By Volunteer Jay Laddha, FHI Ahmedabad
I recalled her again. The girl I saw one afternoon, walking down my apartment’s front road, dressed in a frock whose sequins glittered in atrocious sunlight, in what was perhaps the best dress she owned, sweating, stumbling, struggling to carry her yellow bag, perhaps the entirety of her world now in that small bundle. Seemingly famished, she was in dire need of food. We offered her two packets of PARLE-G biscuits and her face shone with a smile.
But was it a mere euphoric moment of benevolence between two strangers? Or maybe it was more than that; it was an apotropaic convulsion of two universes: one, where a spacious balcony is taken for granted, and the other, where some biscuits provide meaning to life. Or maybe it was an inadvertent, unconscious showcase of contrast: on the one side, there was me, trying to appear austere despite wearing the latest smartwatch, and on the other side, there was she, yearning for little comforts and foraging like Neanderthals. Or maybe, it was just me, overthinking and procrastinating my next client call!
“Zindagi mein kuch karna hai toh Alon Moosk jaisa karna hai..” he said. Employed at the nearby Xerox shop, Montu had been my go-to guy for the past two years. Not a single week used to pass in my life without his assistance in stationery and paperwork. Unlike the stagnating shop, he had grown taller and patches of beard were spurting on his face. Interestingly, even after eons of lockdown, there was a sense of exuberance in his voice accompanying an uncanny dream of becoming like Elon Musk. To our amusement, against all the wonders in the world, here was a rustic peddler aspiring to become an American demigod.
So, we are here again, mimicking the undertone of every Sunday newspaper, at the consummation of another piffling fable, attempting to prognosticate simulacra for a silver lining. And for quite long, this articulation of the conscience has been a beautiful invention of the intellectual class; a powerful habit, influenced by the sleights of language. Its incipient function being let confessions and good thoughts compensate for hard sacrifice.
And the world is too deceptive. It’s amazing how much one can get used to — face masks instead of lipsticks, hand sanitizers, the zeitgeist of Zoom classrooms. And also how much we can learn to overlook — the inhumanity, the cold-heartedness, the middle-class smugness, the smothered childhoods of a world struck still, and that girl and Montus of the world. Yet, perhaps we might be not that bad. We do feel sympathetic and we do remember these lesser mortals when we see them lurking on streets or on fancy social media posts of numerous NGOs; or maybe sometimes, we push the memory aside while Instagramming the products of our labor or while skipping the intro of the next episode. And eventually, we also hold on to the faith in tomorrow so as to simply keep going, and as it has always been, consistent with the mathematics of the world and entropy in the universe, life goes on…
Yet, amid futile romanticized vignettes and perpetual grim reality, in the sad quiet balcony, I still think of that girl and where she might have gone. And however presumptuous his ideas are, I don’t feel awry of Montu; for if there is any future, it must lie in those shining eyes of that little girl; for if there is any hope, it is in the dreams of Montu. Until then, ‘andra tutto bene!‘
Image taken from https://www.cinestaan.com/reviews/khari-biscuit-41546