Innocence on the Streets..

A little girl is begging at a crossing. She can’t be too old, around seven or eight and innocently beautiful. Her hair is the unique golden brown that a lot of kids living on the streets have. I think about just how parents elsewhere would want to beautify her and show her off in their friends circle. But she is on the street and trying to earn a living. She has an endearing smile and when she beckons me to lower the car window I do so out of curiosity. She holds up a one dollar bill.

“What is this?” She asks me. I tell her that it’s the currency of a foreign country.

“Hmmm,” She says, bewildered. “Is it far, this country?”

 “Very,” I say.

 “I cannot go there, so where can I use this?” she asks worriedly.

Jokingly, I tell her, “Not here, for sure”  

“Will you go to this country, which is very far away?” She asks, saucer-eyed.

“I don’t know,” I reply, honestly. I tell her to keep it safely because it is worth a lot of Indian money.

She asks, “How much?” A mix of curiosity and excitement in her voice.

“Fifty rupees at least,” I reply, trying to rack my brains as to what the exchange rate might be that morning. I cannot believe the conversation I am having with this little one. But the direction it is taking is pretty clear to me.

She is stunned into silence for a while but the question she wants to ask is hanging heavily in mid-air. Will I buy it off her, this one dollar note and give her fifty rupees? This is how her mind is working, I presume. I wait…

I am caught completely off-guard when she says, ”You keep this, if I take so much money back, the parents of the other children will beat them for not bringing the same amount…..”   

Hot Chocolate

Hot chocolate.. 

The cold is intense and bone- chilling. The surroundings are dark and heavy with depression. I wonder how people survive in a place where there is no sunlight for months on end. The grey and black clothes do nothing to alleviate the gloom. Thoughts of magenta, turquoise and sunshine yellow flash through my mind, streaks of tie and dye fabrics in brilliant colours cloak me with imaginary warmth as I think about the country I have left behind. 

I have come out for a walk and was hoping for some hot chocolate and human interaction. Within minutes I realise the futility of my intention. There is not a soul in sight. I stamp my feet to stop them from freezing and rub my hands in an attempt to warm them. The thought of sitting alone on an isolated bench is too saddening.   

As I ponder over my course of action, I see the hunched figure of an elderly person coming down the road. Grey coat, white hair, body bent against the cold and using an umbrella as a walking stick. What could have brought her out into this freezing cold? Curiosity gets the better of me and I pause in my decision making. 

She stops a few feet away from me and within seconds, as if by magic, she is surrounded by birds. Dozens of them have descended and are frolicking around her. She smiles delightedly and throws bits of food at them. They flutter around her like long lost friends. Some sit on her shoulder and some eat out of her hand. Their instant connection is palpable. She is talking to them animatedly. They seem to be infusing each other with some special energy. 

I delight in her happiness and yet feel like a voyeur. I feel like I am trespassing on a sacred ritual. A ritual developed by two beings intent on acknowledging the importance of the others presence in their life for their sanity and survival.  

The world does not seem so bleak anymore. I soak in this amazing sight and infuse the aura of the scene with brilliant, luminous colours of my own making. For some strange reason I am not cold any more.

 I decide to continue with my solitary walk…and hope to find hot chocolate 🙂

Our Ladders in Life

Some people are like ladders in our life. Their very presence elevates us. They make us rise higher by giving us solid support and a leg-up.  In doing so, they show us that newer and more beautiful vistas still exist and need to be explored.

Their presence helps bridge chasms that yawn open in front of us and threaten to swallow us whole. With their support we gingerly cross over our difficult times and manage to plant our feet firmly into a new day with renewed energy and optimism.

The ladders in our life have dreamed dreams for us which they knew they mignt never themselves be a part of…they have supported us with their unwavering belief in us and so propelled us to be the best that we can be..

In the daily humdrum of life it is easy to forget that we could never have reached where we have without the support of such people…today is as good a day as any, to remember them… 

And to tell them that I enjoy this view because they are in my life…. thank you for making it possible.. 🙂

Weekly Writing Challenge

Weekly writing challenge: Person, Place, Thing

 

She was the first person I noticed, sitting straight-backed at the head of the table. Grey hair coiffed perfectly. Her wide forehead adorned by a large red dot and the parting in her hair filled with crimson powder, proudly advertising her married status. The vibrant parrot green and fuchsia silk sari, made her look regal. Age had enhanced her delicate bone structure. Alabaster skin stretched taut upon jutting cheekbones added drama to an already striking face. A slender hand rested calmly on the table, rings embedded with precious stones glittered on almost every bony finger.  As she turned her head, it was her close set- eyes, lined with dark kohl that took away the last dreg of softness from her face, leaving in its place a well-preserved mask of what would have once been a woman of breath-taking beauty. 

                              

Even before one enters the café, cheerful instrumental music perks up the ears and the aroma of toasted coffee, the weary senses. One feels the footsteps lightening.  A green skylight gives a soothing tint to everything, and emphasises the feeling of being cocooned in an atmospheric bubble, adrift in a zone where time puts no pressure.  Herringbone pattern of well-worn bricks form the dark floor, the grooves in between having turned an unusual teal colour after patiently collecting fine dirt over the years. Wicker backed chairs, colourful cushions, cane tables add to the semi-formal atmosphere. Bright shards of sunlight find their way through horizontal bamboo slats, they light up the cushion design`s selectively, a magenta flower here, a sap-green leaf there.  Hanging low over each table is a small, wrought-iron chandelier, fitted with candle-shaped bulbs. A waiter in a turquoise blue, block-printed cotton shirt and faded blue jeans, approaches with a smile, leather-bound menu in hand.

 

It is the wall paper that grabs my attention. The background of which is reminiscent of magnified Mughal miniature art. A combination of black and white slivers form an intricate pattern of hibiscus flowers intertwined into each other. On this sea of grey, at regular intervals, is printed an ornate pink picture frame enclosing the faces of erstwhile Bollywood heart throb, Shammi Kapoor and his ladylove, Sharmila Tagore in the 1970`s blockbuster hit, Kashmir ki Kali. These are reprints of the films poster, in real size, complete with title and facial idiosyncrasies` of the lead pair. The hero looks at us quizzically, sometimes from the ceiling and at others while rounding the turn of the window sill, his eye brow raised, wind-blown hair falling rakishly across his forehead. The heroine is demure in her avatar of `Bud of Kashmir` suitably adorned with traditional jewellery, dimpled smile and rosy cheeks. It is upon moving away from the wall that one can truly appreciate the genius of pairing the unexpected with the mundane. This pumping in of nostalgia, in a place selling the best tiramisu in town, brings forth a cocktail of emotions. It juxtaposes the past squarely on the lap of the present moment, and in doing so urges one to take complete control over it and celebrate it.

Presence in the Absence

Presence in the Absence

The absence is complete..yet the presence is palpable. It is there in the form of strewn shoes…an unmade bed…perfume lingering in the air, like a guest reluctant to leave..even the comb wants to hang on to a glossy long hair as a keepsake.

Her presence is everywhere..a silent witness, it winks from countertops and jumbled clothes, it gives away every personality trait of my teen aged daughter..sometimes reluctantly and sometimes with glee..sure in the knowledge that it will get a reaction out of me. I am reluctant to start cleaning and clearing..enjoying her presence in her absence. I see examples of this girl-woman in little things that looming adulthood has not taken away yet..three magenta colored monkeys keeping Gandhijis lessons alive…a fluffy stuffed toy, a keepsake from babyhood still finds pride of place. Alongside it are photographs capturing the metamorphoses of a baby into a young woman.

She is faraway now… gone for higher studies..that sounds ironical too because she always makes me feel that she knows everything..it’s in the folding of clothes and clearing of clutter that I feel oddly close to my child. This child, who loves paneer, poetry and her point of view all with equal fervour.

Though she is not in my field of vision she’s still everywhere..sitting squarely in my heart and in her home..With every move of my hands that remove the creases from her clothes I say a prayer..be happy..be safe…be yourself…Image