Monday, August 08, 2005

Unidentified flying object

Deep in conversation, we heard a distant, familiar buzz. Everyone reflexively looked skywards and there it was after much craning of necks. The kids finally shouted what I was saying in my head once the plane was in view, “Plei! Plei! Plei!
Then grabbing the nearest arm and jumping up and down at what was akin to a UFO sighting.
It could have been a scene from anywhere, but in the circumstances it seemed unreal.

The mothers decided to end the screech fest by tossing some stones at the naked infants. They shrieked some more and eventually hopped away. Back to work.

Why have you stopped sending your children to school?
What a stupid question. I hate the questionnaires I make.
Where’s the money, aagya?

I wish I knew where the money was. I wish that every project proposal I wrote created tidal waves of generosity. I wish I could give them something to look forward to, some sort of security more stable than the fluctuating daily wage. I wish I knew why the only thing that trickles down to the poor is spurious promises and polluted water.

What do you want your children to do when they grow up?
Anything that brings money to the house.
But how will they earn more if they’re illiterate?
They’ll manage somehow. We just figure out how to feed ourselves one day at a time.
And the days you don’t get work? How do you feed your family?
The question dies a natural death.

But they still smile when I ask them my absurd questions. They indulge me because I have statistics that need to be backed up by names and faces. Because somewhere deep down, I know they want to believe that I’m trying to help.

In the middle of it all I wanted to scream. Loud enough for the powers that be to hear me. The girl sitting cross-legged on the floor of what passes for a home. To listen patiently to every story that backs up each statistic.
And then the distant hum.

I imagined people sitting inside, sipping their apple juice and listening to music. Looking out of the tiny windows and pointing to the comically small buildings and roads, lakes and rivers. The carnival created by the mere sighting of the plane was invisible. How far away they were from our little party on the ground.
It’s been more than two years since I’ve travelled by air. I’d now like to avoid it for the rest of my life.