Children never lose their knack of conjuring moments of pure joy from thin air even as another grueling daily routine begins.
It was absolutely dark outside, and quite chilly. I had half a mind to go back and again snuggle into the quilt, but then sudden voices and the rumbling of a ramshackle scooter fell into my ears. The disembodied voices stopped next to me, it was dark and I could not see a thing. Were they thieves? The figures were heading towards our car. Were they out to rob it of its parts?
Even in the dark, one of the three figures seemed to have recognised me, as he muttered a greeting.
“Namaste,” I mumbled warily, trying to disappear within myself, having not the slightest idea who the person was. Then the three boys jumped down from the scooter and swooped down on the car. Before I could gasp in horror, they had started wiping the car.
Oh, the car cleaners! Enlightenment dawned, and my heartbeats were back on track.
“Arrey, you have come pretty early today?”
“We have to go to many houses, so we start early,” one of them said, vigorously cleaning the car.
“The car is dirty, we will take it to the workshop for washing,” one of them said. And soon the three of them jumped on to the ramshackle scooter and rumbled away towards the next house. It was no longer dark now, and I could see things in a proper light.
A sleepy father was coming towards me, his hands holding his five year old daughter’s cycle, and she was insisting that he sit pillion. He cast a sheepish look in my direction, rolling his eyes, and walked away, ignoring the bawling of his daughter. The scene had effortlessly changed gears from horror to humour. What was next in store?
Two kids came out from one of the shacks of the labourers, squealing in excitement, rolling a cycle tyre, bringing a smile to my lips. But alas, only short-lived. The younger one suddenly snatched the stick from the older one’s hands, and started beating him with it and ran away with the tyre, his thin face suffused with a huge smile of triumphant glee. What would this scene qualify as? A tragedy? A comedy? A farce? A charade?
The construction work on one more building had begun, and my eyes travelled towards a pulley which was pulling up sacks of cement to the third floor.
I walked a little further and saw the tiny rag picker girl, whom I see almost daily, scavenging in the overflowing dumpsters outside every apartment, sitting on the neighbour’s scooter, eating boiled eggs from a paper plate. May be she had been the subject of some kind neighbour’s largesse or had chanced upon this gastronomical extravagance while scavenging in some dumpster. The expression on her emaciated face was pure bliss.
It reminded me of the lines from the popular song Nanhe munne bachche teri mutthi mein kya hai:
Mutthi mein hai taqdeer hamari
Humne kismat ko bas mein kiya hai
I walked on, heart heavy at the rampant societal disparities, gnashing my teeth in impotent rage. I stopped mid-gnashing as my eye fell on a labourer woman putting her child in a cushion-lined basket in the pulley and asking her husband standing on the third floor, to pull the child up. The way the child chortled, it appeared he was almost looking forward to this sojourn.
“Arrey, what are you doing. This is very risky?” I shouted, absolutely, horror-struck.
“He does it every day. Believe me, it is not riksy (sic). He goes up every day.”
I don’t know, whether it was in the excitement of the moment that her tongue slipped on the word risky but she definitely did not slip while smiling a reassurance in my direction, and the child waved to his mother merrily as he was pulled up by his father.
While my heart was literally in my mouth, the big smile on the child’s face was an expression of pure joy – of suddenly getting wings and going up and above the ground. How differently we view the same thing.
Their grueling daily routine had just begun, but these little folks had the knack of conjuring moments of pure joy from thin air. I headed home, eyes scanning the thin air.
(Pics: Santosh Bakaya)
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