Wednesday, October 25, 2006

black-faced happiness

This time when I had been home I went to Keonjhar, as promised, to spend a few days with my mom. All through my engineering I had tactfully avoided staying there stating the value of the precious few days of my semester breaks.

Keonjhar is a sleepy little place laden with huge iron and chrome ore deposits, coal mines and tribals. That is an extremely uncharitable statement and it doesn't say much more than it says.

When I went for a run early morning I saw hordes of locals being trooped onto trucks that lined the streets. Men were paid as less as 60 and women lesser for an entire day’s work in the coal mining quarries in nearby Mayurbhanj. Evenings would witness black-faced happiness with soiled currency in hard hands. Life happened one day at a time. When they saw me running in my Benetton T-shirt and Reebok tracks I wonder what they must’ve thought. I felt inexplicably embarrassed, although I reasoned there was no particular reason why I should be. It was my hard-earned money which had allowed me life’s comforts and no one could take that away from me, much less the happiness I derived from enjoying them.

One evening I accompanied mom to an acquaintance’s (rather an old employee’s) house. She had a 5 year old daughter who was asked to sing rhymes and the latest songs before me. The house comprised of one room with a detached, makeshift bath-latrine. When I arrived beds were dusted off and utensils, books, clothes were cleared. I was offered Sprite when I knew they wouldn’t have it themselves. That 8 rupees would go into an account where every penny mattered. Every rupee saved would bring a smile of relief. It would buy an ounce of happiness which came cheap for people like me. Still, there was this genuine largess sitting right across me in a single bedroom of hope. That belittled.

Baba, will you have anything else? Kurkure, Cadbury?

Such memories mean much more than can ever be fathomed. They bring forth a wave of emotions. A surge of guilt mostly. But to do anything out of guilt would be just not it.

Some duties are not obligatory. They're just more important.

7 comments:

Suhas said...

loved the title ..

PritS said...

i had some doubt about the motive for the title. Then I read the post again, now I feel it's apt.

SUCHARITA ROY said...

i think its just someone's capacity to be happy or sad and it has nothing to do with the state of being.things arent that easy to explain all th time.there is a dignity that people want to stand upto when they come from nothing.
in community services section when we went around to review the contraceptive practices of grade 4 emplyess and bpo level inhabitants of cuttack we would invariably be offered a cold fanta or a kurkure or at least a cup of tea.to be honest i could never say yes to the tea because i knew where the water came from..the same riverside used for ablutions,washing clothes and collecting cooking water.and if i asked the lady of the house to give the fanta to their kid who would have loved to have it..they would be offended.so i closed my eyes and gulped dwn the fanta or whtevr it was and forgot about it.
and thanked them for it.and i think too that they deserve the thanks way more than the rest of our brethen.because it costs them to an extent where it matters.in tangible and intangible words

i liked the post not so much for what you have written or titled but for what i can realise you have a capacity to feel....

and thats worthy of mention.
bbye

satyajit said...

suhas, prits: thank you..

sucharita: we all have our own experiences to reflect on... but its very easy to forget something about which we felt very strongly about, albeit very briefly

life_thru_my_eyes said...

for the first time i did not have to look up a dictionary while reading your post...:)...so am happy...awesome thoughts baba...

Ruchika said...

So true... I felt the same way when I went to my dad's factory and the head worker's manager there, an elderly lady, was so excited to see me after more than 3 yrs... and she took me to her little room inside the factory premises, offered all that she could (tea, biscuits etc etc), spoke to me about Paris (I was touched that she knew I was there for so long and had kept abreast of my latest location!).. I feel that the warmth that these people have for us (esp children of employers etc) is much much more than that shown by any family friends! And even though you have more than they do, they don't give u 'badduas' for that. they are genuinely happy for u! Its nice to get in touch with rooted people once in a while..

satyajit said...

life-thru: hmm..i'm glad u found it easier without missing the drift of my post

ruchika: ther's a strong bond with ayahs, yr first rickshaw wallahs,prep teachers,etc..when u meet them u're still the same toddler or child that u were..and somehow even u cant get out of that..

we all are rooted not to any common reality but our own realities..