It was almost like the sepia filter was turned on, On the old forgotten roads. Not a soul to be seen on the muddy streets. He rode a bicycle and sang songs from the 80s. He hurried home, Saw his little daughter waiting for him at the porch. They went inside hand-in-hand, And found awaiting – A bowl of hot rice Steaming hot sambar & crunchy papadam That made his belly rumble and grumble with joy. He sat down immediately to eat, From the kitchen came his wife shouting, “Wash your hands before you eat!” All of a sudden, he woke up from his sleep. Found beside him a white lady in green. He wondered to himself, “Which one of this is a dream?”
You think you belong to the land in which you were born, Then, why have I felt so alone and wrong? Like an outsider. I’ve never felt at peace at home. When I walked on the crowded streets, I wished to go unnoticed. Always hiding. Always so angry with everything around me. Always seeking a door, To take me away from the miseries of this world. Running, looking for an escape. Running after change.
When I finally found it, I grabbed it with both my hands. Leaving behind my home. Unthinkingly in desperation. I needed it so badly.
Of course, I was afraid! Change is not easy. But, my homeland has taught me to be brave. All those years spent in fighting Has given me strength to adapt to change.
When I opened my eyes to a new world, I asked myself, “Is this paradise?” Clear blue skies, lush green lands as far as the eye can see. Filling me with a sense of serenity.
As time flies, Slowly the feeling of awe subsides. Overwhelming emotions started to consume me. I looked around for familiar faces, But, there was nowhere to hide. I realised, I am the only outsider. How do I begin again?
But, my homeland reminds me. Never succumb to feelings of dread. Overcome and be brave. You have always been an outsider. Running after change.
There is hardly anything new left for me to see outside my window. The trees stand calmly as always, clustered together. Sometimes still, sometimes swaying with the wind.
The lawn is green and beautiful. Now and then, I see people on it who bring their dogs out for a walk. The streets are empty, mostly parked cars. There is just a driveway in my community. My community is wonderful but it is also very quiet and can sometimes be boring.
Earlier, I used to get excited looking at the different varieties of birds outside my window. I still do, but they haven’t become my friends yet! Like I said, life here is calm and quiet. Just what I had always dreamed of.. but do we really know what we want?
Today, I had an urge to peep into the houses of my neighbours. Just for a change, to see what other people are up to.. What are they cooking? What are they wearing? Which show is running on their TV? Did I just hear someone arguing? Are the children up to some mischief?
These silly things which I took for granted and found annoying back in India are the things that I often miss. I look outside my window and find trees clustered together. Back home, my family, friends, and neighbours were the clustered trees. Together. Now I wonder, what I am doing here away from my tribe? Where is my cluster?
Like every other day Mira was stared at again while walking on the streets.
Mira was not dressed provocatively or doing anything inappropriate. She was only walking, like the rest of the men. The only difference is men never get stared at. Nobody cares what a man wears but women on the streets, in the buses, in the malls, in restaurants, in the supermarkets are often gawked at.
Mira thanks her lucky stars on days when people do not notice her in certain places. Women get used to the ogling, it is normal for them. Men stare lecherously, follow women, whistle at them, pass comments, wink, brush against women, and then there are worse things that they do but claim that women are treated equally!
Today, Mira saw a girl crossing a bustling street at an intersection. A traffic police on the other side of the road was staring at the girl all along. As soon as she crossed the road he came extremely close to the girl and touched her waist inappropriately. The girl did not stop for a second to react, she continued walking with the same pace, fast with her head down. Mira was shocked to see this happen to the girl. She stood there staring at the traffic police who pretended like he had done nothing wrong a second ago!
This is the state of our country. Why do men commit such shameful acts? Is it because they are uneducated? Who do women trust, how many complains to lodge? Punishment for crimes of acid attacks, rape, molestation, domestic violence, and eve teasing should be made severe. Only when there is fear of consequences will men think twice before committing such crimes.
The population of India is in millions, expecting an immediate change is silly but women will continue fighting and writing about safety until we know we are safe in our own country. The daily struggle will continue with a hope that men will change and stop making women uncomfortable.
At 8.52 AM, I left home to get to work. I need to walk a kilometer to get to the bus stop. A pretty sunny day so I walk faster to avoid getting tanned. A long walk uphill, carrying my bag of bricks on my back. Huffing and puffing, I finally reach my stop, hoping the bus to be on time.
The bus is supposed to arrive by 9.15 AM but it is never on time. Sometimes it’s early and sometimes it’s way too late. However, I am always on time, peasants such as me cannot afford to be late. It arrived by 9.25 AM, surprisingly the bus wasn’t crowded and I got a seat by the window. Today, seems to be a fine day!
People who take public transport would understand the importance of getting a seat in a bus. You need to pray, pray really hard for the bus to be less crowded so you can get a seat alone by the window. Now, praying for it to be empty is asking for too much!
Overcrowded buses are a nightmare, human life is very cheap here. Nobody finds it surprising to see people hanging from the doors of a moving bus. In fact, they find it disturbing to even look at something so unpleasant so they turn away as though it’s an open can of overspilling garbage.
Sometimes, it even becomes difficult to breathe in buses stuffed with humans, you get tossed around in the bus as more bodies come rushing towards you. You try to adjust your position and try to squeeze yourself, hoping you will shrink in size when the bus gets fuller, managing to balance yourself holding on to your heavy bag, while also keeping a careful watch of not being robbed or molested. However, today is not one of those days, today I will sit like a king on my throne and enjoy the view outside from the window.
While being stuck in a jam at a traffic signal, I notice two little girls selling marigold flowers by the corner of a street. Such innocent and happy faces they have, inviting busy bodies to come and buy their fresh yellow marigold flowers.
The girls are mostly ignored, some quieten them down with a wave of their hand, some ridicule the girls, and very few stopped by to buy. But, the girls didn’t really care, they are happy sitting next each other with a basket of flowers in front of their laps under the open sky. I watch them giggle, laugh at people passing by while also managing to sell flowers because they do not want to upset their parents who are just by their side.
They do not understand the meaning of hardship, they are content. No worries of the world can take those smiles away from them. I sat there in the bus admiring their joy and their simplicity, wishing the miseries of the world do not take away their innocence and beautiful smiles.
While I complain about the hardships of my life, I realize I have a job that pays me every month even when there is no work at times. Unlike the girls, who will have to sleep on an empty stomach if they do not manage to sell their basket full of marigold flowers.