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Saturday, June 8, 2013

Different sides of survival...

It's a summer day, incredibly hot and I'm in my t-shirt and pajamas, sitting on the cold marble floor of the drawing room, with my back against the sturdy table, cooling off in front of the cooler, loving the way my hair keeps sweeping over my face (unlike normal people who find it irritating). I have the laptop open in front of me and I'm just wondering what to title my new post on the different kinds of kids (seriously. Next post on that!) when I notice our housemaid outside in the verandah. I don't notice her immediately. I mean, I didn't even realize when she passed me, opened the door and started wringing and hanging out the washed clothes on the clothesline. I look outside because she's speaking loudly. There's an old lady at the gate with whom she's talking loudly, in a tone that suggests she's not interested and willing her to go. A hundred emotions flood through me, because let's face it, I've a soft spot for old ladies.

I read books, so I know better: about people, about different kinds of moods and psychology, about how to behave and whom to trust, how not to judge without knowing anything beforehand. People expect me to know all that. But then sometimes, there's something that breaks all rules. A grand exception and you can't think clearly. It's instantaneous. Just like this emotion of irritation, anger, the urge to get up and scold the maid for being so rude, that came flooding into me just within a second. I looked towards my parents and asked them to go have a look immediately. Mom gets up fast (umm.. we all have a soft spot for old ladies) and I reach the door before her. The maid looks at me angrily, complains to mom in a violent whisper, 'Besti kara dete ho meri'. She was apparently, telling her no one's home and asking her to go away, which was akin to a sin!

That lady was still smiling. Standing close to the gate, clutching the bars, she smiled up at us holding two packets of a summer drink powder and a pack of 4 Vivel soaps. She's been here before. Today she's in a plain yellow cotton saree with an off-white cotton sleeveless blouse. Her brown skin hangs loose among the million or so wrinkles all over her body, her cheeks visibly chubby, though drooping, on both sides. Her hair's in a pure white bun, with a few strands hanging loose. I still don't know her story, though I remember the last time she was here, she said she lives somewhere nearby and as she gets bored sitting at home with nothing to do, she thought she might as well go door to door and sell stuff and bring in some more kamaai. The glaring sun doesn't seem to bother her. When people like us run off inside for shade and comfort, there are some like her who're happily going from door to door, contributing to their family for food.

I opened the gate and Mom sent me off to get a glass of water, while she took what she wanted from the lady (those two juice packs and Vivel soaps!). They chatted for a while as she took out more things asking if we use that oil or a particular handwash. What I liked best was her permanent smile, even as she talked. Mom handed her the money and she told her how she's been here three or four times before but we weren't home. I wonder if it was the maid who sent her away, or if she came on the days when both my parents are working. She took out a couple more things from her small yellow zipped bag, held them in one hand, hung the bag on one shoulder and carefully stepped down and out of the gate towards the opposite house, politely asking us to close the door behind her.


About a week ago I was in my small bus to the office. I always sit on the window seat, last row. At one of the red lights, lost in thoughts with headphones plugged in, I saw a sad, peculiar scene. There was this u-turn kind of a road, the ones where there's an enclosure with fences around and a roundish footpath around the whole turn. A man in a torn and dirty shirt and pants, with an indifferent expression stood there with one hand on a metre-long pole, his bare foot repeatedly hitting a year old baby. A woman, no older than in her late twenties sat near his feet, her knees held up, just not very close to her chest. Her hair was dirty, an indistinguishable color, just like her saree which clung to her thin body. Her most striking feature were her eyes. She was staring straight ahead, unblinking, and if you'd have glanced at her, you'd think her expression is blank. But the bus stood there for a while and I could see her black eyes shining. With sadness, helplessness and something that said, "I've given up". The baby in a small set of clothes that were visibly inadequate was bawling as the man kept on moving his foot and hitting him on the side. He tried getting up, made it through a fraction and then sat back again, crying, clutching the woman's leg, who sat just staring straight ahead.

Suddenly she looked up and locked eyes with mine and I felt like a filthy thief, an intruder peeping into something personal. It was devastating. With both these instances, I'm not sure I feel pity as much as I feel sad about everything. Is it the matter of choice? I think not. We don't give money to beggars thinking we're only encouraging their business, but I wonder if they really benefit from it? I'm sure they wouldn't be in this business if they had any choice or a shot at something better. They're poor, deprived and taken advantage of. They don't know what home is, they're not sure when they'll have their next meal. I personally despise this 'Survival of the Fittest' theory. I hate the differences we have in the way we live. Everything should be for everyone. Maybe not that practical, but why should some suffer, just because others have better luck?

I wonder if I've really got the right to complain about anything in my life. I had this thing going on in my mind for a while. Whenever I saw someone with less than what I have, I felt guilty about it. I felt guilty about going to malls and purchasing stuff on impulse, or just because I wanted it. I thought about those who don't have a room with electricity, who wore the same set of clothes everyday. What I had seemed like a waste. I was totally conflicted. I asked dad if we should start spending less, because others didn't have it all? Or whether we should do our bit to help and that's it? Dad said that while how I feel about it is good, it will not be a good choice to leave what is there for you to use, just because millions others aren't lucky enough. It's our luck we have these things, they might not be so lucky. There are millions others who have so much more than you. Do they ever stop living life their way and come down a level in their standard of living, because they see you don't have what they do? No. The point is to enjoy what you're being given, while helping others as much as you can. It's mostly luck.

I guess it's true. These might just be the different ways of survival.

PS- Please some good soul, give me a nice strong kick on my head! I've already delayed working on my summer internship project by a week and I'll be officially branded mental if I don't complete it this weekend. I mean, I have to do it by this weekend. I've got like, two weeks before the dreaded college reopens and I haven't even started getting into the holiday feel. I've got some college work to do, catching up with Spanish, making a papier mache flower vase for someone (any ideas??) and of course, read the million pending books on my TBR. Motivate me!

PPS- This is my blog's 101st post. :D I'm not much of a celebratory person, considering how I skipped to even mention my blog's third birthday, which was in May. But still, 101st post. That's loads of writing. :D Yay with me! ;)


  1. First of all, hugs to you darling! Second, tu mere jaise itni kaise hai! It's so uncanny :O
    I appreciate what you and your mum did for that old lady, it's admirable!

    I feel so guilty and helpless when I witness any similar scenes, and like you said, I question my own actions...

    But I agree with what your dad said, we're lucky enough to be in a position we're in, the thing is, we shouldn't take it for granted. We should appreciate it and try to give back as much as possible :)

    P.S. If I could, I would've done that! -_- You know it well!! Get up and finish off your work na!!! I'll seriously NEVER talk to you or come to your home if you break your promise. I'm damn serious!! (Does that work?)

    P.P.S. Haww! You didn't even tell me!!! Congratulations for both the 3rd blogoversary and 101st post! Yay you and yay your blogs!! Keep writing and keep smiling always!

    1. Haha! Thanks so much! :D Your threat worked :P

      Even this is similar? Dudeni! This is really weird. In a very good sense :D

      Thanks for your wishes! I so look forward to your comments and that's what makes me feel like writing more! ^_^

  2. I liked the significance of the title, a lot Ashna!

    You see, we often avoid salespersons, or people like the old lady. Most of the times it's because we find it a waste of time. But some also do it 'cause of fear of an intruder. But I really loved the way you and your mother dealt with her. That was kind.

    I was just thinking somewhat the same when I came on the line about what your dad had to say. It's a wise thought, I guess.

    A thoughtful 101st post, girl! :D Congrats, and keep writing more and more and more...

    1. Yeah, you're right when you say why we are reluctant as we fear intrusion. I'm glad you agree with that thought. Thanks :D

  3. This is a amazingly profoundly written post. I was forced to make pictures of the scenes you described Ashna. :)

    Congrats for your 101th post! You've grown into a terrific writer. :D

    1. Ditto what I feel....word to word!!

    2. Aww Rachit thankyou! :D You know I don't believe that, though :P But if you keep on saying it, one day I might. ;)

      Thanks again! And thankyou so much Priya! ^_^

  4. This is a really intense and sincere piece of writing. So so moving. I loved it. Today, a woman came to my doorstep and asked for cash to help her son who had cancer. I was alone at home and had zilch cash, so I asked her to come later. She hasn't showed up.. yet. I feel guilty about it now, reading your post.

    Congrats on your 101th post! We've all come a long long way! :)


    1. I'm glad you could connect to it. I suppose we can't really go all the way and help everyone.

      Thankyou! :) We all have! :D

  5. About the thought which you had when you saw that incident at the divider pavement, and about what your Dad said, I think yes we should make use of what we have, we should enjoy it, but you know there is a slight difference between normal middle class people and the really really rich. Most often, when someone has lots of luxuries(for want of a better word) with him, he gets so much cut-off enjoying those luxuries that it's not easy for him to connect with those who don't have nothing.

    I think the concept of 'splurge' is not a very good one, it makes you blind. Though there is no reason one should subject oneself to bare minimum when (s)he can definitely afford things that make her/his life easier, it should always be in her/his conscience to enjoy responsibly. After all, in real life, people are not like Batman for instance, who would live a lavish life during the day and confront the criminals during the night with bare hands.

    A very beautifully written post. Made me think and imagine how life can be for some people.
    Congratulations on making a century. You deserve a treat for this :) from yourself ;)

    1. Hey! Thanks for this beautiful comment, which made me go all, "hmmm.. yeah, he's so right". :D 'Enjoying Responsibly'--> Correct!

      Yeah I guess I do deserve a treat. For a change, YOU give me one. :P


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