Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Mina went shopping with Sana and Ammi today, after going to Gymkhana. Outside Jalal Sons there was a beggarwoman with a small, thin, baby lying limp on her left, tucked under her chin. It wasn’t her baby, Mina could tell, because the beggarwoman was swarthy-skinned and the baby was as fair as her nephews. Before going into the store though, Mina noticed the baby’s legs- mere bone, dangling limp against the beggarwoman’s fat tummy. Something in her legs felt icy as she followed Amma inside.

‘Amma, what’s wrong with that baby?’

Amma looked pareshan, her eyes creasing at the corners a little as she looked out of the glass door reflexively. She sighed.

‘It’s dying.’ She nodded her wise-mother nod, putting her Dolce and Gabbana sunglasses into her bag-from-England, pulling out her wallet-from-America instead.

‘Bhaag ke jao, de aao.’

Mina hurried out of the store, looking for the beggarwoman, who wasn’t far off. Mina gripped the corner of her dupatta as she handed the woman the money, looking at the child. It looked like it was half-asleep, sucking its thumb. It was so small and frail, just lying there limply as if half of its spirit was already running to the clouds. Mina drew in a deep breath, her eyes taking in the sunken cheeks, the greenish discharge in the half-shut eye she could see, the awful skeletal legs. The beggarwoman was saying something about medicines, but all Mina could hear was Amma’s resigned voice, the grim knowledge and sorrow of a mother. It’s dying. Mina thought of the babies she knew, and then this baby, who was dying.

Don’t cry in Jalal Sons (but I want to)
This is life (it's someone's flesh and blood)
Lots of babies die (not like this, not like this)

Guilt, guilt, guilt, standing amidst cartons of Perrier and Nestle juice and smoked salmon, guilt being there in her cargo pants and t-shirt fresh from the club, sorrow for children who have to die on a street in a market when there are people who could feed them their entire lives and not be an anna poorer. Guilt, guilt, guilt. And even the tiny differences we make as individuals feels like a grain of sand in such vast barrenness.

Mina at 3:12 PM