I was brought up in a household with not one but two sets of parents: my mother, my father, my abbu and my chhotoma. It never occurred to me, until I was much older, that the latter were actually my uncle and aunt. In fact, they get pretty irritated whenever I call them my uncle and my aunt. They insist that they will never be anything else but abbu and chhotoma for me. The concept of a child being an orphan, to be without both a mother and a father, was alien to me…until I began to interact with the world at large.
|Ashotmi Before Sunrise. A picture I had clicked in 2011. The lights had fascinated me.|
It was when I first read the fairy tale, Little Match Girl, that I began to realize not everything is rosy in our world. As a teenager, I read the novel, Daddy-Long-Legs by Jean Webster but found myself unable to connect with the protagonist Jerusha “Judy” Abbott’s confusion about her own identity. She had grown up in an orphanage and her surname had been picked from a tombstone. When I asked my mother why the protagonist felt that lost, she told me something I will never forget.
Close your eyes and imagine you have no idea who your parents are, who your family is. You know nothing about yourself. Not even the day you were born.
That is the scariest thing I have ever imagined. And believe me, I imagine things and write them down for a living. I went back to reading the book with a fresh perspective, and this time I could empathize with Judy. She wanted to protect other little orphans from the fate that had been meted out to them. So she writes to the man who had given her the second chance at life, Mr. John Smith aka Daddy-Long-Legs:
“I think that every one, no matter how many troubles he may have when he grows up, ought to have a happy childhood to look back upon. And if I ever have any children of my own, no matter how unhappy I may be, I am not going to let them have any cares until they grow up.”
And that stiffened my resolved to always help those who were not as fortunate as I have been. So when I was older, and could volunteer, I worked on an Education project with an NGO. It was a lot of fun interacting with the bright, young minds, who did not dare to dream big because they had been told they wouldn’t amount to much in life. (Which honestly, is the saddest thing.)
They used to tell me stories of their lives, little things thing that they had found funny, and how they one day hoped they too could go to college. I still remember one them saying becoming a writer is a far-fetched dream. I had been left sad, and feeling defeated when I realized they thought that no one in the world cared about them.
I wonder now what they go through during this time of the year: Durga Pujo. When the rest of the world is busy dressing up, trying on new clothes and planning their pandal hopping excursions. I wonder if the bright lights they see on the streets symbolize the same things to them, as it does to us.
I am far older now that when I was when I first started becoming aware of the rest of the world. I know now that two people could look at the same thing and interpret it differently. Not everything we see will tell us the same story.
Frankly, it is quite nice to see Vivel doing something which would make sure the kids who so felt, and who feel lonely and neglected, would get to go pandal-hopping with the brand ambassador, Dev. Maybe this pujo should be less about seeing how many clothes one bought, and more about spreading love.
|Vivekanada Sporting, a picture I took back in 2010|
Love is a beautiful thing. And not given enough, in the fast-paced world that we have all become puppets in. I certainly hope the children enjoy going around the city, feast their eyes on the beautiful pandals and idols, and when they come home, they realize that their dreams are not worthless. And that they can dream big. After all, if they work hard enough and believe in themselves enough, those dreams just might come true! J As Tom Robbins once said,
“It is never too late to have a happy childhood.”
P.S. - If you are in support of Vivel's campaign, do tweet it with #VivelPujoLove. You can also read this note for more information!