Dearest Blogdosts... I have begun the year in a reflective, contemplative mood.... feeling recharged, renewed and re-energised. It has been such a mellow and gentle start to what promises to be a very special year ( sssshhhh! more on that later!! ). New Year's Eve was spent in Alibag with the family. Well.... those members who were in town. Anandita and her four gal pals really livened up the cool and crisp evening, as they gathered under the gigantic X'Mas tree. We had planted this handsome specimen in the garden more than 20 years ago. It is now well over thirty feet tall! The five lovely and lively young girls danced their feet off ( I picked up a few new moves from them!) and the entire celebration was so very innocent and sweeeet. They had taken the trouble to dress up to the hilt.... forcing me to do the same! This morning over a late brunch, we talked about the year ahead.... their eyes were shining as they read their newspaper predictions for 2011.
Quite a different story from the little girl's that you are about to read.....
Hello! Is anyone listening….?
Another year is about to end.And here I am…an anonymous girl child, shivering in the cold, hungry… exhausted…wondering what the new year will bring. More hunger? More fatigue? More despair?I can see my mother at the traffic light… she is tapping on the window panes of those fancy cars, hoping to attract a few coins… or if she annoys the owner enough, maybe a ten rupee note flung at her face to make her go away… leave the occupant to continue chatting on that small cell phone. My younger sister and brother are fast asleep on the pavement, near the old laundry. Our pet dog Moti has cuddled up close to them to keep warm. All of them are huddled on the corrugated sheets of cardboard we managed to steal from the packaging company close by. We are okay! We don’t know who our father is – we’ve never seen him. Our mother says she is twenty five years old and once worked in a rich person’s home as a housemaid. But from the time I was born, we have lived on this street and watched her beg. She has taught us to beg , too. When my brother was sick, I would tie him to my waist in a sling made out of rags, and carry him from car to car asking for alms. Some people took pity on us and gave me five hundred rupees. My mother felt really happy when she saw that note and told me to carry my brother around even after he became well. Then my sister had an accident while running across the road after the lights turned green and the cars roared past us in a hurry. It wasn’t the driver’s fault – she was so tiny, nobody saw her in the dark. But, that accident gave us a lot of money – over two thousand rupees. My mother was most happy that day… and even after my sister’s fractured arm healed, my mother told her to keep the plaster since people felt bad and kept giving more money.
These days my mother tells me to cover myself when I beg, since men stare at me and make dirty jokes. Ever since I started to bleed every month, my mother’s attitude has changed. She tells me I must not talk to any man or I’ll get into serious trouble. She also beats me a lot if she sees me chatting with customers who come to the laundry to pick up their clothes. It is dangerous, she says, and I don’t understand. These men are friendly and make me laugh. Some of them give me chocolates and ask me to get into their cars. But I can’t leave my brother and sister alone on the pavement, so I refuse. One day, when they are a little older and my mother isn’t looking, I am going to run away and make my own life. One ‘uncle’ has promised me! He said not to worry about anything. He will give me clothes, food, money… everything. He lives in a big house and he will keep me there… but he doesn’t want me to tell my mother anything. It is our secret, he keeps saying.
Maybe my life will change soon…I never cry and I haven’t lost hope. All I know is that I don’t want to spend my days begging on this road like my mother. She says her life is cursed because she was born female.She also says had she gone to school she would not be on the streets today. I would like to go to school and become someone someday. That ‘uncle’ told me he would arrange that once I leave my family and run away with him in his big car.Last week he gave me a brand new dress saying it is for the New Year. I have hidden it from my mother. He also gave me lipstick and powder saying I will look very pretty if I used both.I dare not try – my mother will kill me and ask too many questions. Never mind, in a few days from now, it will be another year… my mother has managed to get a few caps and whistles for me to sell at the next traffic junction where there are young people on motorcycles. She has taught me to clap, laugh and scream ‘Happy New Year’ each time a car stops. Let me practice now – ‘Happy New Year.”
I am sure someone, somewhere will hear my prayers… and wish me the same also. God is great!