We are living in a glass bubble
Constantly looking for germs
Washing hands with lotion
Brushing teeth Wearing socks and shoes
Also, worrying about athlete’s foot
Washing all the fruits and vegetables
With special anti-bacterial waters
Swallowing follow up pills. A woman with similar habits feels a sudden urge to see the world
She crosses the ocean and arrives in a small village.
Floating around in a dream.he lady walking down the street
In her pink dress
Sees a little child playing in the dust.
The child picks up the fruit
And gently blows away the dust and takes a large bite.
“Oh, no! She didn’t wash it”
“She didn’t wipe off the dust on her frock”
The little child stands there staring at the lady, white as jasmine!
Child takes another bite of the fruit.The pink lady says almost instinctively “Come”
And extends her hand With a friendly gesture
Towards the little child.
The child kicks to her heels like a drill sergeant
And runs toward the pink lady,
Her hand still moistfrom the fruit she just bit into.
She wipes her hand on her frock yet it is a little sticky.
The hand is not clean
Not clean at all!
The pink lady links her fingers round the little ones
And walks the distance to the child’s room.
The child proudly displays her earthly possessions –
Two frocks, three books, a pencil, an eraser won in last night’s games and a wilted flower.
Yes. That is the flower the pink lady gave her yesterday.
A prized possession!
The lady picked it up from the ground under the tree.
For the little girl, it is a prized possession.
The pink lady returns to her room
Washes her hands with soap
Wipes with a lotion cloth
Rubs with ointments and looks at the palms.
She can still feel the little fingers clutched into her own
The wet dirty hands.
She washes again
No. The feeling of dirt won’t go away.
At the same time at the other end of the street
The house mother tells the little girl “Wash your hands. Time for supper”
The girl stares at her hands.
“Come on, move.”
The girl won’t move.
“What is the matter? You know the rules.”
Still the same stare. No sign of moving.
“You need to wash your hands before eating. You know that.”
“I don’t have to wash” she says, watches her hands, “They are clean,” and mumbles vaguely.
She feels the clutch of the pink lady; She was so clean!
Her hands were so clean and beautiful like tender shoots on the mango tree. Pink, delicate and beautiful!
“I don’t have to wash”she whispers.
For the housemother, it is puzzling.
“Are you okay?”
“Don’t you want to eat?”
“Go. Wash your hands.”
“I don’t have to.”
The house mother is confused.
The girl repeats as if in a dream”I don’t have to.”
“Well, you know you can’t eat unless you wash your hands”
No response.No amount of persuasion is going to help.The little girl will not wash her hands. She does not want the feeling to go away.
The house mother complains to the head mother.
“May be she is not hungry. May be she is not feeling well. Let it be. We will see tomorrow.”
They decide to leave the little girl alone.The little girl goes to bed clutching her hands tight and nudging them under the pillow.
At the other end of the street the pink lady goes to bed applying lotion one more time and thinking about the little girl, the fruit, the flower and the tight clutch touching the innermost chord!
Published on thulika.net, June 2001.
Author’s Note: Our cultures determine our customs and habits and we live within their purview like in glass bubbles. We are not only creatures of habit but also of environment.
While I was visiting the children’s home I noticed that while we are so absorbed with our habits, there is also a side of human nature that just beats the odds and takes over. At that level the innermost chord vibrates and prevails. Willy-nilly we cherish our customs and habits but the cordiality always responds at the human level, irrespective of color, creed and/or race.