Tuesday, July 7, 2009

From Ulhasnagar to Dadar and Back

I am 'crazy happy busy' these days. Dad is here and I am a Daddy's girl. After a lot of cajoling he agreed to leave his painstakingly grown fruit trees, vegetable garden and numerous flowering shrubs behind and pay his only daughter a visit in the great US of A. Since these are my last few months in this country I was eager to show him around this Maha-Mayanagri of all Mayanagris. The weather is great and the weekends are flying by.We have visited the usual Desi 'Teerthsthaan'..Niagra.A trip to the beautiful wine country or also famously known as Finger Lakes region, and Lake George in upstate NY home to the Adirondack Mountains was a delight.

Just before my trip to Lake George I had hurriedly read my friend and classmate(from TISS) Ashwadhy's beautiful post on her experiences with a little boy inflicted with AIDS. This got me thinking about a weekend long time back. A weekend I will not forget and do not wish to. It has to do with another little boy. Such is the nature of our work, I guess. And here goes the story....

I was fresh out of boat...the boat being a protected environment of a strict all- girls-Grad-school-residence-hall of the top arts college in India. A small town girl I was suffering from panic attacks in a teeming and fast-paced city like Mumbai.I was there to do my post-graduation. I was tortured by the non-stop Mumbai rains. I was failing miserably in mastering the art of boarding and disembarking the Ambernath local safely and at the right station and at the right times. As a student in TISS I was expected to do 2 days of field work ..Mondays and Tuesdays every week. I had been assigned to a Government home for Boys in Ambernath. This home housed boys from the ages of 6 to 16 ...orphans, economically deprived and juvenile delinquents. And interacting with these boys was killing me.

My problem was that I was falling in love with so many of them. I could not fathom a life inside the dark and depressing confines of the Govt. Home.It broke my heart when after some months a 13 year old begged me to take him home. He whispered to me that he would cook,clean,mop.....anything that allowed him to stay with me. I was his road to the other side. And I knew I would fail him like so many others. And then I got assigned a task which the other 2 students accompanying me refused because it meant having to give up our precious weekend. I was supposed to escort a boy to a similar Govt. Home but for girls in Dadar. I was told he needed to meet someone there.

This boy was little in every sense ...9 years old or was he 8 ...he looked 6. That fateful Saturday I asked my then best friend and now husband a hard core IT guy, to accompany me...just because I have a pathetic sense of direction and wanted to prevent a search and rescue mission for me and the little boy who I was responsible for.
When I picked up the Little Boy(LB) he was freshly bathed, oiled and had taken a more than a casual effort to comb and dress up in his Govt. provided uniform. Minutes into our walk from the Govt home he asked to stop at a local Patel shop. He with the little money that he had bought some balloons(the unblown variety) and a few toffees. He did not have sufficient money for the little he bought and I paid the required amount. He was embarrassed about this and spent the rest of journey either in silence or thanking me profusely. All for Rs.10.

I had been told to keep a watchful eye on the LB and I too was suitably scared of either losing my ward or of him running away under my watch. He kept to himself throughout the journey and I wondered what occupied his little mind. Upon reaching Dadar his excitement was obvious. He walked ahead of us. And we had to almost run to keep up pace with him. When we reached the Home a formidable looking institution he seemed to be full of nervousness and an uneasy excitement. After completing all the required paperwork we waited patiently on a typical Govt. issued wooden bench. The LB was completely dwarfed sitting on it.

And then I knew 'she' was there. He jumped up and almost skipped, hopped and ran to 'her'. 'Her' being a Little Girl...smaller than the LB. Dressed in a white and blue uniform. Her hair oiled and in two high pigtails. My lips quivered and my throat hurt when I saw them hug....both refusing to let go.
'She' was his little sister. He handed the balloons and the toffees to her with so much love and tenderness, that I had to remind myself of how little the LB really was.As I tried to blink away my tears I smiled at the LG and told the LB that we would step out and be back when his allotted time was over. We walked out in silence. The silence unbroken as we aimlessly wandered, our minds trying to wrap around the cruel reality we had witnessed. From the corner of my eye I saw my best friend wipe away tears. How I willed for time to stop that day. How I prayed for a miracle. I begged God to not let me do this. I hated myself and everybody for having to go inside and tell this LB and the LG that their time was 'up'. I willed my mind to go numb and not see how the LB and and the LG kept turning back to look at each other. I wished to go blind when he went running to her as she started to cry assuring her of ...I don't know what. As we walked out I thought my heart would break...I do not dare think what the LB must have been feeling.

He was stoic in his silence. A LB with glassy eyes...eyes brimming with unshed tears. His hands clenching and unclenching.His brows creasing into a determined furrow. His jaw set in steely determination. I knew he was telling himself that one day he would be re-united with his only living family.His Little Sister.
Or was he fighting with his God?

That evening I begged (long-distance) my mom to take me away and marry me off to the first willing suitor. I begged God to take away my power to think and feel. I was mad at myself and at the world. At the injustice and the cruelty of it all. I cried myself to sleep that night and many more nights to come. I can still cry today when I think of them. My heart hurts and I worry about them.

I say a prayer tonight for them and hope that, so will you.


Amrita said...

Hmmm :( Hope they are doing well :S .... A very thoughtful post

Anonymous said...

you have written it so poignantly Chrysalis..the story is so heartbreaking:((

Is there any info on them?I mean can anything be found out?

Pranab said...

Rarely does one come across a piece of writing in which the actual happening has been narrated in such an intense and emotionally provocative manner, recreating the actual scene in the mind of the reader giving him/her an opportunity to feel for him/herself what it would have been like to experience the situation in person.

This was undoubtedly one of them.

Very well written.

Chrysalis said...

Amrita: I hope so too Amrita...doing well and re united in abtter world.

Indyeah: I have no info on them. Can anything be found out?...well I never tried...so do not know what to say about that...after this home, I went through a de-addiction center, and then mostly in the red light district of Kamathipura..it was a whirlwind of pain and cruel circumstances. In TISS I plumbed into the depths of humanity...as I had never seen before.

Pranab: Thanks. You are very generous in your remarks. The writing was not difficult here...the story tells itself.

Ugich Konitari said...

Came here from Manju's. Just wanted to say what a moving and wonderful post this was. These children, although still little, grow up so fast in some ways. And the picture of the LB returning back stoically with you was heartbreaking....

manju said...

Such a heart-breaking story, Chrysalis. Wonderfully told, though. Not surprising that the incident made such an impression upon you.

It is a sad state of affairs that small children have to face such circumstances. If only there were some way that siblings in such situations could be kept together. But short of someone adopting them both, this seems impossible.:(

BK Chowla said...

It is a very touching story and very well written/expressed.I hope the two are doing well and being looked after.God bless.

Piper .. said...

very, very sad.. I wonder what it is they did, to have their destiny shaped up this way.. Maybe that`s not even a valid qstn. Because no one ever said that life shall be fair for all.

Anrosh said...

call me a coward.. i was working in the same area many times and realised that there was no policy for all this. so i enrolled into school.

can these issues be solved - yes - we need people to build policies and put them into action.

talk about aids vacine - do you think there is no aid vacine ? - a political decision can halt the vacine reaching those in need.

some who in power decides who will live and who will die

Chrysalis said...

Ugich Konitari: Welcome here. I did not have the courage to meet the LB's eyes on our journey back to Ulhasnagar.

Manju ji: Rightly said. I think besides other things there is an absolute lack of will on the part of the govt. and the society to do anything about such issues.

Chowla Sir: I too pary that they are well and together.

Anrosh: I can so realate to what you have said. Isn't it easier to be in an ac office working on the policy writing and advocacy work...it is fieldwork which is supremely challenging. And I totally agree there is no desire to change the things the way they are...no one is interested.. the govt. the society or the individual.

Chrysalis said...

Piper: "Because no one ever said life shall be fair for all"
This line sums it up perfectly.

Anonymous said...

That was so touching, Chrysalis.. I had tears in my eyes by the end of it..

I just hope things changed and their lives changed for the better..

Ashwadhy said...

Chrysalis: Read the post much earlier but then, was a little embrassed..;) Who was I kidding? No pen name to fool my classmate.
Thanks girl for the mention. You are one of the people, who inspired me to start a blog. Sorry that I never mentioned it before.

Just hope the kids are together and happy. God bless them. Like you said so much to do and there is so much pain. But it does help to keep our pain at their situation aside and head on.

Chrysalis said...

Smitha : I too fervently hope that life is good for them now.

Ashwadhy: I cant believe that you thought I didn't know who you really were. LOL. Seriously I knew it the first time I read your post. CCA ...Detective me...waise not difficult at all to figure out. Thanks for finding me as one o the inspirations to satrt blgging..I take a bow :) and yes you are doing a great job. Love your posts.

Ashwadhy said...

He he;) blush blush! I know stupid me.. ;) CCA it is!

Thanks so much. It means a lot. ;)

Chrysalis said...

sorry all for the typos...good speller but bad typist :)

B Shantanu said...

Beautiful post, Chrysalis...very touching. Keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

It was an excellent approach for education - the practical classes. I guess the course was for Social Service. I wish more youth these days take up such subjects. They will at least come to terms with reality earlier in life, instead of being in the bubble created by the software services industry.

Destination Infinity

Anrosh said...

fieldwork is actionable. we are trying to help one , two and three, but if we want the broken system to halt, we need to change the model. this happens in every field - politics, finance, social ..you know better.
"we cannot mend a broken system. we have build a new model to isolate the old system". these are not my words - i am recalling somebody's quote, do not remember whose.

Chrysalis said...

Shantanu ji: I am so glad you liked this post. It feels great when you comment. Love your blog and the work you are doing through it.

DI: It was a Masters in Social Work. It brings you closer to the harsh reality no doubt...but does not ensure that the bubble around you bursts. For all and all the time.

Anrosh: Totally agree. I have finally managed to see the difference between social work and spiritual work ( not referring to building of religious structures or conversions ...etcetcetc. Social work is good but spiritual work is a must for changing and making new an old and ailing system.

Nisha said...

the story made my eyes wet too... we're blessed to have everything we need...my prayers are with the ones who dont.

Chrysalis said...

Nisha: Yes we are blessed. Prayers for those who are not. And maybe we can do something for them too.

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