The slums of Kolkata are full of unbathed children, poor mothers who hide behind their shabby veils. The fathers sit outside the modest huts smoking, drinking or playing cards. The streets are full of dirt, mud and spit. The streets of Kolkata occasionally harbor a lunatic man or woman who lives on the alms of kind strangers or nearby shopkeepers. If the lunatic is a woman, then most often at nights, she might have to fall prey to the lust of some passing truck driver, some random stranger who wants to satisfy his greedy desires. I know such a woman, she stays beside a bus stop I pass on my way everyday. One day I saw a little girl beside her.
I had not seen that girl before. And I wondered. How can this woman, who has no mental control over herself get pregnant? And then it occurred to me. Some brave bold man chose to plant his seed on this mentally unstable woman, one who has no family, and nobody to help her. After all, how else will you prove your masculinity? But now I see that little girl, playing by her mother. And curiously my anger subsides.
This little girl is dressed in rags and is very playful. The shopkeepers around have taken a kind heart to this mother-daughter duo and probably had given them something to eat. The daughter helps her mother to eat, and then eats herself. The mother too sees that her daughter gets enough to eat before eating herself. When I see her with her mother and I see her mother's face, I find her smiling, I see her..happy. May be her mother lacks the reasoning power with which we, the highly intelligent (and sometimes over intelligent) beings are blessed with. But when you look at that smile, you realize that it is not different from the smiles of other ordinary mothers when they see their children. And curiously that smile relieves me. How can the consequence of a greedy cowardly animal act of lust give rise to something so pure, so tender, so joyful; like the love of a mother for her child? I wonder.
In a completely different street of Kolkata, I see dirt, grime and mud all around. People are making the streets dirtier. My attention suddenly slips to one side of the street, where a mother dog is sitting with her puppies. The little ones are all scurrying around her, excited to get milk. A competition ensues as to who would get milk first. The mother dog sits patiently while the kids run around her. They are like little soft toys, a little bigger than the palm of your hands, soft ears, black noses, and body so soft that a hard touch can break them. You carry one of them and it is a trip back to innocence. Even if you go near them, they will not notice you; they are so engrossed in their play. I watch from a distance.
The dirt, the pollution, the repulsiveness, the lust and violence---- everything vanishes suddenly! It's so full of despair, darkness yet what is it about these two scenes that blows away all the sins? I wonder. And then it occurs to me. Nature with her powerful gift of Life. Life that washes away everything bleak and gloomy. But can Life really blow away all sins? All markers of violence, indifference? Is it that easy? But how else do you explain happiness, birth following an act of hatred or repulsion? I wonder. And I wander the streets of the city, hoping to find an answer.... But the sight of life in these two varied inhospitable circumstances among these two different species astound me with a new ray of hope....