even before i reach the periphery of the school playground, my eyes scanning the variously colored heads to pick out the black haired boy, voices call out his name “your mom is here” and he comes towards me not on a run, but with careful strides, his arm held up in midair, gently turning it, his eyes glued on a tiny creepy crawly, concentrating hard on not disturbing that little life taking a stroll on his arm. And reaches me to share that moment. His name is not Mangal.
gorges that were frozen in a winter landscape now gush through the early summer, we seek out glens where the water takes a breather under cool maple trees, peering into the crystal clear depths, he asks “is it true, that if we dip our feet in one ocean we’ve touched all the oceans?” I tease, “the water in your bottle must have been the water that dried up in your grandfather’s village pond, 50 years ago, or it could be the water from the hyacinth choked artificial lake in amma’s city back home, it is not just oceans, all the worlds water is touched.” He is eight not eleven.
on a quite trail in the woods, where my subtropical eyes expect dangerous creatures, instead it has story book animals; deers, rabbits, foxes, squirrels and chipmunks. i come here not to study the forest but the silence, breaking it, he says “big cars are more polluting.” i point to the bracket fungus on a rotting log saying ”those release almost the same kind of gases and they have been at it since before the wheels got a motor” . To to his accusing, so? I smile a “i just wanted you to know that and this“. He’ll never be described as a servant ever.
we read a book about the dreams of a young woman who journeyed in the back of a train on hard wooden seats, separate from the white folks and he asks ”what is a whiz? Oh, Bessie Coleman being good at numbers must have helped her become a good pilot.” My thoughts wander to what his response might be on seeing Mangal eating his lunch? Would he ask ”are there no social services vans that come to pick up people ill treating children, in India? Or will he ask what happens when the the law is broken? Or will he just ask which school does Mangal go to?”
only the grossest element in the picture repulses us adults into expressing or not expressing our feelings of helplessness. In our silence about all the other elements of injustices, things gone so wrong in our society glaring at us in the picture, lies the exposition to the levels we have stooped to in our expectations from our systems -when it comes to the children who are not ours.
He could have been him.
and I Mangal’s mother. Her quite anger consumes me. I will my mind into imagining that mother and son are right now, sharing a moment of wonder at a rain drop at the tip of a leaf, swelling into a perfect pearl drop, catching the luminous moonbeam and their synchronous smiles before it drops gently into the grass. Darling, it is the same water that made us.