HELPLESS, a word that brings some very horrible memories to some minds and a blank despair to some other and nothing to the rest. Everyone has felt helpless here or there in their life, but we always assure ourselves, we can do something about it, we try to, we do it or we don’t and if we succeed at achieving what we were planning to kudos, but if we can’t, then what. Something similar happened to me and what I felt when it happened to me when I met two little angels.
Imagine a beautiful fair coloured child, covered in dust, wearing a dirty greased up blue coloured night suit, with sweet little tiny gummy bear print on her pyjamas, barely covering her beautiful chubby little ankles, showing her bare feet. Her boy cut hair, almost adamant and a persuasive smile, a confidence in character were what attracted me when she approached our coach. I thought it was just a naughty kid running through the aisle soiling her clothes by rolling around in the train, but as she approached our coach she started banging the two stones between her tiny, little fingers in right hand and her left hand stretched forward in a very innocent but desperate plea for help. Money, food, anything materialistic, not love, apparently in today’s world love and compassion towards strangers hold no place.
Being a human being with a very impressionable heart I was forced to reach in my wallet and cough up a rupee or two for her. She was so happy she bowed and jumped over to the next coach. I was shocked and awed at the serenity she showed upon receiving the money. Being a critical thinker and almost a raging pessimist the times when I received money from my parents I barely thanked them, I always thought, aren’t they obligated. No they are not, unlike western countries we Indians are blessed in terms that our parents provide us with all their might and soul to provide and help us become the person they never could be.
Coming back to the point, as soon as she moved away she was followed by a much younger girl much more beautiful, much more fair in complexion, wearing a very beautiful knee-high stark red frock, twirling around she looked very beautiful and far more cleaner. She actually looked like a fellow traveller, but as she approached the coach she started twirling and started bouncing to a show tune sung in her innocent, 2 years old child’s voice. I was shocked, once again in the recent 5 minutes to realize that she was, a fellow traveller but of a different kind. After finishing her song, which I can only assume is her daily routine, she also put forward her tiny, little palms this time both of them and her eyes gleaming with hope, begged, begged for future, for something that can help her.
After an hour or so, as we were about to reach the destination of the train, and my destination, the girls laughing and jumping, all happy and gay, approached me, as mine was the only coach with empty seats and may be because I was the only one that gave them some money, so they felt a tad bit comfortable. One of them sat on the window seat and the other one looked at me with those big brown eyes to please make place and give her the window seat. I couldn’t resist and moved. As they started chatting and I enjoyed the sound of their voice next to me reaching through the tunes playing in my headphones, I tried to decipher what they were so happy to talk about, but their language was all alien to me.
One of them asked for my headphones, she kept pointing at one of the ear piece and kept asking for it, but I don’t know what stopped me from giving her the pleasure of listening to the magical voice and the blasting pop tune. She insisted upon it but I couldn’t give it to them, I still wonder why, what stopped me, distrust, the fear of something, something very small or something very big. Anyways, I put them aside and tried to talk to them. I tried to talk to them in Hindi, but apparently they were oblivious to the language, but they were able to understand my otherwise horrible Gujarati. I asked for their names, and they told me Tara and Vandana. I couldn’t ask them what do they do, because I was afraid of what I might hear. But I asked them how old they were. They were, 6 and 4 years old respectively. I couldn’t stop but being mesmerised by the fact how happy and elated they seemed and how enthused they were; singing, dancing, jumping around oblivious to the real world, their situation.
I took it upon myself to ask the most dreaded question by the BPL Indian population. Do you go to school? I tried to frame the sentence in broken Gujarati and they looked at me puzzled and amused, they asked me, what is a school? Oh my god, I was taken aback, what’s a school, I would’ve never imagined hearing this question from a child in this day and age. A school, seems like air or water to me now, something that is there and is used by society on daily basis, I never wondered how someone is still unaware of the fact that there is something that is, school.
Then, all of a sudden, out of the blue, as I was in a deep thought and was pathetically trying to talk to these enigmatic girls, a tall stout, a very muscular, almost black man, approached me and started shouting at the girls in that alien language and looked at me with despair through his blood-shot eyes. I couldn’t fully contemplate what was happening, he hit both the girls on their faces, imagine a 6’2’’ man hitting 2 little girls and took each one of them to the nearest bathroom and locked them in. As the train was nearly empty with only 3 people in the coach I don’t think anyone else other than me took notice as the girls never cried, didn’t even make a sound.
I was there, just there, didn’t know what to do, couldn’t understand what was happening, I was shocked to the roots of my nerves.
And as I tried to piece out the story, and the wind gushing in my eyes, rendering them dry, I could feel nothing and so many things at the same time. It was so horrible what I just saw and I couldn’t do anything, I felt, “Helpless”, even worse than that, an emotion, that you feel when you have failed when you try to fight back, even when I didn’t. As the train reached the station the men took them out of the toilet, held one in each hand and glided through the busy platform crowd and all I can feel was a shimmering light of hope for the girls and a tear drop rolling down my cheek.