Image Credits: Dhanush Shanbhag
Tamanna told me, “Didi, you should not have bought this.” I was confused. She continued, “You are encouraging them by buying what they sell.” It then made absolute sense to me, those words from someone who is much younger than me in age. Walking drenched in the untimely Bengaluru rain, I pondered over it thoroughly and decided that the kid is actually better accustomed to the ways of the world. But today, I disappointed Tamanna all over again.
The auto-rickshaw had stopped at the traffic junction leading to Aundh-Khadki road. Having been gently reprimanded by the driver for not correcting him when he missed a right turn, I was sitting wondering when I would finally be able to identify the road to Pune University at all. That is when she called out to me. I looked up and saw a dusky little girl on crutches, extending a bundle of extra long pens into the auto, towards me. For a fraction of a second, my good sense did frown at the authenticity of the pair of crutches. But that did not last long. One look into the foggy depths of her eyes, at the mess of her dry, dirty brown hair, at her bare feet that must have burned on the tarred road since forever, in a moment, I was scrounging inside my purse for the right currency note. The currency note that worked miracles in our lives. I had successfully swept Tamanna under the carpet. I gave the girl the note. She took one pen and kept it on the seat. I took it and gave it back to her. She refused to accept it and walked away, out of my sight. There! I had managed to fail multiple times in a matter of seconds.
That evening in Bangalore, us friends had taken shelter in a Dominoes outlet on Indira Nagar to have dinner over a lot of fun while the rain splashed itself out. When the rain toned down for a while we decided to leave the place. I had only opened the glass doors of the building when a little girl, littler than the girl I met today, bombarded me with a bunch of roses and that look in her eyes. The laughter of the immediate past vanished from my mind and it began melting hopelessly. I pulled out the currency note and put it into her hand, but could not take a rose from her. But she, she could not take the note from my hand without handing over a rose to me. In that momentary clash of interests, she triumphed and I ended up with a red rose that I had absolutely no enchantment for. It did not even look beautiful to me. Of all the red roses that bloomed in this world, this was perhaps the only one that had been unsuccessful in pulling me into the epicenter of its velveteen swirls . Because it had used the helplessness of a baby heart and also that of a well grown, yet fatally fragile heart to get itself sold.
Nonetheless it was a red rose. I looked at it for a while, and gave it to the youngest one in our group. Tamanna took it and said quietly, “You should not have bought this.” I looked at her perplexed. “It encourages them, it makes them feel that they are doing a positive thing. While actually it is not.” Someone else added, “They are being used, you should not fall for such traps.” I put my head down and walked in silence. They all made perfect sense.
There is only a fine difference between a kind heart and a weak heart. This is exactly why children are misused in such situations. It is either very difficult, or you absolutely can not turn your face away from a sad little eye, looking longingly at you. Me? I am pathetic. My emotions run wild given the slightest impetus. I end up seeing the faces of my own loved ones on the sufferers on the street. Be it the isolated old grandma sitting motionlessly on the steps to the subway in Bengaluru City railway station, or the one completely pale from head to toe, but still sitting in the scorching heat of Calcutta selling unlikely items, I end up seeing my own grandma in their place. I end up seeing my own nephews in pictures of war stricken children with fear and hunger reflecting in their depressed eyes. No amount of pumping of good sense can change someone afflicted with this problem. Because when the moment of test comes, their emotions take control, rather than their intellect. You become stupid. You do not remember that only a fraction of the currency you are parting with actually stays with the child you are sympathizing for. You do not remember that you are encouraging gangs of criminals, who are involved in the worst kind of violation possible; snatching away of childhood. You forget the years of formal education you climbed through, and also the words of those wiser than you.
The auto moved on, turned into the Aundh-Khadki road, the way I was supposed to have lead the driver into, when he had erred. I took a look at that extra long pen. It served no purpose to me. I held it in my hand and wrote the Quadrupole formula in mid-air. It was too thin to be even held within your three fingers with comfort. I am sure a number of these would have been sold. But only because they were privileged enough to sit in the hands of that little girl, who herself stayed perched on a pair of crutches. Those crutches had done the business. They had added value into an item that by itself possessed none. They had done their job perfectly well, tricking even an educated mind like mine to lose every bit of solidity and get soaked in emotions.
I put the pen into my bag, deciding to keep it away from my own sight forever. But Tamanna promptly returned, “Aapko yeh lena nai chahiye tha.”
A twenty something feeling her way through life.