My recent family vacation to Rajasthan was fantastic beyond words. We saw some spectacular places, met some truly amazing people, had some incredible experiences, ate some fabulous food, did some sensible shopping…
But of all these colourful experiences, one moment and one smile remains etched in my mind.
We were in Jodhpur, the lovely, royal, Blue city. The majestic Mehrangarh Fort towers above the city. Outside the old fort city, the new avatar of Jodhpur is a bustling, modern town where Mc Donalds jostles for space with Rajput Mishthan Bhandar. And Gucci shoe showroom exists alongside the traditional morjari store. So while Jodhpur sorts out its confused state, it remains a charming little place with reasonably friendly people – who are not yet totally commercialized.
One fine evening, we walked past the narrow gullies of the market where everything from homemade Vaseline to bales of bandhini saris were available. It was a fascinating walk and at the end of it we landed up nice and hungry at the doors of Jodhpur’s most famous Samosa wala’s kiosk.
While we waited for a fresh batch of samosas to get fried, we watched as scores of street children walked around pillaging dust bins, picking out the kind of garbage they needed and then shoving that into their sack. I felt that I could not eat after seeing these grubby little children with their sad, hungry eyes. But no one, seemed affected by the sight of these children, as they gleefully grabbed their hot samosas. Having lost my appetite I nibbled at mine. In the meanwhile, a set of people, finished eating, got into their car and were reversing out. Just behind their car, was this frail little girl, oblivious to the fact that the car was trying to move. I realized that the person behind the wheel may not be able to see the girl in his rear mirror as she was too tiny. So I rushed to the girl and gently pushed away and told her to move as the car my hit her. The little girl looked at me with doe-like startled eyes. For a few seconds she stared at me and then she gave me this most remarkable smile. A smile that simply lit up her whole being. A smile that said ‘thank you for acknowledging my existence’. And then she disappeared into the darkening dusk.
That smile stays with me as my most precious memory.
I realized in that one moment that this is all it takes. A kind word. A thoughtful gesture. An acknowledgement of existence. And you get rewarded with a smile that touches your soul. How difficult can that be? And yet it is.
That smile also made me realize why it is that I enjoy being with children. They are guileless, pure, innocent and trusting. Give them love. And they are so happy. That’s it.
But what do we do? We are so selfish and busy doing our own things, we buy our children things and fancy toys to keep them happy. In the bargain we systematically destroy all their endearing qualities. We transform them into selfish, callous beings who are capable of eating hot food in front of hungry street kids, and look through them like they don’t exist.