couldn’t see how special he himself was. He didn’t see the Shahrukh in him.

I asked him if he would go to watch the movie ‘Fan’, which was surprisingly the movie’s name, and he smiled and said, with a pensive contemplative worldly-wise look, that he had to work. I understood.

Remembering Babaji

Our grandfather did most of the running around. He was an active man. The grocery shopping, stocking up necessities, milk, clothing, medicines, dairy, were all done by him. We used to frequently visit their home over the year, other than during the summer vacations. When we came over, he would specially bring ladyfingers for us and would announce to no one in particular, “Kids like it. Make this for them,” and kilos and kilos of mangoes in summers that we usually ate without removing its skin, by sucking out the pulp and licking the running juice off our hands. Despite having 7 children and 7 (at that time) grandchildren he remembered what each one of us liked and never forgot to bring those special somethings. That was my grandfather. Babaji, as we called him. In India “ji” is used as a mark of respect for someone who is elder to you or to give respect to someone. But for us he was not “Baba ji”; he was babaji. It was one single word. The mark of respect was fused with his name.

He was a short man standing at 5.3′ feet and dark complexioned, not handsome and in no way towering but still imposing. He was a fastidious man, a man with a strict routine. His tea was always accompanied with Parle G biscuits, his food always hot and fresh, his drinks always paired with some snack. He got up early, earlier than all of us, bathed and did pooja and went out of his daughters-in-law’s way. In that era, still in some parts of India, daughters-in-law did purdah, that is they covered their faces in presence of older men of the house. He made sure that he completed his morning rituals before the day started for all bahus (daughters-in-law) so as not to get into their way. It is these little actions that tell you so much more about a person than the big words. Not only was he considerate and thoughtful but also a true egalitarian. He never differentiated between a girl and a boy, between a man and a woman, between people from different strata of society, and between his own children and daughters-in-law.

My mother, who married young at the age of 16, wanted to study. She confessed to my father, who at the behest of my grandfather, encouraged (and tacitly allowed) my mother to study and then work. If not for these two men she might have never succeeded in her dream of studying and being independent. The day she cleared her senior secondary (XII standard) examination in first class he was genuinely delighted and got sweets for all.

Never did I hear my babaji say “give more to the boys”, unlike others outside and sometimes by someone within the clan. He encouraged us girls to eat healthy, to play outside along with our brothers and study well. He would bring kharode (hooves), a delicacy, because it was good for bones. “You children need it. Ask the girls to have it. More important for them,” he would announce in his characteristic way to no one in particular, but the message reached loud and clear to one and all. My (female) cousin and I crinkled our noses at that sticky foul (to us) smelling gravy while all men, including my brother and the other cousin, relished it till the last drop. I hated the way it made my fingers stick to each other. I still cringe at the name of “kharode”, but I also remember those times, pleasantly.

Despite his hot temper, we knew he was a kind man, from the numerous ways his actions suggested. He would sometimes bring fruits, sometimes candy, sometimes sweets and would ask my grandmother to distribute amongst us kids.   During “karvachauth”, when all 5 daughters-in-law (at that time) got together at my grandparents’ house, and kept a fast along-with my grandmother, he would bring all types of fruits that each one of the daughters-in-law and us kids liked. He always entered the house tired, sweaty, carrying big bags in both his hands. He would immediately shed his wet shirt and hang it on the door nail and lie down the bed in his “banyan” (vest). He was no longer physically strong, despite being a footballer in his days, but his spirit would beat the best in the business. He used to take us out when he went to purchase milk from ‘Mother Diary’, which was at a distance, and tirelessly hear us talk and buy candies for us. Despite all of this, we had a certain fear of him. The eldest members of the house are usually mistaken. Their stern expressions brings fear along with reverence for little kids. I feared him, as did other kids. There was a reason too. His fury was legendary, although I never experienced it first hand but knew by the way the air changed in the house when he was home. We saw it in the demeanor of uncles and aunts.

We were forewarned to never, under any circumstance, disturb him while he slept. The room were to be closed, lights off and we were to retreat to another part of the house to play. We never dared to disturb him in his peaceful lion-ic rest time. We didn’t bother him when he sat corresponding, but we sat in a line to help lick the stamps and put them on envelopes or fold and close the telegrams along the lines, just like in ‘Art and Craft’ classes in school. I once saw him writing a letter in Urdu. He had a beautiful handwriting. My father got that from him. But nobody in the house knew how to read and write Urdu and Gurumukhi (script of Punjabi language). My father was the only one who knew how to read Punjabi but even he didn’t know Urdu at all. I saw him write from right to left instead of left to right, like we were taught at school. I asked him and he smiled at the simple question and patiently explained. He told me that in another part of the world there was a language in which they wrote from top to bottom,vertically. Experience is a teacher. I wish we had learnt more.

He was closest to my brother, who is also the eldest of us kids. It was him to whom babaji recounted his days in Lahore, their house, the big move, his hockey days, the family tree and many of those amusing stories that grandparents are made of. Sometimes he would call him and show him old letters and few black-and-white pictures that he had of those times. His interaction with us girls was fairly limited, but we had our own special tasks, that we took pride in. When we were very young, perhaps less than 5 years, he would ask us to walk on his back while he slept on his stomach or to punch his back with our tiny fists. He laughed at the effort we would put in and the little tiffs we had over whose turn it was to be a masseuse.

When I grew up I saw many other qualities that were previously unknown to me, such as his exceptional sense of humour and his love for maaji, my grandmother. He loved my grandmother like no other. He made early morning tea for her, took care of the clothes washing when their children were young. He wasn’t afflicted by the societal plague that decides “women’s job” versus men’s and this was back in 60s and 70s. He would take her out on walks in the evenings and buy her favourite idli-sambhar for her. It is evident in the fact that my grandmother never bought a single sari for herself till babaji was alive. He would bring her saris from all over Delhi, the latest in fashion and the kinds she personally liked. He would sit with her and read out news from the newspaper, as she herself couldn’t and watch shows on television that he explained to her. Since she couldn’t dial, he would do that for her whenever she wished to speak to anyone. He remembered everyone’s anniversaries and birthdays and would take her to visit the person in question.

He went everywhere on his bicycle or used public transport for longer distances. He knew Delhi like nobody ever did. Which place has the best for what, he could list it out. Not just that, he knew people from all corners of Delhi and Punjab. He was a people’s person. He had the quality to interact with anyone about anything, from history to sports to politics to general social topics; he was a master conversationalist. We got gifts on our birthdays from all over Delhi, the best of this and best of that. I still have a pair heavy silver payal (anklet) and a pair of little silver balis with red-green meenakari and little ghunghroos that he specially got for me. But I realized the extent of his persona and friendly warmth only after he passed away. Half the Delhi and Punjab turned up to pay their regards. For three whole days the house was swarmed by all his friends, people he helped in tough times, people he kept in touch with.

The day he passed away, which was in early hours of 7 June 2005, 9 days before his birthday at the age of 72, I had a premonition. I couldn’t sleep the night before and lay awake as our landline phone rang around 5:15 am. Mom-dad came to my room to announce that Babaji is unwell and they are going over to see him. I did not say anything to them, but I knew. Babaji had left us all. I had gotten a job and were to join in one month of time. He was most excited about that. I wish he waited a little longer, long enough to see at least one of his grandchildren’s wedding. He would have been so happy.

It’s been 10 years and I still sometimes dream of him, see him smiling and feel that he is blessing us all. He is around, I know. I tell my husband that he would have liked Babaji and Babaji would have liked him. But, these two men, who I dearly love, would never ever see each other, forget meeting. Maybe, in another world, in another time. Till then, I have these memories and my dreams.

It’s his birthday today. I just want to tell him that I miss him and we all did well. We are all fine. There is nothing to worry.

Happy Birthday Babaji!!

© Shivani K | forewordMarch
© Shivani K | forewordMarch

The girl in pink shoes

I see her everyday. She goes for a walk with her father around 6 pm. A little girl of perhaps two years, short for her age, with a mushroom cut hair style, more like a toupee, that can look cute only on kids. They go for a walk everyday; she in her pink crocs and two pigtails and he in his white sports shoes and a slightly balding head. She normally wears a tee shirt with slacks and he wears stiff collared white tee shirt and sport shorts. I noticed her the very first time for her peculiar walking style. Funnily, it was similar to mine. Her left hand swings far and wide overcompensating for her non-moving right hand. She walks on ball of her feet, her heels hardly touching the ground, like a ballerina. But what’s strange is that for a girl so young, she never holds her father’s hands nor does he insist upon it. In fact, she never walks besides her father. There is always a good 10 metres of distance between the two of them; she following him wherever he goes. They talk over that 10 metres, loud enough for the passersby and onlookers, such as myself, to catch.

 
They usually take one hour before they head back home. They live couple of blocks away and our house falls on their route. I know nothing about them, other than the fact that they are father-daughter. Their names, their story, their address, nothing, but seeing them everyday I have imagined a world for them. An idle mind’s devilry if you will. I imagine them to be a close-knit family of three. The child is much loved, without doubt, but not pampered. A pampered child of that age would go for walks being carried in her father’s arms, rather than walking behind him. The father must be around 40 and seeing the child’s age one might say that they couple had her fairly late into their marriage. Perhaps after much difficulty, maybe even with medical intervention and assistance. The mother, who never joins them on these walks, perhaps is a stay at home mother who gets this one hour for herself when the father takes the child away. The father, a little on the heavier side, uses this time to bond with her daughter more than for fitness and yet, he is always dressed up for it. The child is the type who is trusting in nature. She displays no urge of reassurance for her security. She walks confidently, head held high, behind her father. Her steps are non-hurried and sure. The father isn’t worried himself, he hardly turns back to check on her. The chitchat does that for him.

 
Today she did something. While coming back, walking behind her father, she stopped and turned back. Her father stopped too and turned around, the 10 meters still strong. She turned around to wave to two jawans (privates) riding on their bicycles. It was a kind, sweet, unassuming gesture. Her father beckoned her, called her to “catch him” but she didn’t hear. She kept waving till they were some distance away. They smiled broadly and waved back too. Once satisfied, she turned around and walked as usual, with a little prance and a little trot. Her world was the same. It was regular. She had not done anything monumental. For me, not only was it a pleasant sight, the types that makes one smile, but also it spoke much more. A little girl displayed that social class is baseless and imaginary. That, what is not baseless but true are these human interactions and humanity. I wish we didn’t need these reminders. But sadly, we do!

 

What If?

What if we weren’t born as an Indian or an American,
But only as human?
What if we had no concept of black and white,
But only talked about each other’s right?
What if only love, anger, jealousy, and sadness were given color;
Not to people to make them feel smaller?
What if instead of seeing skin color, hair color, and nose shape,
We only saw the expressions in the eyes, the smile on the lips and not bother where they belonged to on a map?

What if there were no nations and no monarchy,
But only endless land that belonged to us all for free?
What if there were no power, no rank,
no dollar and no franc?
What if the history had only love stories and stories of humanity;
not of war, bloodshed, epidemics and scarcity?
What if we were ashamed of the wars,
instead of being taught to be proud of our nation’s corps?

What if women were loved and not treated as objects to rape?
What if children were treated as flowers and their schools weren’t gunned down by religious hate?
What if we all lived like a big community family,
Danced in the weddings together and took care of the elderly?
What if our life wasn’t compartmentalized and we weren’t expected to reach milestones based on our age?
What if we all spoke same language, and there was no concept of race?
What if we raised our young to spread love and be humane,
Instead of working on them like a campaign?
What if we didn’t have to teach our kids to be careful of strangers;
Instead, we taught them to trust, for people pose no danger?

What if children weren’t brought up as girl or boy, but only as a child?
What if we didn’t care about what marks he/she got, but only cared if he/she smiled?
What if growing or not growing hair wasn’t based on child’s sex,
But on their personal interest?
What if the world was safe for a child to go out to play in a park without supervision?
Is this too hard to envision?

What if we believed that earth belonged to animals and trees,
As it belonged to thee?
What if we still lived off the trees,
And spent the day gathering berries?
What if we gave back to the nature as much as we took from it?
What if we killed another person and then wore his skin? Sounds horrible?
Then why do we still wear fur and leather?

What if there were no gadgets, we worked with our hands,
And allowed children to play outside in the sand?
What if the fission and fusion never came to be known,
And bombs never made and never grown?
What if we ate our food hot and streaming,
Instead of clicking it and twittering?
What if people displayed love by gazing in to each other’s eyes,
Instead of showing by liking their Facebook profiles?
What if instead of watching baby videos on YouTube,
we saw them perform live within your drawing room?
What if couples actually talked to each other instead of watching TV?
What if the world moved slower so we could together enjoy a cup of morning tea?

We did all this, but we called it the stone age or the backward stage of mankind? I don’t see how is it backward. I don’t see how what we all do is ‘advancement’. I can see humanity’s downfall every time there is a child molested, a woman raped, schools gunned, innocent towns and cities bombed. Is this really advancement? Ask yourself.

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