The sparkling eyes of the child made me feel about a sense, a sense of happiness covering a thick unbound layer of pain, helplessness, dis-satisfaction and anger. Anger for having been produced in a world with competency in every breath of life. There was a sudden provocation in my mind, seemed that we all are non marketable products being produced in a manufacturing factory with an expiry date. There were no warranties or guarantees and the spares for the product being expensive than the original price of the product itself. At the same time there was respite for having produced in a factory and been sold to a customer efficient enough to take care of me until it was time I became the successive customer. At that moment I was contradicting myself for the happiness of the good I am today and the bad that I am doing to myself.
Being a marine engineer, I was recruited by the ports trust of India and immediately deputed at paradeep. Having to reach Paradeep I had to make a transit journey from either Bhubaneshwar or Cuttack. The 30 hour long journey from Bangalore to Bhubaneswar seemed to be an unending journey. It was as if I was on a space mission to mars with a quarter of my life being spent in a space shuttle travelling around meteors and extraterrestrials.
To add to the cerebral dysfunction at that moment our train halted at Vizag with rumors flowing around about a train derailment. I suffer from a chronic illness and had to get the medicine desperately. Gasping for breath I had a long stare at the carriageway about the direction in which I had to proceed. At a few hundred meters there was light, a bright light bringing respite to my soul. I hopped onto the pavement and the thought of losing the train at the back of mind; I reached my destination like a sprinter competing against Usain Bolt in the final of Olympic.
“Ek packet badi gold flake dena bhaiya” (one packet large gold flake brother) I muttered to the pan shop vendor. Killing time was like a no submission wrestling match with the delay now indefinite. After an excruciating 6 hour delay finally our train resumed service with the honking and screeching sound of the engine. Penaltimately I reached Bhubaneswar the following morning with a complete 14 hour beyond schedule.
The following 119 days at Paradeep was a battle of odds and each day I convinced myself that I was the great warrior hector from the movie troy.
It was the festive season of the year with Diwali around the corner. I was on a rail trip to my hometown for the celebrations with gifts in my backpack for the loved ones at home. My taste buds were almost dead and my stomach seemed to be a garbage can. Mal nutrition was sweeping in slowly, I looked like one of those boys in Somalia where leave alone food, even a glass of water was hard to find. No doubt the snap taken by a journalist of one such boy won the national geographic award for the best picture portraying the state of affairs in that country.
As I was reading Amitav Ghosh’s ‘Sea of Poppies’ there was a short yet determined stature moving along the pathway in our boogie. As the figure moved closer, I recognized that it was a boy without any shirt, crawling along the pathway. The kid must have been around 10-12 years and was pale brown. He was wearing a dark grey trouser which without doubt was not of his size, with a jute rope tied along his waist. Throughout the compartment no one noticed him talking and it was a silent affair all around.
The kid was approaching towards me with a slow yet brisk pace as I lay unmoved in my birth with various thoughts swirling like that of the rainbow; different colors yet distinctive ones. The kid upon reaching our cabin initially gave a wild stare at me and then followed his routine to clean the floor. I was taken aback with my usual reasoning ability queing my mind with questions to which I had no answers. Why did the kid stare at me? What is the kid trying to say or communicate? What is the kid depressed about? Why is he not speaking to anyone? What is he more worried about, life or death? Does he have parents if not then who are his guardians? Family, home?
I was bewildered by the fact that the boy was emotionless, he undoubtedly was focused in whatever he pursued. Probably he could have been far better had he to be born in a family more supportive. As he cleaned the floor there were passengers hushing him forward as he finally approached me. I was sympathetic but at the same time I was helpless. I guess all that the boy expected from a hard day’s work was a good meal at the end of day. I had to see what the kid was seeing. I wanted to freeze the moment and for a moment wished to experience what it would be like had I to be the same. I wouldn’t have dared to lead a life so excruciatingly painful each moment, each hour, each day.
As we exchanged glances there was nothing I could have done to help him be it temporary or permanent. He waved his hand for a couple of times and in a moment of desperation moved ahead to the next compartment. I was left aghast with seemingly unending queries and counter queries, for at that moment I was pushing myself a bit close to the edge of cliff.
By dusk the feeling was vary and the whole episode was fading away like I was some kind of amnesia patient
After a couple of weeks of returning to work I was finally finding my way to the hidden clue to the concern. It was not money, not help nor was it sympathy that the boy was asking. It was pure HOPE that the boy asked. It was that hope which carried him forward each time when some one chucked him. A hope which had transformed him to be more deterministic in life. A small boy having nothing, no home to stay, no friends to play, no school for basic education but he had just one tiny thing magnified to the core of it. On the other hand, we being so self sufficient lack that tiny bit of hope to achieve what we really desire to become. The same opportunity provided to the boy would have proved wonders. This is what we all are lacking today, the hope to move forward and the determination to conquer the unconquered. For the boy it could have been by the fumbles and tumbles he had to witness at a so very young age, it was more out of need and compulsion rather than experience.
If it is not for others, at least have it for you, it’s like self help. Ambitions and aspirations are two different things but when clubbed with the word HOPE they both assume the same course of travel with enhanced performance of the product.