Yesterday and today i had the (bad) fortune of travelling in the direction of traffic in Mumbai. for those who might not be familiar with what that means, let me put things in perspective. Mumbai travels in one direction - southwards in the mornigns and northwards in the evening. If you've not already guessed by now, south Mumbai is the hub of all commrcial activity, (though it would be fair to add here that there are other upcoming places now) hence, the Mumbai that doesnt reside in South Mumbai travels there in mornings, and returns in the evenings. Not only is it utter chaos, but backbreaking pressure on Mumbais local train system which ferries more than a millin people to and fro each day. i read here about how Mumbai could've been better planned, and i throughy agree with the article, and hope to hear some more.
So last evening i travelled by the famed "Ladies special" train - this is a ladies only train at 6.00 in the evening to help women get home at peak hours a little safer. Generally trains at this time are jam packed to the extent that only experienced travellers can master the art of getting on and staying on.
What i will remember most about my journey to the suburbs tday was somethign ive witnessed ofte befre - There was this young girl maybe 6 yrs old selling Bangles on the train. while she should be in school and probably does'nt know reading or writing, shes trained in bargining and adding subtracting the sum shes to be paid for her wares. I was saddened to see money being exchanged to and fro from the hands of such a small child - being exposed to commercialism at such a young age... what i really wanted to see in her hands was a toy or sweets - anythign other than money... and a smile wouldve been icing on the cake.
Her eyes had this wistfulness - one that only relfects when a person has resigned to her fate, a lack of "desire" a feeling she's not supposed to feel cos it will only lead to despair. these kids are taught not to "want" anything. that moment i realized that i had some Mithai (Indian sweets) in my bag and beckoned her to come to me... misunderstanding my intentions as wanting to buy somethign from her, she gave me her little basket .. when i told her "Nahi Chahiye" (dont want) she looked at me skeptically as no one mustve ever asked o speak to her unless they wanted to buy somthgin from her.
She came reluctantly cos i widened my smile to let her know its ok and also opened the box of sweets from my bag. what followed then was magic. i held out the bggest sweet i could find a grubby unsure hand took it from me. she slid away to a corner from where she kept sneaking glances at me. when she first put it into her mouth and realized she liked it, she looked at me and there t was - the hint of a smile..which eventually widended. at the time, the sun shone through the window of the train and she gave me this beautiful half toothed smile.
Needless to say, i was grinning like a fool by then.. cos i saw it - that innocence i was mourning the lack of. that very instant with the sun in her hair and that broken toothed smile - her eyes had this fiery streak of innocence wishing it could break out... she looked at me on and off till i got off the train.
Thats what it took- one small sweet, and one big grin neither of which cost much. small price to pay for innocence regained isnt it?