Blame me for being nostalgic, or dark, or brooding – one instance from my childhood still flashes past my thoughts every now and then.
It was an unremarkable day. I was playing cricket at my mom’s house in afternoon as a lot of kids without play station tend to prefer. A dark skinned, thin and filthily dressed kid – about my age – stood at the gates and gestured me to come towards him. Being unusually shy, I simply looked on. There was something in his eyes which begged for an arm around him. The smile on his dry lips seemed frozen but expectant. His clothes looked every bit as old and worn out as any every day beggar in any street would hope to show us to drop a chiller (change) out of sheer sympathy.
Moments dragged on…few auto-rickshaws on the nearby main road rustled past. His dirt-ridden hair and even dirtier clothes fluttered in the hot summer wind. He gestured again for me to come towards him. I still looked on – obviously, the boy couldn’t speak (or was conjuring up an excellent performance – as a cynic would say). He then dropped a pamphlet towards me as I realized that was why he wanted me to come closer. I still looked on in sympathy – abandoning the cricket bat in my hands. In the meantime, my aunt came out and checked the nuisance outside. She gestured back, asking the boy if he wanted something to eat. The kid gestured back – asking to take the pamphlet. Aunt had a brief look at that piece of paper dropped on ground – again asked the boy what he wanted (assuming him to be a beggar). Seeing the lack of response, she made a final, carefree gesture to the boy to get going. The boy did so without further gestures.
I see no point in pointing out what actually was written in the pamphlet – even today that sounds immaterial to me, but what I do not forget is the strange feeling of sadness – or pity.
Why it is that pain which should quite clearly be obsolete doesn’t remain so? Why it is that a tragedy affects our inner self in the most personal way? Why it is that a calamity on someone such as family of the Delhi brave heart invokes a passion of sadness so strong that I still remember it – even at the time of a personal triumph? Is this just another weakness or an affect of too much thinking-too much negativity on one’s mind – whatever that means? What’s so special about it?
One of the master-strokes of Christopher Nolan for the Batman saga was to show the heroism of Bruce Wayne in a much more basic and different way than the previous turkeys. Sure he has money and some cool gadgets – but it is his darkness that defines him. Beneath his cape and hood, lurk a tortured soul and a tragic fate. He is a hero, because he has allowed his darkness to become his shadow…an extension of the good inside him. In a way, he being a hero is about him being more ‘human’ than any other human. He fights with the grief inside him, just as any ordinary human does, and in the process, brings out a personality that any ordinary human hopes to be.
As a fellow human, a fellow Indian, the Delhi incident has left an imprint on my soul – just as the mute kid on that summer afternoon did. As I brood on, I keep feeling the pain – but the pain is much like pain of a surgery – something I must live with for some time, because rather than be drawn inside or suffocated, I must choose to make darkness an extension of the good inside me…
Perhaps the hero who is inside all of us is not about being larger than life…it’s our journey of being human. The grief I feel is not my enemy, but my guide.