The Cry of Innocence

There was no one around at the time near the building, just like every other day. The cool breeze rustled a few leaves and kissed a feeling of tranquility into anyone who passed by. The darkness and isolation made one of the two girls seated on the bench more courageous than usual. “Appdi podu podu podu…….” , the mobile sang. Devi sprang to her feet and started dancing merrily, unable to hide the bounce the song gave her very soul. Just then a middle-aged couple passed by and smiled gently at the young girl who was dancing joyously. Devi blushed upon being caught and all of a sudden, didn’t know what she was supposed to do with her hands or legs that seemed so disobedient now.

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Having walked further away from the girls, the husband said to his wife, “Now that is what you call innocence. Her dad is in deathbed and yet this kid is here dancing with no worries whatsoever. What a pity!”

Devi’s father had been suffering from throat cancer for eight months now. Her mother was forced to admit him in a well-known hospital in Chennai after all the hospitals in Bangalore turned out to be way too expensive. Devi and her younger sister were left behind in Bangalore under the care of trusted neighbours, so they wouldn’t have to miss school. Devi’s father was a driver and a gardener at the colony they lived in, while her mother was a domestic helper. Both of them were hard-working and their only dream was to give their daughters an education. Devi too was a smart and responsible girl and studied well.

Having taken care of her husband day and night for months together, Devi’s mother had to return to her girls to make all the necessary arrangements for the groceries that had run out at home. She left her husband with close family relatives and came to Bangalore. On returning, none of the neighbours needed to ask her about the status of her husband’s health. The poor woman’s face communicated all the suffering that cancer brought with it, which she had been a witness to, for eight months. Enquiry, to these concerned neighbours was not a necessity. But a mere formality. That one and only night, when she was away from her husband for the first time in eight months, she got a call from her relatives in Chennai. Her husband had passed away.

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Devi’s mother cried. She cried. She fell. She hit herself frantically. Her only support, her only partner, a man she always thought would be a part of her life, was gone. But more importantly, the father of her two young daughters was gone. And poverty never does much to comfort a soul in such a desperate situation. She didn’t know what she was going to do alone. So she cried. And cried till everyone heard her. Till she would faint.

Devi and her sister couldn’t comprehend what was going on. They were told that their dad had passed away. They saw their mother cry in pain. They felt sorry for her. But they didn’t know what it all meant really. The tenderness of their age wouldn’t let their innocence disappear. Not yet. So the two girls just looked on as the adults went about doing what had to be done.

Devi’s father was given his last rites. The two girls played hopscotch at the funeral home. Relatives and family friends could only pity the little ones.

A few months later, Devi returned home at noon with an assistant from school. Her mother wondered why she was home so early. The assistant smiled and said, “It’s all good news. Your little girl has become a woman now.” The mother, overjoyed at what she had heard, held her daughter’s face. Seeing her husband in the eyes of her little girl, her eyes swelled with tears. “Her father would have been so happy had he been here now. He would have celebrated this in pomp”, she cried. Devi had just experienced womanhood for the first time in her life. She saw herself changing physically and it was not a pretty sight. She was confused if she was to cherish these changes or regret them. And for some reason, she felt insecure like never before. Insecure, scared, uncomfortable, confused. And the reminder about her dad’s absence by her mom at this hour, brought tears to Devi’s eyes.

Devi missed her dad.

 

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It’s a dog’s life

Divya was finding it hard to breathe. She had been crying so hard for so long now, there was nothing she could do to stop this outpour of hers even if she wanted to. Everytime she passed through that road outside her house she was reminded of those two little pups she had fed, cared for and fought for ever since they were born. How she adored them. How she fought with random strangers on the road for annoying them in the name of cuteness. She had taken it upon herself to be their guardian. Now that they are gone, all she felt was pain. The pain that she felt was not hers. But the pain that she assumed her dear pups were probably going through. “They are kids!”, she cried to her mother. “They know nobody there. They must be so scared. What if they miss me?” she asked. And this last thought of them missing her struck a dagger through her heart. Not just as a verbal expression, but as an actual physical manifestation, she felt pain in her chest like something was stopping her from breathing. Life has always been cruel to the sensitive, for they perceive the emotions around them in overwhelming proportions. Image

The two orphaned pups had been the reason for her smile for five months now. They were also the reason why she could see the humane side of her not so social neighbours. With their charm, the two pups managed to get themselves fed by six out of the ten families living in the building everyday. It was like the entire building was bringing those pups up after their mother died. Divya could never stop smiling when she saw the two pups having it their way with almost everybody by simply wagging their tails. 

Those soft ears that she caressed with so much love each time she saw them, that adorable manner in which the black pup shook hands with her without being taught to do so, the way they would come running after her when they saw her…………… she missed all of it – mostly she just swallowed the pain than letting it out. But today, it was just too hard for her to take. “My babies – I hope they are fine.” she repeated to herself as she cried. 

“How are you going to survive in this world if you are going to be so sensitive?”, asked her mother. She had no answer. “Even humans are not given any importance in this country. It is no wonder that they treat dogs like this.” her mother continued.

Divya’s emotional state, however, was a lot more complex than the sorrow of it all. Just as she was crying, the girl felt so much anger inside of her, it wouldn’t be right to call it anger. It was fury. Fury that could make her burn everything there is to ashes. She was infuriated by the world and its ways. She loathed, what she called, the human arrogance.

“What gives them the right to abduct an animal like that and deprive it of its reproductive rights? Is equality only a privilige enjoyed by humans? Why is it so hard for everyone to simply respect? Why can’t they just live with nature?”, she asked her mom. Nobody in the building seemed to raise a hue and cry over the puppies like Divya did, despite all the dearness the residents showed towards the pups. But she also thought that it was one of the residents themselves who must have been responsible for the turn of events.

Mr.Roy was never fond of the pups. He smiled at the pups when Divya was around, but behaved like a barbarian with them when she was not around the pups. Divya was aware of this. An obvious result – she hated him and his wife. This, coupled with the uncertainty over the pups’ return multiplied the anger that sprang from her helplessness, manifold. It was after all a known fact that the people who are in charge of animal birth control never return the animals to their territory as per rules.

She wiped off her tears and finally made up her mind. “If the people here don’t know how to respect life, I shall teach them. I am not leaving this here” , she said and left the room.

At the Animal Birth Control centre, Imran, a 57 year old man was cleaning up the poop left behind by some dogs, when he was told by the vet to put the two new pups in their kennel. They were both unconscious when Imran came in. He handled them gently, one after the other and put them in their kennel. He just stood there, gazing at those two lovely angels, which were both males and he began reminescing an episode in the history of India, back when he was a young man full of dreams and teeming with energy.

Back in 1976, a time when India faced the same problem of over-population as it does today, a young leader in the national political scene, Sanjay Gandhi had come up with the ingenious idea of compulsory sterilisation to tackle the problem of over population. Scores of unwilling men were forced to undergo vasectomy. Learned men called it a blot on democracy. Common man was terrorised about family planning. The entire episode was such an embarrassment that governments ever since then made it a point to ensure that family planning was indeed voluntary.

Imran now had an indignant smile on his lips as he continued to look at those pups with pity. “You are not humans. You are dogs. You don’t count as votes. It is your fate to silently suffer.”, he said to the pups that still lay unconscious.