Sunday, 10 May 2020

Bindu Saxena, Prose 500 2020, Longlist

23 December 2019: Hurtling along in Duronto Express, I breezed down to Goa for a week-long holiday. I wanted some time for solo walks, long writing sessions, and other quiet, thoughtful things, and also looked forward to meeting absolute strangers. 

 

Mr. Sharma, an elderly person clad in humble dhoti kurta occupied the opposite lower berth. A young couple, Kiku and Sharda, were the other occupants to our curtained enclosure for the next 9hrs. I was tucking into my dinner when Sharda, generously proffered their Chicken sandwiches. The couple got off at Ratnagiri, thankfully without rousing me out of my sleep. 

 

Sharing my experiences with Mr. Sharma was a divine experience. We traversed the 4 stages of life in Hindu Philosophy and Gandhiji’s vision for rural self-employment and the activities of self-sustaining Khadi weaving groups. He advised me, ‘Write, as that is the talent God has given you.’ Widening the narrow definition of ‘family,’ he said, “Society is your family. Help those whom you can.” 

 

My journey ended at Madgaon. It was at the platform that my eyes met Ajay, a beggar, stricken with polio legs. He traveled in sleeper coaches surviving on the largesse of pantry attendants. While the simplicity of Sham impressed me, the freshness of the couple refreshed me, but monetary help to Ajay seemed to have blessed me... 

 

30 December 2019: I chose to return by air. As I ambled across the tarmac to board Vistara to Bombay, I was wrapped in the attic of my memories when I saw a wheelchair being pushed and come towards us from the aircraft that just arrived. “Flashy life, I thought”, to be wheeled in a chair but it’s only when I was alongside that I peeped at the person who commanded this honor: A crumpled body, eyes closed pointing skyward. It was a young boy who was a spastic. An old lady pushed him breathlessly yet cheerfully. She didn’t seek any assistance from the staff to trundle her labor of love. 

 

A child is a tempting hope, but in him, I saw the ‘missing pieces’ that script the human times. The open lips and gape were all I saw - and the ruins of a city that craved for rebirth.

 

I reached home with a myriad of scenes flashing before my eyes. This was my first solo trip and I realized, from lips to lips you see cities and experience lives that live in them, regardless of whether these speak or remain in eloquent silence. The imprints these leave color your being and transform you. 

 

These seven days not only did I visit the place I intended to, but innumerable places that I could never have, otherwise.

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