<this very slightly edited piece was written by me in my diary on the upper bunk of the train on the night of 25th March, 2006. I still remember the face of the girl mentioned here in surprising detail.>
We went to a tour of North-East India from 16th to 26th August. On the night of the 25th, as we were waiting for our train, there came this little girl about 7 – 9 years of age, in a dark yellow (don’t remember exactly) frock and some black cloth wrapped around her neck, her hands looking for some silver kindness. She came and looked at me and I looked at her, and her hair was so black and pretty and her eyes so bright and her face so deeply beautiful (means deep inside) I couldn’t look away. What she might have grown into if put into a school, I thought. A good daughter, a strong friend, a caring person, a devoted and responsible mother. But she has already lost all hope of an educated and dignified life in the first few tender year of it. She has many years left before her, but I know that they are already hollow and dark. She will have to earn her living in the station, begging, or a paid job like sweeping, or a higher-paid job like prostitution.
She was a little girl with bright eyes and dark skin and in dirty clothes, with nothing to look forward to in life, although she did not know it.
She absent-mindedly looked around as she held out her hand in a familiar gesture. Not a coin dropped in it. She moved away. What was her fault, I asked. What was her responsibility? She did not choose to be born like this. Why? Who was responsible for her? God? Yeah, right. You inflict all the loose ends, the uncomfortable and incomplete duties, all the wrongs, the injustice and the things that shouldn’t be on that never-seen shoulder. What could that much-worshipped and revered almighty in the books and temples and prayers do for the girl with bright eyes and dirty clothes? I had an overwhelming desire to hug her till she choked, because I had neither money nor food, and that was all I could give her. How would she feel, being hugged that hard for the first time in her small life, by a stranger in dark green jeans and sneakers who had looked at her strangely while awaiting a delayed train at Platform 6, Guwahati Station, on a warm summer night? She would think me crazy, not normal. It’s unfortunate, what normal means. Normal means girls like her with lives hollowed out by poverty roam the dirty stations of India for bits and pieces of food and grow up with loud, harsh and raucous voices and occasionally get raped at night by people who watch too many Hindi movies. That’s normal, right? Unfortunate, innit?
I have left her dirty frock and bright eyes back by almost 45 minutes now. It’s a quarter past twelve, into tomorrow, my sister’s birthday. No birthdays for them, though. No one remembers which date that drunkard in the cheap white shirt and faded jeans raped her mom, who died giving birth to her on the hospital verandah. No tomorrows for them, either.
Here’s to a million years of the unchallenged reign of Normal.