For three years, as young students, we had dashed in and out of the wide gates of our college towards the bus stop, passing en route a vendor with a blind girl, about ten years of age, by his side.
Together, they had set up a modest florist trade in the shade of a spreading banyan tree. They had positioned themselves strategically at a rather busy corner to attract the commuters.
The man was physically deformed, his torso was propped up on two little stumps, and from a distance one could not determine whether he was sitting or standing. But while he sat/stood, his busy fingers were deftly weaving garlands of fresh flowers. Strings of jasmine to adorn many a woman's hair, chrysanthemums, roses, asters, marigolds, each in its season, with some foliage entwined in between, were strung together for door-hangings or table decor, to honour the family deity or the chief guest at a social function.
His young attendant was the girl denied with the blessings of sight. The florist would patiently describe the things around her in great detail. Occasionally, he would teach her to weave a garland or string flowers. It was fascinating to watch the young apprentice pick the correct flower merely by its touch and fragrance. To draw the attention of passers-by, she rattled a tin can and sang a song to sell flowers.
The man was the master manufacturer and treasurer. Often, we would stop to buy some flowers or a bouquet from our flower girl and her father. However, months later we learned, much to our surprise, that they were not really father and daughter, at least not biologically. Years ago, apparently, the crippled man had come upon the baby girl groping wearily in her dark world and, moved with compassion, had decided to take her under his paternal wing, and they had lived as father and daughter ever since. Day in and day out they went about their business and were almost a part of our city landscape.
Then, as the academic year was drawing to a close, they were gone. I missed them, in fact everyone did. I am sure the banyan tree missed them too. Our brisk walk from the bus stop to college did not seem the same without them. The rattle of the tin can followed by the lilting call echoed in our ears. Perhaps they had found a more lucrative set-up elsewhere. We hoped so.
One day, as I alighted from the bus at the usual stop, I heard the all-too-familiar rattle and the rhythmic call. There, under the banyan tree, sat our little flower girl. Almost instinctively, I quickened my step towards her. Her father was not with her, and it appeared she had turned manufacturer-cum-sales girl-cum-treasurer. With the same dexterity of her father's fingers she wove the garland of flowers. As I approached her, she turned towards me, and I gasped in total disbelief. I enquired very sympathetically about her father. He had been killed in a car accident, she said, and as he lay dying, he had gifted her his eyes.
By Alice Menezes
There was this young boy who came regularly for soccer practice but never made it to the starting team. While he practiced, his father would sit at the far end of the field, waiting for him. The matches began but the boy didn't turn up for practice. He didn’t even show on the days of quarter finals and the semi finals. But he appeared for the final game, went to the coach and said,"Sir, you have always kept me in the reserves but never allowed me play in the games. Today please let me play." The coach said, "Son, I am sorry, I can't let you. There are better players than you and besides, it is the finals; the reputation of the school is at the stake and I cannot take a chance on you." The boy pleaded, "Sir, I promise, I will not let you down. I beg of you, please let me play." The coach had never seen the boy plead like this before. He said, "Okay son, go and play. But remember, I am going against my better judgment and the reputation of the school is at stake. Don't let me down."
The game started and the boy played like a horse of fire. Every time he got the ball, he shot a goal. Needless to say, he was the star of the game. His team posted a spectacular win. When the game finished, the coach went up to him and said, "Son, how could I have been so wrong? I have never seen you playlike this before. What happened? How did you manage to play so well?" The boy replied, "Sir, my father is watching me today." The coach turned around and looked at the place where the boy's father used to sit. Nobody was there. He said, "Son, your father used to sit there when you came for practice, but I don't see anyone there today." The boy replied, "Sir, there is something I never told you. My father was blind. Just four days ago, he died. Today he is watching me from Heaven.”
By Kanika Goyal
In our busy everyday schedule, so many things happen. So many times we laugh, so many times we cry and so many people we meet; but there are only a few moments which we actually cherish. Very few moments are close to our hearts, our souls. Very few moments make us feel contented and satisfied with our own lives. In fact, there are very few moments that prove that in spite of living in a cold, rude, selfish world, we can feel the warmth that could be so pure, so blissful and so heavenly that it could reveal the depth of truth, which exists somewhere even today.
I too have one such moment in the reservoir of my memory which brought me closer to the life. Standing at the porch of Kalibari Temple at Shimla, a faint smile touched my lips. It was a night- dark and silent. Still, standing at height, I could see lights glittering down the hill, stars twinkling brightly up in the sky, snatching away from the night her darkness and awarding her luminosity in return. It was a lovely scene. Most beautiful I had ever seen. Just one person was standing next to me, looking down the hill with the same heartening smile, which I felt on my own lips. I wondered if he was also bewildered by the determination of the man to challenge the nature and lightening up the darkness of night or only enjoying the beautiful scene. But I soon realized that he was blind. He could not see any thing; neither the lights nor the beauty of the night. But his confident smile told me that he could see and feel something which even I could not.
Although silent, he could listen to the winds, he could listen to what the night had to say- "Maybe you are not able to see anyone around yourself in my darkness, but you can look within yourself and see clearly what you could never do even in the morning's light. Maybe I am silent, but even in my silence I am offering you a hope of morning, a hope of light in your life."
That very moment told me the philosophy of life, a reason to live. It gave me a vision to see through darkness, to see through despairs. I could not say if it was the night that inspired me or the man standing next to me. I felt the dark silent moment whispering to me that the world is beautiful; all we need is a vision to see through all odds and to live every moment that the life offers.
By Meeta Mehrotra
That old lady
She sat by the window on her ornate rocking chair dressed gracefully in her multicolored floral print gown humming along with the music playing softly in the background. The sunlight streaming into the room accentuated the beauty of her graying hair. Little did she realize that she had been wearing the same dress everyday for the past two months and that she had been listening to the same music as far as my memory goes back. One could easily tell that she was nearly five-and-seventy by looking at her age-defining wrinkles but the unfading glitter in her eyes strongly betrayed it all. I greeted her as I always did, by kissing her on the right cheek. She held my hand like an infant grabs on to its mother's finger. She gave me a smile of acknowledgement as I introduced myself to her. I made her a cup of tea and then we sat down to our usual conversation.
For the past few months, I had observed that, invariably, we would discuss the same thing each time. She would ask me how my family was and how I was performing at college. My answers would always be in affirmative. Then she would ask me if I wanted to hear the Ramayana, to which I never refused because the inordinate amount of joy that she extracted from narrating the same story every time made my task of listening to her even more pleasurable. This process would last for an hour after which she would ask me to sing some of her old favorite melodies. After that we would hug and say our good byes. It had become a routine for me to do this thrice a week. I felt satisfied and peaceful after each meeting with her. However, it was agonizing to see her degenerating so quickly and so mercilessly.
It had only been two years ago that I had visited an old age home feeling extremely distrustful of my capabilities of handling old people. I sat down to talk to old Mrs. Jyoti, as everyone called her. Surprisingly, I felt very comfortable being around her. I talked to her without feeling inhibited and that is how our association began. What made our relationship so precious was the fact that in spite of the enormous age gap, we were able to connect very well. I had spoken to the manager and he told me that she had Alzheimer's disease and that her condition was certain to take a turn for the worse. The thought of that fateful day never crossed my mind. I developed a fondness for her and looked forward to spending time with her.
I continued meeting her thrice a week and gradually, I started to realize that she was deteriorating. At first, she had been forgetful and slow to assimilate things. But later, she demonstrated signs of irritability and intermittency of emotions. This change in her left me flummoxed but it was only a matter of time before I adapted myself to the change in her. After a great deal of persuasion, she had angrily agreed to discard her old gown in lieu of a similar new one. Sometimes, she would create a hue and cry in order to have food cooked as per her liking and then throw it all away and criticize the cook for his incompetence. People around her had started to develop an aversion towards her but I knew that the worst was yet to come. The symptoms were beginning to make their appearance slowly yet forcefully. Sometimes, she would also throw away the tea I would make for her. She often acted petulant but I tried my best to remain patient.
Now, when I meet her, neither does she smile at me nor does she utter a word. She has become unresponsive. She sits in her chair like a mute incarnation of an impeccable beauty. I kiss her, as always, on her right cheek and sit next to her and hold her hand in mine. I tell her that my parents are doing well and that I am performing brilliantly in college. I sing her favorite melodies and at the end hug her and say goodbye.
This is not a story of my association with an old lady- it is a call to all of us who are capable of making a difference to others' lives in our own unique ways. I realize how a few hours spent with an aging lady can bring to her immense happiness. Just the mere thought of losing her one day makes me shudder. Being with her helped me to evolve holistically as a person. I tried to empathize with her and look at issues from her perspective. Sometimes, unknowingly, we learn a lot from the most unexpected people. Her silence speaks volumes and that rejuvenates our friendship each time. It provides me with a sense of encouragement to not lose faith in her. Now, all that I have with her are one-sided conversations. I know that she does not comprehend anything I say to her but she knows that I care. She conveys that to me by a grateful look in her eye which only I can understand. I know for sure, that my time spent with her has been fruitful.
By Smriti Sharma
Compassion in a tea stall!
It was something that happens in daily life and not in a particularly catastrophic setting. The event I was inspired by was simple and unnoticed, yet capable of touching a common chord in humanity.
I was sipping tea at a tea stall in Delhi. Suddenly I heard a noise of small drums. I looked around and saw two kids, one girl and the other a boy, dancing. One frequently comes across these kinds of children in India who do acrobatics to entertain a crowd for money. It's a common sight in Delhi too. These kids had already started their performance. In the crowd, there were four or five young people, presumably students, who were watching them.
While doing the act, the boy suddenly tripped and fell on his face hurting himself badly. He started crying. What happened next was amazing. One of the guys came forward quickly, picked him up and started calming him while the other bought a bottle of cold drink for him. The third one bought some food for the kids. They were pacifying them saying that nothing had happened.
It was an incredible expression of compassion that resides dormant in every heart. Mind you, if nothing had happened, these same guys would not have even bothered to shell out some pennies for their performance, because being students they themselves are hard pressed for money.
But faced with a situation like this, something touched the wellspring of compassion in them and they were moved to do what they did.
By Alok Ghosh