Thursday, September 21, 2017

First Shoes

September 2017
"What are you doing, move your foot ahead and pull the shoe backward, then only it will go. You are just pulling the shoe in random directions. Here, let me help you. See, how easily it fits. Now let me tie the laces." 

"Leave it, I can do that myself." Struggles for a while.

"Let me show you. First pull the laces and put a single knot. Fold the two ends of the laces into half, Move one from inside other and it's done! Look how beautiful the tied laces look. Like flower petals. Now walk around and tell me if it's too tight or too loose"

Walks around cheerfully. "It's perfect!"

Sometime in 1994
I remember vaguely when first time my mom tied my shoes on my first day to school (I started schooling a little late than usual Indian kids). I was sitting on the corner of my bed,  my legs hardly reaching to the ground, half bend and trying to figure out how to tie my shoes. My mom came to my rescue. She lovingly showed me how to tie shoe laces while I kept a hand on her head to balance my tiny weight. She had a gleam of happiness as well as a little moisture in her eyes. The new shiny school shoes were symbol of a new beginning. 

Every time my mom helped me tie my shoes, I would ask her curiously, "why don't you wears shoes?" Dad put on shoes when he goes out, my sisters wear shoes when they go to school and even I wear shoes when I go out of the house. Mom would always have a different funny answer with various expressions to this question. Sometimes she will smile and say "because mom's don't wear shoes". Sometimes she would laugh and say "because I am a lady and ladies wear sandals and chappals but not shoes, you will understand when you have a wife."  Sometimes, she will say with a straight face, "because your grand father never bought them for me when I was growing up." And sometimes she would just say "you won't understand. We are from small town. Women in my age can't wear shoes."

I could never understand her reasonings but I would just nod. 

Fast forward a few years, I was in my teens. While going out to market, I would get really irritated how slow my mom would walk. I had to stop and wait for her every few minutes. She would try walking faster and smilingly say, "you keep walking, I will catchup".  I would just look irritated at her sandals, making her slower and walk ahead again.

12 years later, I now live in Seattle, one of the largest city in Pacific Northwest in USA. Sometimes I look back and think how a kid from a small town like Siwan in one of the backward states from a third world country, ended up here. Had it been not for my mom's stubbornness against our joint family's will  to send me to a better schools out of our state for higher studies, probably I might be running a local shop in Siwan right now. 

September 2017
My mom visited Seattle a few days back and I planned to take her to a small beautiful hike in Mt.
Rainier. But the problem was it would be cold and hiking in sandals isn't possible. I convinced my mom to try shoes. She again gave me weird reasons that she won't wear shoes but this time, I just bought a nice looking pair of shoes for her and convinced her to try them. But it turned out the person who taught me how to put on shoes couldn't tie it herself because she never wore a shoe in her life! I helped her tie the laces in flower petal shapes, just as she taught me long back, while she kept a hand on my head, balancing her tiny weight. She smiled, walked around and said, "It's Perfect." I smiled back and looked at the shoes, with a gleam of happiness while hiding the small moisture building up in my eyes. The new shiny shoes are symbol of a new beginning. 


Sunday, April 23, 2017

The Lost Kid

There is this kid probably 5 years old. Bright eyes, chubby cheeks, smiling face. Wearing clean white shirt, nicely ironed brown half pants, shiny black shoes with the shoe laces beautifully tied as flower petals. Small white and brown striped tie around his neck. Carrying a heavy rectangle shaped school bag, with the two click-clack buttons to open the bag. Inside the bag is his empty lunch box, homework notebooks on one side and books on the other side, nicely arranged. Holding a red colored small water bottle with red strips. Swinging the bottle, he walks. Lost in his own world, smiling and amused at everything he sees on the road, unaware of the cobwebs of the world. He is returning from his school to his home. The sincere most kid one can think of. Finishes his homework on time, eats when his mom thinks he would be hungry, he does not know what is hunger. This is the same street he walks back home from school every day but he still looks at everything with same amusement. Walking through the same narrow streets, soiled road, filled with people, everyone thrice his size, he navigates through legs of strangers. Food and vegetable vendors on both side of the street, shouting as much as their lungs can support to attract possible customers. There are red apples, shiny and reflecting sun’s ray. Another vendor selling guava, the smell attracts him. On the other side of the road is the samosa vendor, taking out hot samosas out of the kadahi, hot oil dripping from it. His small smiley face looks at everything with big eyes. He is smiling and walking, thinking of nothing. Probably he doesn’t know yet that people believe there should be a reason to be happy. He is always happy.

He bumps into a stranger and fells down. His chain of thoughts breaks. He looks up and sees a complete stranger giving a stern look back at him. He rises quickly and run away from the scary stranger. He looks around, the street does not seem familiar to him. He gets confused, runs to the next intersection on street. No, this also does not look familiar. He runs to the next intersection, the water bottle swinging from his shoulder, hitting him on both sides of his waist but he does not feel the pain. The next street is also not familiar. He stands in the middle of the road and starts thinking where he might have taken wrong turn. But he could not figure it out. He decides to run back in the direction he came back from, in hope of backtracking his path. He is a smart kid. The street is still crowded, the vendors are still shouting, oil dripping samosas are still there. But he sees nothing, he smells nothing. All he can hear is gibberish noises. He feels like every eye is watching him. He runs faster. But the street seems to be not going anywhere as if he has been running but he is not moving forward, as if someone is holding him back. He starts panting. He stops running and stand in middle of the street and looks around. All eyes seem to be looking at him. He gets scared. He cannot let people know that he is lost. What if they stole him and take him away from his family? The thought of family moistens his eyes. He looks around for any familiar face, but sees none. He tries to keep calm but he finds it hard. He runs one last time. In a random direction. People around him staring him more now. He runs faster. He is on verge of letting his tears loose. But he cannot let them know he is lost. He feels pain in his chest. He is sweating and really tired. 

He stops running. He looks around one last time to see any familiar face. But there is none. He thinks is he lost? He has never been this scared in his life. He feels weird pain in his belly. He doesn’t understand what it is. He is confused. He prays god to send someone from his family to find him. With all hope he can muster, he looks around once more but sees no one but unfamiliar crowd. He is still trying to hide from people that he is lost but the cloud of tears forms in his eyes. Images of everyone in his family flashes in front of his eyes. He feels restless looking at his mother’s face. He mumbles maa. But all the images vanish. He gets the thought that he will never see those faces again. The thought makes something between his chest pound heavily. He cannot breathe. He opens his mouth to gasp air. It doesn’t help. 

He is lost, he accepts it. He is never going to see his family again. He looks up no more. He loses his last hope. He stands still, motionless, his mind blank, he loses all the emotions at once but sadness. It’s pure sadness. But he still does not cry. He cannot let people around him know he is lost. But he is disheartened. He is never going back home. 

Suddenly he hears a sweet voice calling his name. Everything around him stands still. There is no sound but the one which called his name. He looks up and he sees her. She has no clue that he is lost but one look at his face and she understands everything. Her heart feels his pain and unconsciously she comes on her knees on the soil road, spreading her arm and calling his name again. He just runs. He does not know the feeling. He does not know anything. There is no one around but her. And he just runs into her arms. He let himself loose and cries. Tears trickling from his big eyes moistening his chubby red cheeks. He says nothing nor he feels like saying anything because he knows that she understood everything. He just cries tears of happiness.