Monday, February 14, 2011

Lasting Impression

In today's crowded local train on my way home during rush hour I saw a sight that will endure. Somewhere along the way, a girl got on with her mother and little brother. She must have been 7 or 8. The brother, 3. She'd been dressed up nicely, in an altered salwar kameez and a slip of a purple, matching dupatta which she adjusted occasionally. Her nose had been pierced awkwardly, and the grey wire was knotted in an ugly fashion. Her hair was short and held back by an unpretty hairband.

No room to sit. The mother remained standing in the aisle while the girl herded the little boy between two facing rows of seats and took up position near the window, right in front of me.

Heavily barred, it was safe for the little boy. Still, she told him sternly to keep his hands on the sill. He complied. She stood behind him, protective, alert, skinny arms holding on to the window bars on either side of her charge. I smiled to see this elder sister attitude, something that comes easy to me, or did, when my brother wasn't a 6-foot tall adult. She looked at me out of the corner of her eye, saw my smile, and shuffled closer to her brother.

He mumbled something to her. She called out to her mother, was handed the water bottle, and opened it carefully, the fat cap unwieldy in her small, bony hands. She helped him drink, tilting his head back enough so he wouldn't spill it on himself. Done, the bottle was passed back to the mother.

Our train passed another train. She pointed it out to him and they started counting carriages. When he raised his hand to point and count, she firmly pushed his hand back down and brought her elbows closer to his shoulders, just in case he tried again.

He was content, counting carriages, watching the tracks from below his long eyelashes as he stood between his Didi's knees, shielded by her thin body.

When I got up to leave, she gently nudged him to the seat, and rushed to take up position so he could sit on her meagre lap.

On a day when people make huge, expensive gestures of love, this struck me as a wordless love, taken for granted by both parties - a little indestructible world oblivious to the world-weary crowd around it.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011


I've always loved them - people who've known me since college remember the bright yellow Smiley keychain on my bag. A friend bought me a coffee mug from Canada with a smiley face on it. Another bought me a comb with smileys running along the edge. As the Internet caught on and emoticons ruled the day, the smiley was my friend - an easy way to say hello and to express joy or laughter. A bright yellow smiley makes my day. For the past 14 years, I have drunk my morning Bournvita and my weekend coffee out of that mug, taking it with me as moved countries and homes.

Yesterday, I walked into a new office on my first day. After 16 months of freelancing, I walked in, past colleagues- and friends-to-be, full of expectation, excitement and anticipation. Shown to my room, I was greeted with an absolutely bare office, and a man cleaning out the drawers before I took my seat. Empty tag boards with the unused pins clustered in a corner met my eye. And then, a flash of yellow - a smiley rubber ball at the corner of my desk.

I see it as an omen :)