Tuesday, November 13, 2007

I am Smriti

I am Smriti, remembrance, that’s what my name means, and that how I live these days, in the past. I came to Bangalore a few days back, I never wanted to leave my village, I loved our battered but cosy home, the generous mango tree in our backyard, the winding road that led to the village pond, the village school were Neeru (Neeraj my lil’ brother) and I used to study…

When Ma* told me we were going to the city, I refused straightaway, Neeru also started crying, Ma said we didn’t have money and Hari kaka* had found a job for Baba in the city. I broke my gullock* and gave Ma the money I had saved for lac bangles and a pair of dolls I wanted to buy during the Shivratri Mela*. (Ohh! How colorful and lively the mela used to be? ) Ma hugged me lovingly and explained to me that the money wouldn’t even be enough for the train tickets. Neeru and I got excited at the mention of trains, we had never been on one before. We used to wake up to the whistle of the passenger train that passed in the distance early morning, sometimes running out of the house across the lush fields to watch it. It looked so small just like a toy; we used to wonder how it carried people inside it.

But shortly we were inside a real train ourselves, it looked so big from close, no wonder it could carry hundreds of people. We fought all through the way for window seats, we had to change two trains, but that was nothing, I was so excited, the constant hustle-bustle of the stations reminded me of the Mela. Finally we arrived in Bangalore, it has been three days since I had a bath, normally Ma would’ve pestered me to have a bath, but this was no normal day, its not everyday you come to a city like Bangalore.

Hari Kaka’s house was near the building he used to work in, in fact the whole setllement had come up because of the construction work going on in the area, Baba was also going to work in one of these buildings. The first workers called their kith and kin from villages afar, who in turn called theirs and so on, the vicious circle continued and the settlement teemed with migrant workers.

Neeru and I took to exploring the area nearby, each day we used to make a new discovery; we found a few kittens hiding under a basket one day, a new playmate in our neighbors’ daughter, an old vacant house which we made our frequent haunt…But otherwise I used to miss the village, the trees, the fields, the peace, Bangalore was too bare somehow, too noisy. Soon life settled into a rut, even when Baba was earning more than what he used to in the village, we were scraping through with difficulty, Bangalore was much costlier than our village.

Neeru and I hadn’t been enrolled in the school yet, one day workers from the nearby NGO came to talk to my parents, they had seen Neeru and me roaming quite a few times and inquired about us. The NGO ran a hostel for girls, they wanted my parents to send me there, I would be well taken care of there, they told my parents and even be enrolled in a school. Ma didn’t want to send me, but Baba convinced her, she would have a better life there he said.

So off I was sent to a new destination again and here I had no Ma, no Baba, no Neeru, I was on my own. There were some fifteen more girls in the hostel; some child laborers rescued by the NGO, some girls who had resorted to begging, some orphans and some girls like me, from a very poor family. I wished Neeru was a girl too, he could also have come here and stayed in the hostel, the hostel was nice, two aunties stayed with us all the time, one was our cook and the other our teacher.

Every morning we got up early and had a quick bath, and then we played for sometime before having breakfast. Once in a week we had sweets in breakfast, I wished I could share them with Neeru he loved sweets. We then did lessons, we had missed the admission dates for school, and so we would be enrolled next year, this year we would be taught in the hostel itself. I remember doing lessons with Neeru after school; we used to have so much fun, Neeru used to eat up so many alphabets while reciting them. If I scolded him, he used to say, “Didi* I ate up ‘e’ for egg, I made a big omelette wit it, it was yummy.” And we used to burst out laughing it was our private joke.

After having a short nap in the afternoon we used to play in the evening, hide and seek, races, river and mountains, home home. I had lost my favorite doll when I came to the hostel, I had cried a lot but didn’t get it back, I now played with Kusum didi’s doll, Kusum didi loved me a lot, she loved all the other kids, she sometimes even used to recite stories to us in the night.

One-day some Aunties from the NGO in Bangalore came to visit our hostel; I was so excited to see them they would know how my parents and Neeru were, I might even be able to talk to them. I showed Aunty the tattooed number (Hari Kaka’s cell number) on my hand, she dialled the number and suddenly the distance didn’t matter, I was talking to Baba, he said he would come to take me home for Diwali and I was so happy. Ma had gone for buying vegetables and Neeru had ran to call her, when they came back Neeru snatched the phone from Baba, he had so many things to tell me, the new friends he had made, the new games he had learnt, his new discoveries. Finally Ma had to force the phone out of his hand, she was crying, as was I, she asked me to be a good girl, take good care of myself and study well so that I could live a good life when I grew up.

In the night I thought what a good life was? I don’t know what Ma meant when she said she wants me to have a good life. But for me a good life is when we are all together, Ma, Baba, Neeru and I, like we were back in the village, in our battered but cosy home, where Neeru and I used to play in the shade of the mango tree all day long, and then in the evening take the winding road to the village pond to have a bath there with the Sun, so that all three of us were all fresh for a new day, a day which would be surely better than today.

Ma*- Mother
Baba*- Father
Kaka*- Uncle
Mela*- Gathering
Gullock*- Piggy Bank
Didi*- Elder Sister


NEHA CHANDOK!!!!! said...

Our definitions of happiness has changed with time...they have become more materialistic like everything else...the tags have changed...!!!

The highlighted fact is 'universal' now...as in the 'Bluest eye by Toni Morrison', the Southrn Afro-Americans after moving to the Northrn part, loose that identity, Villagers in India too are lured by opportunities or forced by circumstances to shift to towns...where they end up loosing all that they had!!!

Anupama Kondayya said...

A very different perspective on the issue...although it talks about welfare, it brings to light the fact that that may also be a compromise...an eye-opener of sorts!

ShAkE Inc. said...

gr8 flow & detailing...the quaint feeling of togetherness reflects in each and every line of your writing.

Sur said...

hey thanks all for ur comments, glad tht u liked the post!