A child’s innocent smile that is free of the baggage of unpleasant memories can light up your clouded sky like a rainbow, when you are grappling with your inner self.
‘To bed, to bed, to bed,’ said the mind, but the moment I hit the bed, sleep went into a sulk, crouched in a corner and would not come to me. I tried everything – sang lullabies to myself, counted sheep [the math got complicated after 33] and the lizards taking a stroll on the ceiling [there were only two], read a little bit, but sleep wouldn’t come. Yes, I even regurgitated all Macbeth quotes on ‘sleep’, but to no avail. Ah! I had really murdered sleep! Sleep no more, sleep no more! Someone kept shouting.
What was churning in my mind? I am not an insomniac. On the contrary, the moment I hit the bed, I drift into sleep, but last night I could not. I searched the mind for the cause behind it and found it.
It was a scene that I had witnessed last evening outside the mall that had kept unspooling in my mind, making me toss in the bed.
A poor woman with an emaciated child clinging to her, was peeping into a showroom on the outer side of a mall, and the child accidently touched the dress draped on the fragile mannequin standing outside the show window. And all hell seemed to break lose. Two security guards, manning the gates, who looked pretty slothful a moment back, suddenly galvanised into action, unleashing a string of expletives and curses so colorful, that people stopped in their tracks to soak in a little colour. The guards did not stop there, but whacked the toddler on the head. A couple of expletives even fell on a sad looking mongrel which scurried away, its tail between its legs, but unable to restrain its curiosity, watched the scene from under a lamp post.
The entire night, my mind had been grappling with myriad questions. Had the child belonged to the gorgeous woman on stilettoes who had been talking in a fake American accent, would the security guards have stopped gawking at her and showered the child with the same colourful curses?
It was this thought that had been plaguing me the whole night. I had found myself grating my teeth, clenching and unclenching my fists at our hypocritical ways and the highly toxic fumes of unkindness that we were breathing every day. I felt so guilty that I could do just nothing for the beleaguered mother and child.
“Why are you cursing her like that? What sin has she committed?” By way of answer to my question, they had fidgeted a trifle sheepishly, saying, “Madam, kya karein, duty ker rahey hain.” (Madam, what to do? We are doing our duty.)
“What sort of a duty is this? Whacking a poor child on the head.” At my rebuke, they had fidgeted and squirmed a little more, and then looked elsewhere.
Today morning as I went for my walk, I was surprised to see the same woman working on the construction site, her tiny child swinging in a pathetic little hammock a little distance away. I had not seen her earlier as she had recently come from the village, and yesterday night had ventured to the marketplace to let some of the glitter of the marketplace rub off on her. From her dumbfounded expression, I could gather that she had just not expected the rude behavior of the security guards.
She recognised me and smiled half a smile in my direction. The child was too small to recognise me, but not too small to smile. He smiled a happy smile in my direction, flailing his limbs. I bent down and picked him up and covered his little face with kisses. Unlike his mother and me, he did not remember the whack he had got yesterday. His innocent smile lit up a rainbow in my clouded sky.
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