A narrow road from my office leads to the main road. It has a few shops and houses and there isn’t much traffic. As I was walking out of the comfort of my office, I saw a small shabbily dressed child running around with a stick in one hand and a big plastic bag on the other. He must have been around 3 or 4 years old. I smiled at him but he blushed shyly and turned away. A few yards away from him were two old people – rag-picking. They seemed to be the little boy’s grandparents or care-takers!
The boy suddenly yelled out to the old woman saying “yen amma odi pochi” (translates to : my mother ran away), and giggled! The rejoinder from the old women was worse. She said, “neeyum odi po. andha odugali dhaane unnayum pettha” (which loosely translates to – you run away too! after all you were born to that ******)!” My jaws dropped. A tiny little kid announcing the news of his mother’s elopement like some movie to be telecast on TV and a 50+ year old women venting her frustration at a 3 yr old child! The gap between our world and that of this trio’s is so wide that I doubt if it will ever be bridged! I felt the divide even more as I stepped into my home to cuddle my little ones, unwilling to let them out of the tight embrace….
And this incident reminded me of what my sister wrote a few years back on seeing another tiny rag-picker:
- Dear rag picker
What are you made of
Dear little one..?
I saw you by the lane
squatting near the pile of waste
Busily fishing for iron pieces
With a long cane, enough to touch the earth,underneath.
It touches me deeply, I am wounded to witness,
The true color of life, yet, I know its real!
The bright ray of hope in your eyes
As they sparkle with each iron particle found,
The entire pile you sell for a meagre penny
And then feed your half-dead family?
When will this end? Will this?
Can I carry you away, far away from this bitterness..
Are you soldered like iron,to be this,
Tell me, what are you made of, little one?
-by Nithya Chander