One of my earliest childhood memories involves me, standing over the big grilled window in our balcony with my Patti, talking to people passing on the street and them replying back. The conversations, obviously are not lengthy ones, but short fragments full of love for a little girl in a white shimmy!
I don’t know how I did that, because 20 year old me, would have to have a mental rehearsal before talking to a stranger; or why I did it. Maybe because my grandparents, with whom I spent most of my time are very social people. I remember, my Thatha inviting the vegetable vendors to our house, with their basket full of vegetables, to buy a kilo of carrot. They would have small talks, banter some times and bargain over 2 rupees for half an hour! I remember my Patti, once giving a postman a glass of butter milk on a hot summer day, when he asked for water.
I think they must have influenced me so much, to an extent that I can still remember those conversations. I also remember one particular vegetable vendor woman, who used to eat raw beans out of her basket and had a dirty red purse made of cloth that she hung in the waist of her saree.
I think these are the incidents that molded me, to fall in love with strangers I think. Unconditional and total Love. Love- but not romantic ones, but just a warm feeling you get as a mixture of compassion and something else which I don’t know the name for, and you know you could never forget ‘them’ or your interpretation of ‘them’, even if you forget their faces.
But as I grew up, the filter system set in, and I do not voluntarily talk to strangers anymore. But my love for them never went away. I observe them keenly, not in a creepy way, I swear. They continue to amaze me. I take mental notes of their weird quirks, or their particular habit or sometimes something they said, and I carry it along with me, wherever I go.
Like the old man with a tick in his neck who jogs everyday, when I am on my way to the gym; the car driver who took us to Erode in the middle of the night for my Thatha’s funeral; the cute little girl who tried to imitate me by wearing her mother’s saree as a dupatta, in local train; my pediatrician who had a clock in the shape of a baby; the transgender woman in the local train station who used to have a casual banter with the students; my kinder garden school helper woman; the guy affected with polio wearing brightly colored prescription shoes who we used to meet on the way to school; the old man weaving a shawl in a small cottage industry that we met on our recent trip.
Like, my aunt’s old neighbor called ‘Nallammma’ (literally means good woman), I don’t even know if it is her name or people just used to call her that because of her nature, who used to welcome me with such love, even though I didn’t know her at all. Like the guy who stole my heart when he wanted to come home with me, leaving his mother, even though he was attracted to my cell phone and not me; it was not a problem people love others for far worse reasons that this, by the way he was a year old. (Amma, you had a heart attack there, didn’t you!)
And a many others like this. I think they will always reside in my heads, be wherever I go, as a part of me. Like a tattoo, a scar or a wrinkle that marks the passage of time. Just being a witness to the newer additions.
For me they mark the path that I have traveled, like mile stones. Marks the totality of my journey thus far.
Cheers! *rises Kappi tumber!*