Sunday, July 18, 2010

The girl’s name was Rohini. The embers on the morning sky were visible as she was sitting on a sea of white puffy clouds that drifted briskly. She could see the tips of mountains sticking their heads out of the thick white blanket, the green blades of grass on them shining like golden swords in the sunlight. Occasionally an enormous peregrine passed, kissing her ears or little blue butterflies sat on her head. It seemed heaven…
As time passed, the sun seemed to have grown enormously, as if it was at hand’s distance, a big round plate of orange light, and she felt drenched in sweat, like she would drown in her own. And then, in an instant, she blinked her eyes and came the realization that she was on hard grassy ground, naked and perspiring badly; but the sun was still directly above shining at her. She got up, rubbed her eyes and looked around. It was the foot of a hill and thick forests began just a few feet away from her. Little squirrels and crabs were scuttling around, and the same intriguing sounds came from the forests which had, since her childhood, allured her coz nobody knew what they were. Suddenly, her train of thoughts was interrupted by something slimy that passed over her foot. It was a striped snake; more of them, of different shades and colors were coming down the hill, due to the heat. She felt amused seeing their curvy paths. Beyond the hills, she lived with other people, who were like her; the first human inhabitants on Earth.
10,000 years later, Ritu was born in the hospital that stood at the place of the forests. And now, there were no hills or lakes or animals. Instead there were a large number of creatures like her and roads and vehicles and tall buildings.
The cars seemed like little fireflies that were floating on the ground and spewing beautiful orange-light.
“Is it not breathtaking”, she asked herself childishly, on the top of a 20-storeyed building, where she was standing beneath a star-studded sky and a full moon. The roads below were busy with ant-sized people and vehicles, but around her it was really quiet and cool. And indeed this dream, to be able to stand where she was, was worth all the pain. However when the wind, through the holes in her tattered clothes, hit her body like bullets, it felt frigid. And the holes were far too many even when she used both palms. And then it seemed to grow… the clattering of her teeth coz of the cold…so much that she realized she had a headache. She crammed her body like a ball in a corner but the shiver only grew, until she could not tolerate the pain anymore. Getting inside the building might have been lucky but going out was not going to be easy, she knew this. So she thought for a second and then ran, with the speed of light, down the stairs and was just approaching its massive gate, when she got covered by the guard. It was a no-win situation and so she had to give in. She got to go after the two mocked her by calling ‘orphan’ and ‘bitch’ and then slapped hard on her back.
She lived in a small group of 18 people who did not know how to talk to one another but they figured out that they had the same wants. And around them it was nothing but a vast stretch of land with trees and lakes and animals. There were enough fruits on the trees and water in the lakes to keep them full. Other than that, they had all the time in the world. For her, this was a time to think; like what this place was, and till where it went and what was in the forests and so on. There was so much to know about this mysterious place that there was always some curiosity or another. She had figured out a lot of things by herself. Like it was important to eat, drink, sleep and attend the call of nature. When she felt hungry, she ate. When she had to sleep, she slept. And in the meantime, she walked far from her area, marveling at all the different kind of insects; catching some of them but then she felt that they did not like to be caught; they wanted to be free so she let them go. Sometimes the weather changed dramatically and it would start to rain and she loved that. And after that, there was a beautiful rainbow that lined the horizons and there was something in it that made her feel enchanted. Often she climbed up the nearby hills to touch them but then she could not. At nights, the howls and barks of animals scared her so she stayed close to her family, her people.
But despite all this fun, there was a longing in her to go farther and know what was there far away. Were there more creatures like them? And if yes, how were they? Then at nights, she lay down on her back and stared into the sky. It made her feel good. She thought that she just wanted to be the same as she was now. There was nothing good about getting old, she thought. People around her had grown white hair and wrinkles and they could not even walk properly, but she was young and active and so happy with everything around her.
She lived alone amidst millions of people around her. She didn’t know her age (although an old man told her that she was about 15), not who her parents were, not the meaning of country or war; nothing except a few things. She knew this place as if she had known it forever. It was a place where one had to struggle hard and beg and steal in order to survive. And there were classes of people; the rich and the poor. The rich had the trees and the lakes and the land on earth but people of her class were like unwanted people here and unless you were smart enough to cheat or run fast, you will not have food; shelter was too far-fetched.
She was a rag picker on the streets of a flourishing town. And she did not remember since when she was doing this. According to the same old man, she was thrown in a dustbin by her parents after her birth and he cared for her since then until she could herself get food by begging and rag-picking. For Ritu, it wasn’t such a bad thing; even the lions’ children grew in the same way. And even more, just like they were bound in their cages and habitats by humans, her movement around the posh areas was also strictly restricted, perhaps by the same humans.
The only respite from her life was the time she spent with a boy who pulled rickshaws on the streets. He did not look ‘clean’ but whenever he talked to her; it felt that she was a human too. Other times she was either bellowed at or dismissed as a bitch. Perhaps that’s why she had a special kinship with the dogs in her locality. And she thought he was really funny coz he chatted and joked all the time, which made her laugh. But they never talked about the future; there was nothing to talk about.
She had started spending time with a person who was one of them, still a little different. His body was stronger than and not as soft as hers, his eyebrows were also thicker and appealing, anyway she felt safe and happy in his company. He always gave her the newest fruits, and caught beautiful insects and brought exquisite flowers which made her so happy. And when happy, automatically her lips parted and she felt very nice.
One day, she had spent the entire day with that boy and was very happy. She felt a strong urge in her heart to know more about this lovable place, especially about the forests. And she felt no opposition to it, no one was there to stop her doing what she really wanted to do. On the same stormy night, despite all the fear of the forests, she decided to go in. But there was a fear of the animals and insects but she mustered courage and tried to listen to her heart, and then she felt as if these trees, the skies and the little stars on them, someone or something that existed in and out of this world, wanted her to go.
Although there were no barriers to prevent her but there was a fear of the jungle, a fight inside the body, either to gather courage or simply forget about it and let go. The more she tried to face the question, the weaker she felt. Although she had no one to tell her, but she remembered the previous experiences of her small life, the incomparable happiness she had when she had gathered the courage to do something new, something good. Finally, out of impulse, she decided to do this; she shrugged the uncertainties and went in.
It was difficult even to walk through the thickets of bushes and the ear-splitting lightning strikes. Still, it was a beautiful breathtaking experience to walk on those wet ground, and feeling all those drops of water on the bare body. After a while, when she was shivering coz of the cold winds and water, she hid inside a cave. And then she saw something miraculous -- the rocks falling from the ceiling of the cave were hitting against a big hard rock and produced a spark of lightning just like the one outside, but it was very tiny flash and of a different color (orange). It was so simple and yet somehow she had the inkling that this was something great, she felt an amazing coherence with the world as if someone was there with her.
She got home and told everyone at her place about this. She even took two stones and showed the people how it happened. They were bedazzled…and this new discovery spread like fire…
One day, the boy offered her to come with him to his village. She was afraid first, but when he told that there were many fruit-trees and there was no need to beg the rich scoundrels for their packet-food, she changed her mind. She always thought that if God sent me to this world, why didn’t he give me enough food to eat?
Then the boy added, ‘And you know Ritu, there you can go anywhere. We can sit and watch the waters in the ponds or run wherever we want to. Nobody will stop us’. She did not if such a place existed where there were no restrictions; from where she wasn’t hurled away like animals. Finally, she agreed. The same night, she was sitting with the boy on the railing when the boy’s father came, yanked him away into his house. She heard his father beat and abuse him, ‘who the hell do you think you are, bastard? Taking that bitch to village? You are going nowhere until you earn enough to take care of your shit.’ She walked away. It was not the first time her dreams had been broken.
The night was very windy and somehow soothing to her pains, so she walked on. She wanted to walk until the dreams of going to a free place vanished. And aptly, it seemed the first time in life she had gone so far coz the lights and shops wore a different look. In fact, she felt like it was a whole new world. A world of no boundaries, where only love prevailed, coz here she saw people were interacting openly with each other. The women were attractive and the men happy and flirtatious. Suddenly, one beautiful lady came to her and started talking. It was unusual; such a gorgeous woman talking to her with such courtesy. She had never met anyone like her. In that instant, she loved her so much that when she invited Ritu to her house, she could not deny. But that was also because she wanted a place to spend the night. Her house was like a dream, beautiful and ebullient with men and women. Then she took her to a room and said, ‘Why don’t you rest here Ritu, and yes wear these clothes. Aren’t they beautiful?’
‘Indeed’ her voice choked with overwhelming happiness. Such a good person in this cruel world! Then a hefty man came and she introduced him. After that the woman went to bring something but Ritu could not remember anything. In fact, she did not remember anything after that. In the morning she had slept on a bed for the first time in her life and with a man, for the first time too. She could not figure out whether the room was soundproof or if the nice woman was deaf, coz even when her voice had cracked from screaming, she did not come. The next day, she cried sitting in the room, eating or drinking nothing, however she was surprised coz no one came to kick her out. At night, the same girl came with a tray loaded with delicious food; obviously she had not eaten any such in her whole life.
“Listen Ritu. This place is not meant for poor like us. You will die on those streets and no one will care. I tell you beta, those rich sons of bitches will not let you breathe, and you have to find a place for yourself, even if it means sacrificing your body.” Ritu kept mum. She was born like everyone else; trembling lips, little fingers, a beating heart but someday down the line, everything had changed.
Having spent years in the brothel, she became fearless and responsible at the same time. The worries about the basic necessities had been taken care of, but instead of getting happy, she got quieter. Her body had no particular importance for her now, but the strength of her mind grew day by day and she felt herself. Not like puppet swayed by the world but a person having independent thoughts, a desire to live on one’s own terms and conditions.
There were a million restrictions posed by the people, the world around her but this constant pain led her to the point when she regarded her as an individual with the ultimate power to think and to change, even if not her life; others’ lives. The same dilemma, inner fight that existed 10,000 years ago was still there, but now it needed more courage. And this time it was her seething life that made her do what she wanted to do and not what the world wanted or expected her to do. This was the time she realized the presence of God. She, in a flash of second, figured out the whole journey of her life and the reasons behind it. The mysterious ways of God were now visible to her and she was a mere medium of God. The same night, she mustered all the courage and the money she had earned all her life and rented a small room on the same road to guide little homeless girls… the darkening clouds could not prevent the dawn…