b w b
“Hi sweetheart”, I called out to the little girl dressed in a blue frock with polka dots in white. She sat mum by a corner. I glanced at her and caught her staring at me intently. I had that effect on people. A shining bald head. A thick dense french beard. I was built like a bouncer. I guess I had that effect on people.
She was probably five. I guesstimated her age. I didn’t have a bloody clue about how little girls aged. She felt like she was five. It really didn’t matter a lot. Her age was something which I had absolutely no interest in discussing in detail with anybody. Speaking of anybody, there was this little girl in the room with me. Check. She was the youngest of the lot. I saw an old man with a face full of wrinkles seated. He had pushed his head back, stretched his legs out. He was comfortable alright. I found that quite annoying. I hate folks who get too comfy in public places. Besides that minor annoyance, I had nothing against him. He was dressed ok. He was dressed in proper old people clothes. Sober brown trousers. Thick vertically stripped shirt which was tucked in rather shabbily. He had patches of white hair left in his head. He had more hair than I did. Yup, felt a little jealous and then I reminded myself that I looked way lot cooler this way. Bald was good. Bald was beautiful. I could never have hair planted and growing out of my head anymore. I had made my peace with that.
There was another kid seated in the far corner of the room. Torn jeans, Black tee-shirt that read AC/DC. He had his ear phones on. The sound of his music player through his headphones were miserably loud. I could hear the drums blasting through his headphones. I couldn’t quite place the song yet. If i moved closer to him, I probably just might. I felt too lazy to stand up and find a place near him. I really didn’t care a lot for the music on his playlist. I made a judgement call to remain oblivious to his songs for the moment.
I noticed a pregnant lady exit the room and walk through a door which was along the far right end of the room. I had very little time to observe the finer details of her presence in the room. Apart from the little girl, she was the only lady in the room. She was. She was no longer with us. That suit me just fine. I had one less person to get judgmental about. I smiled at how condescending I had become.
I spent the next few minutes starting blankly at my neighbors in the room. Nobody really bothered exchanging pleasantries. There were no hellos or introductions made. Nobody really cared ample enough to acknowledge each other. That was perfectly fine. These were, in all honesty, the saddest bunch of people that I had to ever share a room with. The little girl was a little different. She had nothing else at her disposal to keep her engaged and distracted. She sat silently in her seat. She was so tiny that the seat looked enormous to her in comparison. She sneaked a few glances at me from time to time. She was a little curious about me, i guessed. I decided to beat the boredom by indulging her curiosity for a while.
Hi sweetheart, I called out to her.
She said nothing.
I raised my right hand forward and used my right index finger to signal her to walk to me. I even made a funny face to make her feel comfortable and safe. The stupid gesture failed miserably. She wasn’t really biting into the bait. She preferred her safe distance. I pouted my lips and my face contoured to a makeshift frown. I tried to signal her to walk towards me again. She still didn’t bother budging from her place. But she smiled. She found my funny distorted face funny. And touch down. We had an open channel for communication. Bye bye boredom, I silently bid it a farewell.
I stood up, adjusted my jeans to still keep it hanging by my waist. Convinced that my pants were not going to fall off me, I walked towards her chair. I squatted on the floor to keep our gazes at level. I was now face to face with the little one.
Hoi, I tried to break the ice. What’s your name bittu? I enquired.
She didn’t have much to say. In fact she said nothing at all.
My name is Raghav, I introduced myself. Uncle is an IT manager. Do you know what an IT manager is ? , i asked her.
She nodded her head from left to right. She had no clue about this curious breed. She didn’t know the poor species of the IT managers.
Ah, i continued. IT manager. Uncle makes things work on a computer. I went on to explain the simplest form of e-commerce to the girl. I kept it plain. I said she could buy a toy on her computer and that my work would help her get it the next day.
She seemed to grasp the concept pretty well. She smiled. Her beautiful smile was one of the best means of acknowledgement that I had come to see in a very very long time.
With my explanation done, I realized that I was not as fit as I once used to be. Squatting all that while made my legs feel pretty sore. In a quick swift motion, I stood up straight.
The little girl raised her hand forward. She intended for me to hold her hand. I offered her my left index finger in return. She reached out to it and grabbed it firm and tight.
Wanna walk around the room sweetie? I asked her
She nodded her head up and down in a very cute way. Her naughty face was a testament to her epic boredom. This little girl had probably never been so idle her entire life so far. I could see that in her mischievous eyes. I gently carried her from the chair and placed her firmly on the ground. She was tiny. She could barely reach my knees. I slouched my shoulders to make her feel comfortable holding on to my finger.
We both walked towards the rest of the folks in the room. As we passed by the old man, she paused. I felt a gentle tug on my finger. She was curious about the old man. She looked at him, raised her teeny tiny finger and pointed towards his wrinkled face. She then touched her own face with her free right hand. She didn’t find any wrinkles there.
I understood what she was trying to say. She was curious about the wrinkles.
Those are called wrinkles sweetie, I said. When people get old na, their skin starts to wrap. We call them wrinkles. The old man took a fancy to the little girl too. He made funny faces to bring her to smile. She smiled like an angel. We were both overwhelmed at the sheer beauty and innocence of her smile.
Is she yours? , the old man asked me.
Nope. I thought she was your grand daughter. She might be the daughter of the lady who just left. I guess she’s going to be with her till her mom comes back through that door.
Ah alright, the old man agreed. He seemed to be convinced that my theory was right. It did bring me a sense of relief. Obviously the old man was here much longer than I remember being here. He didn’t deny that the little girl was the lady’s daughter. All I had to do now was to baby sit for a while. Put her back on her seat, probably sit right beside her and hand her over to her mommy.
I lifted her and gently placed her on the old man’s lap. The two gelled instantaneously. She had managed to spring a little youth into the old man. He was animated. His inertia had gone out of the window. He felt invigorated and played heartily with the little girl for a while.
I stood watching the two play. It was a warm sight of sorts. It felt happy.
The little girl made an effort to stand on the old man’s laps and she tried to sneak a peek at the other kid who was sitting a few chairs away.
You want to meet the bhaiiya(brother), the old man asked her
She nodded her head up and down to confirm a yes.
I lifted her and put her on my hips and walked towards the other kid.
The kid looked like he was probably seventeen. He was oblivious to our arrival. His headphones were still blaring rather loud. We had managed to cast a shadow on his face. We stood between him and the lamp that lit up the room bright and yellowish white.
The kid opened his eyes and stared at me. He saw me and the kid. He yanked his headphones out and waited a few seconds before blurting out his first words that evening.
Oh hello, he called out.
The little princess wanted to meet her bhaiiya, i announced to make the quick introductions.
Oh, ok. come here lil girl, he stretched his arms wide open to welcome her into his lap.
Do you want to sit with bhaiiya? , i asked her.
She nodded a yes.
I left her with the kid and asked him to keep an eye on her.
Off all of us in the room, she found the kid the most interesting. His black skull cap, his headphones, his glasses, his torn jeans. The lil girl had plenty to try and pull of the kid. The boy was sweet too. no no no, he’d tell her lovingly. The two felt like they were brother and sister. The bond was obvious. The two spent a while together. He told her about school, he went on to talk to her about his sister who was in their house. The little girl smiled from time to time to acknowledge that she was following his every word.
I had managed to figure out that the little girl was mute. She couldn’t really speak. She didn’t have many sounds shooting out of her mouth. I felt a little angry that a child so beautiful and yet lacked a voice. This disheartened me a lot. God did work in mysterious ways. Mysterious yes, STUPID, hell oh yeah. This wasn’t right. But I knew I couldn’t do much about it.
The little girl signed me to carry her back. I lifted her off the kid and took her to my hip and walked up and down the room.
I’m gonna call you ‘Dhwani’, I declared. Dhwani.. do you know what a dhwani is? , i quizzed her.
She nodded her head. She didn’t know.
Dhwani, sweetie, is what music is made off. Its the most atomic part of music. I love music. I guess I’m loving you a lot too. I think a girl so sweet as yourself would do justice to that name. Uncle is going to call you Dhwani.
She seemed to like it. She put her little hands on my face and reached out to kiss my cheeks. I smiled a satisfied smile. I put her on her old chair and comfortably sat by her. I was waiting to meet her mom.
Mr Raghav, came the voice over the PA system. Could you please step in through the door. Calling for Mr Raghav, could you please step in through the door.
Hmmm, I wondered. I didn’t realize that I was in a waiting room of sorts. Ah well, I asked the old man to keep an eye on the girl and made it through the door.
Hey hi, i said to the lady seated behind the desk.
Mr Raghav, this might come as a surprise to you, but there is no easy way to say this. You died this morning in your car. You suffered a stroke and your car had run over a bike. The kid out there, you had run over his bike. Poor kid, even he didn’t make it.
What???? i exclaimed.
Its hard to digest. Its always this sudden the first time souls get to hear it. You really are not Mr Raghav. It was your shell. You are free of the body now. I get to decide if you reincarnate or if you are done with your cycles of birth.
And Dhwani , the little girl outside?? Please tell me that I had nothing to do with her. heaven forbid that I be the reason for her early exit from the world. I could never forgive myself if I was the cause.
No sir, her blood is not on your hands.
Ah well, you wont remember a thing once you are out of this room. Might as well tell you. She’s really an infant. She was killed soon after she was born. Humans tend to kill off girls. Pretty primitive. The soul reverts to its default form. It takes the form of a five year old. It shows no signs of a life experienced. It shows no traces of its previous birth. That child, will have another fair chance at life.
Hmmmmm, i said. All of this was way too much for me to bear.
So, shall we get started. We still have the business of your , reconciliation……
I took a deep breath and exhaled deeply.