Wednesday, November 07, 2012

A mother and her child (NaBloPoMo Day 7)

NaBloPoMo November 2012
One post every day in November

A friend recently shared an experience with me. Travelling from Mumbai to Goa, she and her sister were in the train at VT station (now Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus) when they espied a woman, destitute and mentally imbalanced, sitting on the platform. The woman stuck her thumb on her tongue, and made an imprint of the thumb on the dirty platform, then stuck the thumb on her tongue once again, and made an imprint on her own forehead. She persisted in this activity for a while, never once missing a step or even the sequence in which the steps occurred.
By and by, a little girl, about five years old she must have been, joined her. The woman now took a break from the sequence to initiate the child into her little game. While the basic activity remained the same, it was the child’s forehead that now received the thumb print. The child sat on, reasonably still, and allowed the woman to have her way, without any interruption.
My friend and her sister were moved by the sight of that pair. The train was about to pull off at any moment. They quickly called the child to the window. She came, not stopping to consult the woman about the wisdom of answering the call of two strangers, and received with a beaming smile the packet of Glucose biscuits that the sisters handed out to her through the bars of the window. With a light step, she skipped over to the woman, tore open the packet and shared the biscuits with the woman. Both ate in silence.
The train pulled off, leaving the woman and the girl behind, yet my friend could not shake the thought of the child from her mind. Nor could I, when she related the story to me.
As a mother, everything I see, especially when it relates to children, gets coloured by my mother-view, seen through the prism of my perceptions and feelings. That poor little girl, just a year older than La Niña, yet forced to fight demons and do battle with the dangers of the street, my heart went out to her.
I could see her, in my imagination, forced perhaps to grow up long before her time, and yet she was unmistakably a child, as evidenced by the delight with which she took the proffered biscuit packet. Her innocence was intact. As was her love for the woman.
A child’s love draws sustenance from its mother. How strong must be the template of mother love if it had succeeded in penetrating the heart of the child through the haze of the cobwebbed, befuddled mind! How had the destitute managed to achieve that? Her mind had shut itself down, but something in it was alive, something that looked out for the little one, something that showed care and concern.
I thought of that pair, homeless and friendless, and heart-achingly vulnerable to the snares of the street and the deviousness of mankind. How did they survive?
As parents who live within the ambit of societal structures, we have the means and the ability to safeguard our children from evils that childhood should never know about. What recourse does she have, living as she does with nothing to call her own? How will she protect her child? How will her child protect her?
I tell myself, they couldn’t possible survive on their own. Maybe there is someone, a kindly guardian, another denizen of the streets, who is watching over them.
Is that something I am saying to soothe myself? I, another member of that same selfish society – am I using that empty consolation to cover my own discomfort and guilt? Guilt at being better off than they are? I'd rather not think about the answer.
But every once in a while, especially when I rejoice in the company of my kids, I find myself thinking of that lonesome mother, who cannot revel in the gift that is motherhood, and of that little girl, who will never have her mother all to herself.
Or maybe I am wrong. I hope I am. Maybe in some magical way that only the Keeper of the Lost knows, they are both being watched over.

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