There are some memories which live with you all the time, their gentleness makes you feel alive and fill in hope in you. Following are the two of them which will probably live with me forever.
Manjusha posing for us in the 'waranda' of her house
Almost 3 months ago, while on the tour to Bhandardara , a beautiful place in the Ahemadnagar district, we happened to visit a tribal village. It was a village where not more than 2,000 people lived and they all belonged to the ‘Thakar Community’. The person appointed to show us around, took us into a house to learn about how the Thakars’ live??? What do they eat? What do they wear? and so on…
The house looked like any other typical village house, but once I entered it I spotted the difference. There were probably 7 to 8 children of all different ages inside. From them only one was a boy and all others were girls. The eldest was trying to make the youngest sleep, while the mother was cooking rice. The other children were reading their text books.
“Would you like some black tea?” asked the man of the family while entering into the kitchen. We were surprised by this question, but we kindly declined the offer. Later, we learned that the youngest baby was named ‘Madhavi’, and others had beautiful names such as Sarita, Manjusha, Lakshmi and many more which I don’t really remember. But the eldest girl told us, “we don’t keep names such as Rani and Priti, they have become too common. So we will always keep unique names to girls who will come in our family.”
When the father of the house came to say goodbye, he was asked by one of the fellow visitors, definitely surprised to see the sheer number of girls in one house, “Isn’t there a problem of female feoticide here, such as there is in Satara district, where they name girls as Nakoshi-unwanted?”
He calmly replied, “No sir, we know enough names to give our daughters. We feel blessed to have them around.”
When I looked back at the house I saw Manjusha weaving at us…she looked happy. She was the only girl to pose for a picture. Looking at her smile I understood how they live…or have always lived.
Manjusha, reminded me of a 12 year old girl I met almost 7 years ago. She was thin and exuberant, the only one who was ready to join the Sunday school to be conducted in her small village by an NGO that I worked for. Her father owned a grocery shop in the village and was pro active in her education. He told us, “teach her English, she will attend your classes.” But one girl was not enough to conduct a Sunday school, so we took her along and started visiting houses of her friends to invite them to join our school. She was jumping, running and too fast to keep us pace with. She was definitely different than the girls I have seen in those villages of Pune district.
While reaching the school building, we all heard a sound of an aero plane passing over us. She jumped with joy and suddenly held my hand to ask, “Didi, will you take me inside the biggest aero plane one day, I have heard there are many of them in the city.” I held her hand tight and said yes, while looking up at the passing plane.
This happened when even I used to look up to the sky and dream about flying one day. I remembered while holding her hand that even I am yet to take my first flight. But when I took my first flight last year to Delhi, I remembered her. I remembered how her eyes had lit up when she saw that plane passing over us. I was almost choked with her memory. Frankly, I do not remember her name, not even the name of that village which I visited almost 7 years ago. All I remember is her face and her excitement.
Even today while walking on the streets of Pune, I think of her. I imagine her to have grown up in to a smart woman. I wish that one day she will recognize me from the crowd and come to me running just to ask me when I am going to show her the biggest aero plane possible. Ahh…someday I will get a chance to tell her that I have been showing her many aero planes everyday in my dreams…