Sunday, 1 March 2015

Prose 500 2015 Longlist, Devika Dhond

Slum Eyes

Yet another bus travel. Here in Goa, the buses wait and wait to catch passengers. It is contrary to the local train travel in Mumbai. Yet, Akin to the Mumbai Locals, Goan buses are a diminutive version of an assemblage of culture variants.

The gratification one gets to see the arriving bus empty, is unfathomable. I had the same contentment a couple of days back. My feminine instinct manoeuvred me towards a womanised seat. I looked and overlooked the fruit-salad of civilisations entering the bus. There were those annoying heroic men playing loud music on their ancient phones; the college teens were boasting out their frivolous personalities to grab limelight; the timid girlfriends were cuddling with their respective boyfriends; the housewives and househusbands were giving the passengers a fish-massage; the weary workaholics were dead to the world, like they would never wake up from their travel nap. The old aunts were waiting for a seat to be offered. Then there were some loafers who either ogled at or tried to get in touch!! The fisherwomen were snubbed as if they had no right to travel. Astutely, I could see a plethora of juggled personas. In this hotchpotch of mixed mindsets, the conductor tried the best packed arrangement, rolling us into spheres, taking our breath away.

There was yet another society that penetrated. The slum-world. The site workers who move with their giant families. The genuine rejoinder to them entering a local bus is “foul alarm”. Well we purport to be “clean”, don’t we? But do they deserve crooked faces for a mere travel, after sufficient troubles being bestowed upon them? Tough Call it is. I strive to strike a breakthrough at such issues.
The gush of the slum residents was enormous. The age ranged from unborn, newborn to 35. I was baffled, who was related to whom and in what way? They may have been 2-3 households. A toddler with superfine hair like the spokes of a cartwheel (girl, I concluded upon her dress code) stood near my seat. Those lush brunette eyes just stole away my eyes. She seemed to be in a muddle since the segments of her family were dispersed in the bus. She reassured her stand when she spotted her mother. She was beautiful, with features carved on a symmetrical facade. That pointed nose had peeled skin, those rosy lips were covered with muck, those chubby cheeks had lost their glow. Briefly, I felt she was unpolished gold. The intense grim on her face is so not found in kids. When I was fidgeting with my phone, she stared at me, not the phone. I could not interpret the dour. When she lost her grip, I held her. Her innocence overawed the stench she emitted.

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