Sunday, December 19, 2010
Sunshine and Butterflies
I am a little rusty – there has been so much happening in my life recently that I have not had the time or energy to formulate a single cohesive line of thought. Actually, this time has made me realize how one, single incident can change how I do things.
Anyway, this post is not for brooding. This one is to remember some of the bright, unexpected spots of warm light that I have come across in my life. In them, I may have been merely an observer or a silent participant. But that does not prevent them from becoming some of my favourite memories.
I had just begun at my new job. The office was pretty far from home and I had to change transport thrice to reach on time. The last leg of the journey involved an auto-rickshaw ride in the bylanes of an area which I did not know very well. In fact, I had heard its name for the first time when I had visited my office for the interview.
This particular morning, a mother with her two kids shared the auto-rickshaw with me. The son was older and at about ten years of age, clearly the man in the family. His mother was taking him and his sister to school.
There was playful banter throughout the ten minute ride. But what I found most endearing was the relationship that the mother and son apparently shared. They were friends first and the son very clearly considered himself, his family’s protector. He advised his mother on the route to take back home, what to do and what not to. His mother listened with affectionate amusement but never took his words lightly. There was discussion on budgeting and places for good bargains. The little man held his kid sister’s hand and occasionally disciplined her with “Don’t poke your head out” or “Sit still”.
It was not the most scintillating conversation that I have eavesdropped upon but it was one of the most intriguing. There was so much love and concern that the little child felt for his mother and sister. It was as if he had grown up already and decided he was responsible for the well-being of his family. Also, very clear was the mother’s belief and pride in her son. He was her hope of the future and the sun and the moon of her life. I got the feeling that she felt safer when he was with her than at any other time.
The ride was over a little too soon but that mother-son duo – more friends than contemporaries – has stayed in the box marked as rides to savour.
Ever since I started working, I take a two-three vacation once a year to visit a place I have never been to before. Last year, my siblings and I hired a car and travelled across the lovely Himachal. After we had visited all the expected spots at McLeodganj (that’s where Dalai Lama stays), we had our evening free. So, we drove down to Dharamshala, which was only an hour away and arrived at Army Park.
This park was built in the memory of the martyred Indian soldiers. It sprawled over a large area with a monument inscribed with the names of the martyrs at its heart. The setting sun winked through the dappled brown trunks of the tall trees. The air had a pleasant nip and chill that we, residents of the plains, really enjoyed. The river flowed down the slope, silently gurgling its way through the park. The birds returning home chirped and cooed. There were not too many visitors and the near solitude was a rare gift. The best part, however, was the serenity that had settled over the park like a content lullaby.
Meandering aimlessly, we arrived at a small stone pergola beyond which a mini-playground for children had been set up. There was a slide and seesaw that were sitting at a little distance to each other. A swing set had been put up farther away. The architect of the playground, however, had overlooked one crucial fact. This being Dharamshala, the entire park was sitting atop a small hill. So, if you walk for long in one direction, you would reach the edge of some slope or the other. The swing set was installed rather close to one such edge. Nothing that an adult would fall over easily. But if you put kids into equation, the location became a little alarming.
When we arrived at this spot, a local family was already there, enjoying the evening. A grandmother had brought her three little grandchildren – two girls and a boy – to play there. The kids ranged from ages three to six-seven. The sisters were happily occupied at the seesaw, with the grandmother overseeing their antics. The curious and rather intrepid brother approached us strangers, who were watching their shenanigans from the edge of the pergola.
We said “Hello” and smiled at the child. He, in return, said something in a garbled tongue. We asked him to repeat what he was trying to say a couple of times. In the end, the grandmother interpreted his words for us. “He is asking you,” she said, “not to go there. Monkeys hide there.”
“Where?” I asked.
The boy pointed in the direction of the swing set and said, “There.”
We looked at the grandmother in puzzled askance. “The swing is very close to the edge”, she explained. “So, we have told him that there are monkeys near the swing. That acts as a deterrent. Please don’t tell him otherwise.”
I smiled at her in reassurance and was inordinately touched by the little guy’s attempts to warn us of danger. We were people he had never seen before and probably would never see again. And here, he was, trying to save strangers from his own personal bogeyman.
As I sat there, watching the charming little tableau that the kids presented along with their adoring grandma, the dusk gathered slowly in her arms the last crimson vestiges of the setting sun and left me with a forget-me-not.
I am lucky to have more such gems sprinkled across the expanse of my memory. When these happen to me, I remember that life is not just a mundane chore with me at its grinding centre. When these happen to me, I feel blessed and content. The feeling may be momentary but it is cherished forever.