Saturday, October 8, 2011

A FEW PRICELESS ENCOUNTERS

Travelling has always been of great interest to me. It opens me up to the infinite hidden things that we miss and those many more people who change the way you percieve things!

He asked me if I needed anything to eat. "Saab vada pav, pav bhaji, misal pav, kuch khaoge?". I shook my head in disagreement and moved forward neglecting something that struck me right away. An impulse of acknowledgement, that something was out of place but I ignored it and moved forward to where I was headed. This was in Panchagani, where I had come on a family visit. We had gone to visit a place called 'table top', so called due to some god forsaken reason that I dint bother much about!

So after the trivial encounter or so I thought, I moved forward to the ground which stretched to a circumference of 8km roughly and had a breathtaking view to say the least. We had come around dusk, so we watched the sun with awe and sat there soaking the diminishing radiance of the setting sun!






Also, the shooting of a movie named 'Zilla Ghaziabad' was going on there starring Vivek Oberoi. Saw him stand metres away from me but still dint feel star struck at all (I would rather not give an explanation here.. for all you Vivek fans out there.. No offence intended). We moved around for some time, clicked pictures and finally when the sun had set and dusk descended its darkness, we moved towards the exit! The walk was a long one and the dark added to the anticipation.

We reached the exit finally, where restaurants were lined up one by another. Stacked in between these restaurants was one such 'SHAHI DARBAR'. We decided to try out the vada pavs there and a child who looked like he was around 12 years of age came out and asked us for our order. The first thought that struck me was 'Child Labour' and then I recalled him asking me what I wanted to eat earlier while I passed the place. We asked for a couple of vada pavs and he gladly went inside and informed a lady, who looked like his mother. He looked fairly confident in his way of talking and was also good in attracting customers to the place. He was good with his service and better with his replys. He was also polite in his conduct. I asked him what his name was. He said that it was 'Krishna', visibly happy at not being called 'chotu' or some other name people deviced for him.




He was moving around from one place to the other, providing food, collecting money and he seemed to have no problem at all doing so. Before leaving I asked him if he went to school. 'Haan bhaiya, jata hu na school, 7th class me padhta hu main', he answered with a huge smile on his face. He told me that as it was the day of the festival of Dussera and a holiday at school, he thought he'd help his mother out at the shop.  He showed real maturity in the way he seemed to approach things. He knew his responsibilities towards the family, at the same time he also knew the importance of education. I thought of talking to him and knowing his views but he was a busy little man and I was a jobless traveller who had all the free advice in the world at that time, so I saved it for myself and wished him luck with his studies. I wondered how many Krishnas actually lived in this country, some of those who only dreamt of studying and there were also some of those who did not even know what education was for. However, I felt happy for this child here and wished he would do something big in life with all the dedication he seemed to possess.

Another encounter occured in a temple at Mahabaleshwar(I really can't recall the name). We visited the temple in the afternoon and there was a decent rush even on a weekday( gods in India have some popularity I tell you). There were a number of shops of handicrafts outside the temple. I saw one such woman who was selling handmade handicraft goods. She seemed like an old lady well beyond the age of 50! Normally, I wouldn't have approached her and talked to her but  this time I managed to cross the intricate boundary of the inter-wound cloud of decency I set upon myself sometimes. Her name, she said was Smt. Saraswati Kadam. I asked her what she did there. She told me that she sold all kinds of products there including eatables. She told me that she had been doing this job for 50 years now(that is a lot of time at any job) and I looked in amazement. She stated that she was married relatively early at the age of 12(child marriage she admitted and agreed times have changed now) and had 3 children.





It was a good experience to talk to her and know that she was a confident woman who believed in working hard to earn.When asked about how educated her children were, she lowered her eyes,visibly embarrassed and said that they were educated fairly enough. Her son worked as a driver now and 2 of her daughters were married but she told me happily that her grandson was going to school. I delicately asked her how much she earned sitting alongside the temple but she only said,"Thoda boht kama leti hu beta, kafi hota hai". Some people came to her shop enquiring about key chains and I wished her luck and left the shop. Though I dint buy anything, she was brightly smiling as someone had taken an interest in her life for once rather than those lifeless items that everyone was obviously eager to know about!

She seemed like a strong willed woman and I hoped more such women took to work in any form to earn and attain economic stability and gain a feeling of self satisfaction and freedom.

In one single day, I had seen two different faces of India, one budding with energy and raring to take the first few strides of life and the other with experienced eyes of having dealt with people, nearing the end of life but willing to fight for the right to live. It was a day of self contemplation at how easy my life had  been so far. The child was happy at the meager tip he got(he gave even that to his mother) and the old lady at the temple was satisfied with the amount she earned too(she said that most of it went away in rent of the shop) and then there was me, not happy with what I got, even when it wasn't me who earned it in the first place. Such incidents give you a reality check and I was given one. It might not change me but it made me aware of the fact of how lucky some of us really have been in life so far!

Now that my journey is at its far end, here, sitting way past midnight, with awakened eyes, I jot this down in the compartment of a train heading towards Hyderabad. The train cuts throught the dark forests and the lines of the POTF song plays in my ear 'We keep driving into the night, its a late goodbye, such a late goodbye'. Come to think of it, a late goodbye it was!

Peace!