The rays didn’t hurt and she was lost in thoughts as her mind unfolded flashes of past with every passing mile.
Life in Mumbai is not easy they say. She never agreed to them. Here is why she feels the opposite.
Walking through the city streets every day from morning to night, she was accustomed to be thrown out of places, spit on by strangers and heard abuses when she went close to them. It did not matter to her how ill-mannered people were. She considered it a part of the life she was living. Her life purpose was to reach out her hand and earn. To her, hard work meant putting up with the forces of the human race that pushed her down and stand strong without letting her determination to live, die within her. She did not have to worry about shelter, as the almighty would look after that necessity of hers. She wanted to feed and protect herself and the little one she dragged with her everywhere she went.
She found happiness in watching the stars at night, feeling the heat of the sun on her palms, watching people smile and munching fresh food. Her hunger to live nurtured her to be unspoilt and humble. She only took what she needed and gave all that she had in serving the ones who looked up to her. When she watched young girls pass by with books and school bags, she would sit on the road and use a small piece of white cement block to write letters and read them loud. She loved the attention she got from different people who appreciated her with some food and goodies. She would impress them with her dance moves and her sweet voice. Her sister banged an old steel plate with hands to make music. Very few paid attention to her happiness. Not many knew what this young child goes through every day.
She is considered a dirt, that filths the nation. Yet she loved her country and her people. She would sell tiny flags on Independence Day and pin one onto her half-torn clothes. She would peep through the holes of a school compound and watch the flag hoisting. She knew the anthem and proudly sang it with pride. Her own people never accepted her yet she loved them so much.
Why did it not bother her that nobody cared when she fell ill and threw her to the dogs when she came for water? What is that about the city that still kept her to her feet?
It has only been 6 years since she has been in this world and yet she has a wisdom that even a learned cannot have. It is simple she says. If every time in life you are only going to see the dark, you will always remain in the dark. When a candle is lit in a dark room, no matter how small the flame is, it brightens every corner of the room. That is why she does not cry over all the times people have trampled over her. She instead remembers all those who came to her rescue during her desperation.
As she walked pass a few cars, begging for coins, one shiny car opened their door and gave her a plastic bag filled with some new clothes. It was Diwali, a time for new clothes to flaunt. She grabbed the bag and ran across the road and took out each item one after the other and examined them. She was choosy and found one that she liked the most. She kept back rest of the clothes, handed the bag to one of the elders and said, “Tai ye hum kal subah meri baaki saheliyon ko baatengey. Kripyiya isse surakshit jagah pey rakhna.” (Translation: “Sister, please keep this bag safe with you. Tomorrow morning we shall distribute these clothes to my friends.”)
If only we can learn something from her. She might look poverty-stricken. Yet her heart is richer than ours is.
She told me to look straight into her eyes before she closes them. I thought she was out of her mind. Yet I didn’t want to take the risk of the consequences of not listening to her. So I stared into her eyes, for too long. She blinked and nothing happened. We walked off and I kept wondering why she was acting so weird all day. I found nothing special in her eyes.
When I reached home and switched on the Wi-Fi, I remembered that night at her place when everyone was waiting for her internet to work. She said it always crashed during the rains. I didn’t bother about Wi-Fi then cause all I wanted to have was fun and a night away from my phone. We danced all night. Played games, sang songs and laughed all night like we didn’t have any worries of the world, lost in the music and the smiles that lit up the room even when the lights were off. She loved having fun. We were always her motivation to smile and do things she’d never do if it weren’t for us. She lived her life and enjoyed it the way she did because when she watched us play she would elude herself into a different world. A world where she didn’t have to fret about who was watching her and talked what about her.
We were the reason why she looked beyond those prying eyes who only reckoned her by her guises (She was indisputably beautiful). The purpose behind she letting herself free was us. If it wasn’t for us, she would mix around with the crowd and be one like them, the ones who never looked deeper into a soul than the body alone.
Then what about us? What about those times when she didn’t have us and we were on the other side of the road while she was busy being one like them? She judged us with her inquisitive senses, gossiping wrong about us only to get some limelight. What about the times when she would ignore and disrespect us only to sound levelheaded and popular? Words and actions can hurt anyone as deep as the ocean. At times like these you don’t know what to believe and whom to trust. When you’re never being yourself around one person, how will the person know you’re for real?
Maybe that wound never healed and hence I didn’t grasp anything in her eyes but a blank dark hole that only saw and took others for granted. She was with me, with us, only so she could experiment her guilty pleasures without pricking her conscious. It is saddening to realize the fact that during those times when she let herself loose, her eyeballs never left us. Her eyes ogled deep, and never beyond our remains. She only perceived what she wanted to and never paid attention to how much she was losing by pretending to genuinely like us.
What she failed to understand is that we are who we are. Being copies isn’t going to take her as far as we have come. She lost us to the people who always judged her right. At least they were right about her and didn’t fall hard like we did. I’m glad we could dust ourselves up from the mess and finally go back to being what we were and care less about the world and worry more about our happiness.
She sprawled on her bed, unstable and disturbed. She was sleepy yet she didn’t want to sleep. She observed a flash of light. It was morning and she stood up wide awake, ready to leave for college.
Her mesmerizing smile catches her eye. Lost in the beauty of her innocence, she stares at this petite face and wonders, “what made me so mad at her?” She grabs her arm and drags her along as she ran toward the train. She ran behind her, listening to her sweet voice. Both stepped one foot forward, held the pole and in a rush entered it. They started to laugh in excitement like they’re kids. “Never been so happy being with her” she thought to herself, still pondering why this face was making her happy yet so ashamed.
When the clock hit eight, the train halted with a jerk. She stopped daydreaming and looked around. No one moved and nor could she hear them speak. That face she had been watching disappeared. All kinds of mixed emotions flew through her head. She tried to talk but her lips were slumped and felt too heavy to move. As she raised her hand to pat her face, her head started to spin and she felt a twitching pain. She thought she was dead. She fell unconscious and was blacked out.
Few minutes later, she rolled her eyes and opened them slowly. She was cold though it was bright. She looked ahead and saw a door wide open. She praised God that she is in heaven and not in hell! When she tried sitting up, her head hurt again and then it struck her. She noticed the clothes hanging behind the door. She smiled. Rubbing her head, she got up from the floor and searched for her cell at the side table. She scanned through her contacts and texted her ‘good morning’. Instantly her phone beeped and read “good morning! How are you?”
This time she was determined never to hurt this face that played a part in her happiness every day.
All that we see or seem, is but a dream within a dream. ~Edgar Allan Poe