She found us on a railway platform, Bangalore East; was fascinated by our daughter’s phone and finger ring. Then she wouldn’t leave us; half hour later I was curious to see her family, was she alone? Were there more pretty eyes like hers, gold amber, dark with long lashes….
You could get trapped between tears and soft rage. The child was not hungry for food, she was hungry for things she couldn’t have, not with her lifestyle on the pavement. I looked away hurt that I felt irritation, hurt that I could be repulsed. Somewhere in all that, there was (is) horror that 23%? (according to 2012 census) live below our poverty line. Somewhere in all that is the voice of Sakshi Malik a Facebook friend who said Poverty exists more in the human spirit than anywhere else.
So I follow Amber girl, past a glass bangle seller who also sells heart shaped balloons. He wears kohl in his eyes and one earring. Any other day I may have returned his smile but today the mother in me wasn’t amused. What has happened with us all, that children like this child, must stay in railway platforms? She’s speaking my local Kannada, she is chatty, street smart. If she went to school she’d be in front row full of pep and silver/gold paper stars in her project work.
She points me to her Ma with five other sibling, all their amber eyes on fire. The mother has infant at breast under thin cotton sari and green blouse with safety pins all down opened neck line. Words still fail me, what does one say?
Amber, she grinned at me, her face turning into one big heart. This was ten years ago? She was some kind of angel in that transit zone: we were shifting cities, just about getting used to our third child’s blindness, we were between jobs, it felt insecure, tiring.
I remember Amber today, not as representing the invisible population of a country unable to tackle its vast tribes, but as a bright faced young one who could be beautiful in her spirit and gift us a smile like that, no matter what her circumstance.