11/07/2011 by Siddiqui Fayesal
I usually go for an evening jog after work. I think the only reason why I look forward to it is because I get to leave at 1800 instead of the usual 2030 hrs. I guess working with your father does have some advantages. So I look forward to my jog which stretches a neat 4 km (I’m obese ok! So a 4 km route for a BIG person like me is GOOD. Got that!!!) There are some days where I just sit and watch the waves crash down on those huge rocks not two feet below. Then there are times when I sweat it out and run an extra 2 km!
My life is so damn organised. Of course there’s still so much to do and so much pending that I feel guilty for saying that but something gave my heart a tug not 2 days back.
I left from work planning to go for my daily jog and the 1 km between my house and my workplace depressed me. I still have no clue as to why it happened. My close friends know me well. So if they find me suddenly not attending phone calls and not replying to texts they’ll know that I’m going through my tri-monthly thingy!
So instead of going for a jog I just wore my tracks and shoes (and T-shirt Duuu-uuhh) and decided to walk to what has become a sort of hide out for a couple of friends and me. The walk takes around 10 minutes if you’re really slow. Now, usually I walk pretty fast. I’m slick and quick for my girth but since I was into that mood of mine I took my own sweet time.
There’s a McDonald’s just outside my society’s gate. It’s always packed to my surprise! And, not to my surprise, there was more crowd outside than the inside. The tiny urchins whom we found begging on the railway platforms and outside bus stands have upped the ante. Now they are found more often outside a Subway or a KFC. Or, as in this case, a McDonald’s.
As I walked past them, jumping and dodging, I saw a small little boy sitting quietly at one end of the wall while the others clamoured around peeping inside and making faces at the diners inside.
The tiny boy had no legs of his own. He used crutches to get from A to B. but he wasn’t looking all sad and weepy that I expected to accompany the situation completing the picture. Instead he was laughing his butt off at the crude faces his friends were making at the diners.
Mentally smiling at him I walked on. I crossed the road and appeared right opposite a Mall. There’s a bus stop there with loads of rubbish. Cement bags, splintered logs of wood, putty and other crap that one can find usually on a deserted bus stop. I see a tinier girl defecating amongst the rubble.
The site would’ve nauseated anyone. Even me on a regular day. But this was not one. The moment I saw her, it seems by chance, but I’m sure it was meant to be, that my eyes were dragged to the glitzy mall just across the road. Three floors of glass walls and branded merchandise; three floors of eateries and coffee shops; three floors with snake-like escalators and automated elevators; three floors of the well to do and three floors of globalization lay across the small defecating child.
All she wanted was a small toilet at that moment.
She did not get it and hence she was relieving herself upon the rubble left by the same people who built the scintillating monster across her.
I was disgusted but what is a lone gunman to do. I walked on. For the next 3-4 minutes I was walking with my hands deep inside my pocket and my gaze counting potholes on the road which leads to Maratha Mandir. Just as I reached the 24 hour petrol pump the rain god smiled and began pouring his blessing. And pour he did by buckets.
I wear glasses. The affect on them are tiny rivulets refracting ones vision. It seems like you’re in a dream world where for every look you give an object the object tells a different story. The water deforms vision. Or does it?
The beams of the oncoming motors marred my view even more. I walked on. In the world of haste where has the concern for fellow humans disappeared. The oncoming motorists don’t use low beams while driving in the city. Do they not realise that it blinds the lesser mortals? Do they not feel that its uncouth of them to not lower the beam at least as they see another approaching.
The fact which hurts even more is that not even the educated and privileged refrain from this line of decency. It’s the rich and obnoxious who do it which makes my blood to boil!!! Again, I ignore and walk on.
What else is there to be done? Just imagine what the response might be. A look which would probably translate into “Is the f***** mad?”
Sigh. I walk on. Now just as the theatre area ends there are street vendors who peddle what we call junk but we love it all the same. I really believe the surroundings to a junk vendor betters the taste. I stopped by for a cutting chai and was, perhaps, destined to get talking with a cabbie as he wept his woe to the chai wala. He was saying that his driving license might get revoked as the new rules quite explicitly said that only Ration Card holders (or some other proof of ownership of residence) would be allowed to drive cabs!
I was just wondering what would happen to the poor guy’s family and what would take to get a smile on his face again. His only vocation till date must’ve been driving! How would he go and face his wife and kids and tell them he is no longer employed? I was just thinking along these somber lines when his phone buzzed and he whipped it out. No sooner did he see it his face lit up in a radiant smile.
“My baby’s photo”, he said showing me the image that had lit up the cell phone’s screen. It was a baby girl not more than 2 years old with those large beautiful eyes that baby’s usually have. Her face was smiling at her father as if reminding him that she was still there. A reason to smile and be happy. He spoke to his wife for a minute in a dialect that I did not understand.
While talking I could feel his voice breaking and I took the plastic cup from his hand as it lay waiting in mid air. He turned around and spoke to her walking away from us. The chai wala’s stare followed the cabbie and he had a tender look about him. He suddenly caught me looking at him and said, “It must be good to be married, eh?”
“Yes, I’m sure it must be”, I replied.
It was apparently. He returned with a watery smile telling us how his wife told him off for getting so low. “She is so much more stronger than me, maa kasam”, he said. So it really did not take much to get him up and smiling and being happy again, did it?
My somber expression died and I resumed my journey after saying the few requisite byes. Once again I felt alone. Alone not because I wasn’t married, of course. Alone because I was seeing people who had so much more reason to be broken and sad and weepy but they were not. They realized that life was a hierarchy after all. Everything was unsurpassable but not beyond their own demarcated limits.
There was always a positive lying around beyond them. They know that sadness is like a semi permeable jelly. You just need to be in it as long as you chose to. As soon as life has taught you enough it becomes your duty to break free. It becomes an endeavor in itself but it’s an effort worth every pull and of the muscle. And once you break free from it you welcome life like a puff of air to the drowning. You accept life like a new born. You accept challenges with ease because Life just taught you a great lesson which would not be go waste, would it?
I walked on and, at the same time, thought about the cabbie. No doubt the Lord would still help him feed the mouths that was his duty to but that was not what was so important then. What was mesmerizing was the way happiness wormed itself within the man again. How it gave him a new lease for the more difficult days lying ahead. The poor knew life so much better than the well nourished, I thought. They are the only ones who can swell in pride and say aloud that I’m a man and I’ve seen it all.
How these “little people” know that life will go on? How they are so much more famished than us but their hunger is satiated by a mere bhakri while I crib every single day for some new variety of a gastronomical wonder. They knew whom to turn to in times like these. They hadn’t given up on any glimmer hope although they had so little to begin with. I felt alone because I was surrounded by all possible luxuries and yet I was feeling a certain emptiness within. The emptiness was making itself felt with vengeance. And it was multiplied because I had no reason to feel so. Was this sadness that I was feeling directing towards myself or for another? And then I stopped and sat down on a fenced compound wall and thought over it again.
The more I thought the more certain I became. The emptiness was not because I was feeling sad for myself. It was because I wasn’t pushing myself enough. The sadness was Gods way of telling me,”Son you’ve grown so comfortable with yourself that you have stopped thinking that there is a world beyond you. There is so much work that I want you to do and here you’re sitting in this beautiful bubble that you’ve made for yourself. You think that you’re happy because you’re wearing a two and a half grand jersey! Look around beta, and you’ll see truth.”
And truth I did see. When I walked amongst the squatters that line the street of Maratha Mandir I felt ashamed of myself. I felt that my red t-shirt was causing me discomfort! It was an eye-sore to these hard working people. I felt as if I’ve robbed them off their money to be able to afford the preposterously expensive clothes. What right do I have to shove my well being into their faces?
But the longer I walked the better I saw. These people weren’t even bothering to look at me. They were the happy souls who knew that my t-shirt will probably be in tatters in a couple of years. They were serene in their lives. There was a certain sense of calm enveloping my body. Was it because I was walking amongst the poor and the humble?
It was exactly the opposite of the feeling that I KNOW I would get if I was walking across the foyer of a five star restaurant. I haven’t been in any so I couldn’t be sure. But, hell, yes, I was sure! I feel even jittery when I’m in a stupid mall. This feeling was good. I was walking among the people who live lives in reality. I was among those people who have helped built my 7th floor apartment! I was among them who sweep and swab my floors. I was among the humble. I was walking past the houses that these people have built with the kind of labour I couldn’t dream of.
I tried looking a few men straight in their eye and give them a smile.
I turned around and walked back home keeping my eye on the road. I couldn’t take the torture any more. Maybe it was the wind and the pain in my left ankle that made my eyes to water!