We think life happens in years, months or days but actually life happens in moments, those fleeting ones that come and pass, barely giving us time to comprehend. We are so busy fretting over our yesterdays and worrying about our tomorrows that the little flickers of today fail to gain our attention. It is only at time when we pause and look that we really observe. Only when we stop and observe, we actually see life…as it passes by!
Every morning, I rush through the routine of getting ready, eating breakfast and leaving for work. The busy roads and reckless traffic ensure that my eyes are glued to the road in front of me. It is only when I stop at a traffic lights under a flyover, often till the light turns green twice or thrice, waiting for my turn, I look around and see there is a world away from the world, under the flyover.
It is no one’s land, yet home to many. I see makeshift houses and scantily clad children, sitting on the mud at the roadside, sans a bottom wear, sans an under wear. One of them spots me looking at her and walks to the car, hand outstretched. I fight with myself to give her money or not, the long-held notion of not encouraging begging and the sympathy for the child making it difficult for me to decide. She spots another potential in the car behind me and moves on, not wasting her time. I look at her in the rear view mirror, looking back at the future! The light turns green and I move ahead, almost feeling relieved. I fail to understand why I get the feeling as I walk away, maybe because I can’t decide what to do or feel!
The next day, I stop at the same place and don’t see the children from the previous day. I see a young couple instead, sitting under the bridge and weaving brooms. The duo is smiling and laughing despite the environs, seemingly sharing a laugh over something. It lightens my heart and amazes me as well. My ‘big’ problems suddenly seem so small and I thank the Almighty for my blessings. The woman notices the traffic piling up and nudges someone behind her. A toddler struggles to get up and scurries towards the car, his mother motioning him to stretch out his hand and cup it. Something chokes up my throat as I look at him, running from one car to another to beg, barely managing to maintain his balance and the look on his mother’s face as he manages one currency note before the traffic starts moving and he hurries back at the sound of his mother’s voice.
The next day brings another story. The children are there, playing in the mud and the woman is making brooms. The man is nowhere in sight but there are two others, and an elephant! An elephant? I am surprised. One of them is offering leaves to the elephant and the other is sorting out things. Behind them is a rope on which some clothes are hung and it looks like they must have spent the night there. I had read somewhere that elephants (used as a way to beg) had been banned from roads a couple of years ago but as all others laws in our land, this obviously was not being followed. The majestic animal looked like a shrivelled up, stunted version of its brethren I had spotted in Corbett National Park. The images of a documentary on one of the channels flashed before my eyes and I sympathised with the beast who should have been ruling the jungle instead of fending for two humans in this concrete jungle.
Just as I thought so, a mud-smudged little face turned up at my window and knocked. Meanwhile, the mahout was nudging at the elephant to move…it probably was time for business for everyone!