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4 mins


At A Traffic Signal Photograph by Vipin Vishwakarma

At A Traffic Signal

We should learn from kids. They live in small joys. Despite having so many blessings around us, we keep hovering on trivial issues of our lives and make it more miserable. We are always dispirited by small troubles and miss the small joys of life.

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I yelled. I had spent the past hours sweeping and mopping the floor and the two brats had sprinkled a deep mahogany colored viscous liquid; my exorbitantly priced nail paint, staining the floor. I glowered at them and raised a quivering hand to knock off the elder one. It took tremendous effort to control the fit of fury that was engulfing me. I clasped my hand into a fist and with gritted teeth I bellowed an empty threat at my audience which did not even flinch.

With undeterred enthusiasm they scampered across the room to fetch a mug of water to “clean up” the mess. Their tiding up efforts only made matters worse as a huge draught of water spilled across the floor intensifying the muddle. I watched wide eyed primarily unsure of what my next move should be and partly unable to act. 

My emotions surged while I struggled to keep my control and in the meanwhile my three and half year had brought old news paper to wipe out the liquids. The newspaper died at the first instance of coming in contact with the very object it was intended to exterminate. It tore and turned into a sticky mash confounding the muddle. And suddenly out of nowhere an argument erupted between the kids, “Arre, why are you pushing me?” screamed one of the kids and an unwarranted fight broke out. “You...you.. you...why you pulling my hair?!” was followed by a vehement shove causing a loud tumbling of the flower vase.

I had had enough; I performed a thousand things with two hands, picked up the vase, prevented tiny hands from engaging in more violence, gathered up the soggy pieces and restored multiple other things to their rightful places. I flew about the house with such frenzy and vigor as to render any comprehension of my actions impossible. And when I came back to face the two devils, they were completely oblivious of the storm that had just passed and were following a train of ants into a tiny fissure in the wall smashing a few of them with their little palms. I half admired and half envied their playfulness.

Afraid of what hullabaloo they might drown me in next I decided to take them to the park. On reaching the park, the first few minutes were spent in inspecting the various objects of utility, the slide, the swing, the see-saw. And after much deliberation and amidst childish squabbling and irked reprimanding, one was chosen. 

An old “Aunty” had been keenly observing my team since we had entered and raised an objection to my three year old plucking leaves. I realized I had no patience for a stranger. Ever since I had entered into motherhood, my fortitude had faltered at the slightest disobedience, my strength failed me at the smallest of provocations and my tolerance vanished even with people I loved and cared for. And this old lady was an outsider. I decided I did not want any ‘how-to-raise-your-child’ lessons from her. As it is, when a woman becomes a mother, the whole world becomes her teacher. And day in and day out she is subjected to various lessons and directives such as ‘look-how-they-are-jumping’ or ‘see-he-is-eating-another-chocolate’ or ‘oh-God-they-have-messed-up-the-room-again’ or ‘her-socks-is-not-matching-her-dress’ and ‘they-have-still-not-had-their-baths’ ‘advices’.

I gathered the two kids in my hands and marched out of the park staring wrathfully at the old woman who actually looked triumphant at having successfully dismissed me.

I drove my two-wheeler in an inexplicable rage. I passed a group of young college students and envied their carefree attitude. I went past another group of giggling young girls and thought of how soon they might have to give up this freedom for a marriage and kids. 

Lost in thoughts, I came to a traffic signal and waited dolefully. I looked around and very close to me, caught sight of two people sitting on the divider, a girl about 9 years old and a smaller child, perhaps her brother, of about 3 years. They were wearing ragged clothes. The boy did not have any pants on and there were small boils on his bottom probably because of the heat. The child was excitedly jumping about something and wanted to jump off on to the road and run. The elder sister caught hold of his hand and made him sit angrily on the divider (which might have still been hot due to the burning afternoon sun of June in India). 

After a little resistance, he sat. The girl was holding a pen and a notebook in her hand and started writing something in her notebook. The boy held out his palm to her and she drew a henna pattern on his hand. He waited patiently for her to complete it. Once she was done, he got up, hugged her and kissed her. He pointed to a small bruise on her hand and in a loving manner caressed it with his fingers and soothed it by blowing into it. The girl smiled and picked up the little boy. At this point, a metro train passed overhead. The boy jumped out of his sister’s embrace and stood on the divider and started clapping his hands. The girl gave a huge smile and encouraged her brother.

The signal turned green, I moved on with a lump in my throat and a smile. I started wondering where the kids might be living or who could their mother be or did they even have a mother? They were not begging for alms, which is a common sight at traffic signals, so they might have been children of construction workers or slum dwellers.

It occurred to me how the kids might have huge sorrows and were still living small joys while I, who had huge blessings, was always dispirited by small troubles. 

The rest of my day I found it difficult to erase the sight of the two kids so I picked a few old clothes and old notebooks, pens and decided to give it to the two kids if I saw them again. I went looking for them that the next day morning and evening and a morning and evening day after and a few more days after that. I did not find them. I even inquired with some shopkeepers in the neighborhood but they claimed to have never seen anyone meeting the description I gave. I have now been taking the bag with the books, clothes and pens I intend to give these kids, whenever I take the route on which I had spotted them.

It has been nearly six months now; I have never seen them after that. I often wonder if they were for real or was God trying to teach me a lesson through them. And now as I am chronicling this incident, my two little brats are busy creating a mess with adhesive and torn pieces of paper. I look at them and think of God’s two other children I am looking for. I smile and let them enjoy the mess remembering the lesson that life is about living the small joys.


STORY WRITTEN BY : RENUKA BALAKRISHNAN and is based on a real incident.

8  Comments
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Harry Gavin Content Writer & Dropout by Choice

What if you gave someone a gift, and they neglected to thank you for it - would you be likely to give them another? Life is the same way. In order to attract more of the blessings that life has to offer, you must truly appreciate what you already have. Gratitude...

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Malcolm Firth Unit Head, Randstand UK

I believe these under-privileged kids have so less to lose (since they do not have anything to lose)
and so much to gain. Our smile (to them) is their gain, our compassion for them is their win. I don't think they would expect much, its just we need to have soul inside us which can see through their needs.

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Mia Clark Student, Post Graduation

I heard long back, that if you can't help someone then atleast pray for him. If you can't even pray then do not pity them.

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