Friday, December 12, 2008

Whipping up a bittersweet story

What makes us alive in the physical sense of the word. And, what makes one dead.

Think about the dead. They were there, all fine and healthy and suddenly, in one moment the transgression happened. They became still and cold. Loved ones then became a body that must be immediately disposed.

Here's my theory:

We live as long as we are bodily connected with the surroundings. Each breath we take is an alien mix of life-matter being pumped in. Imagine how much of the environment have we actually devoured to be alive for 20 or 30 or 80 years? Your life is the aggragate of your interactions with your surrounding. Once you stop breathing, that connection is lost, and so, you are 'dead.' I thought of the human body as a cocoon that shelters us from the disappointments of the outside world. Till this thought breezed by. Since then, living has got a strange, better perspective.

I owe my life to a million and more interactions with my surroundings, to strangers who came close enough in crowds for me to share their life-breath, to dogs who greedily lapped up my face and even to rogues who molested me in jam-packed buses. Everyone, however sweet or crude he/she may be, has made a contribution. Made me happy or sad, better or worse, but pushed me ahead by the way of experience. I am grateful.

Like this road I pass by everyday, it breathes into me. From the comfort of my car, I have slowly come to know all the urchins and madmen who line both sides of that street. A cycle cart is always parked on the left side, close to the dargah and half a dozen children play about. The other day, an absolutely bald girl, must be four at max, had fallen in the cart face down. She was flapping her feet frantically up in the air. Her hands were in a desperate position to keep her from tumbling down. She was screaming and crying and whipping up the most humourous frenzy I had seen in days. All beggers, tea sellers and betel nut sellers seemed to stop for a moment to have a good laugh. My car went a little ahead and I saw that bald girl fleeing the spot and galloping in the traffic with utter relief and disbelief. Someone must have finally thought to help the naughty child.

Then there's the old mad woman. I see her anywhere from one end of the street to the other. But wherever I see her, whenever I see her, she is busy counting something in the air. Without a break, without a moment's rest, her hand is always up, her lips always muttering something. Standing up, or sitting down, she has to count. I wonder how tired she may be at the end of the day, after such a ceaseless exercise. Just as I was wondering the first day I saw her what I could do to 'help', a street urchin walked to her, pressed a few coins in her hands and left. A few days later, her head was clean-shaven. She was oblivious and still counting, and still scratching her bald out of old habit. Someone had decided to give her a haircut and rid her of the lice. Someone cared.

These people have made a connection, made me feel more alive. When I die, I am sure a few breaths will be accounted to them.