Things had a different setting this mother’s day. I had joined my senior alumnus to the usual village camp, our adopted village Shorpanajeri.
Being a city-bird, I had never been to a village. I always imagined a filmy village, one with vast fertile lands, the huge banyan tree, the usual village lake where you get to see the villagers heroics, etc., but when I visited this place for the first time, say 6 months back, my imagination got a complete shock. Shorpanajeri is in the outskirts of the Chennai city, inhabited by 9 to 10 families, who belong to a tribe called ‘irula‘.
‘Irulas‘ are basically snake charmers, at least this was their ancestors’ profession and so the name. As there aren’t many forest these days, they do not have any jobs. Whenever they come across a daily wage job, they take it up. The hygiene levels were very low, and almost all the kids had a skin infection. Since I wasn’t a part of this programme in the first few months, I can imagine how much more challenging it must have been for my seniors. However, with the grace of the lord, the monthly medical camps are helping their health a bit.
The highlight of the place is the set of sprightly kids, who welcome us and bid us bye with a huge smile on their faces. Their smile makes you contemplate how a single visit to a person’s place can make a difference.
So what happened this visit:
1) One of the boys announced to us during the games hour, “He is having the powder in his pocket.”
I didn’t know what that meant, and looked at my senior. She said, “It should be tobacco powder”.
A mini argument followed between the boys, and my senior stepped into the scene, and said.”Tobacco is not good for health kanna, please give it to me.” One other boy helped us in taking the packet from the kid, and within 5 minutes, it was in my hands.
Then a 4-year-old boy came to me and said, “Akka, there are few other people here, who eat it you know. They even force my mom to eat.”
I asked for his mom, but he said she was away on work. I told him to make sure neither he nor his mom eats it. That it is not good for health, bla bla bla… After our conversation, the kid was with me full time, and followed me wherever I went. Such a sweetheart, and my heart went out to him. A part of me hopes with all my heart, for kids like these out there, who are like sponge, absorbing the ways of the world rather innocently. One would never know what could happen to them as they grow older.
I could only pray that these kids get the right guidance. After all, spreading awareness is one thing, but when your community lives like that, you cannot wager much. Many of them though, listen eagerly over time, who were cobbed by hesitation in the beginning.
2) One of the girls called ‘satya’ is about 12/13 years old. A wonderful smile dances on her lips always. She is one who spots our vehicle before we even near the road, and then comes running to us. Welcoming us with a big ‘sairam akka/madam’ whatever. Adorable. She is the eldest of girls, and the rest are between 2 to 6 years of age. Boys, however, are more of teens and preteens.
Anyway, for few weeks now, it seems they have started having a volley ball session to entertain the kids. I had missed out on the camp for about 2 months, so I was eager to witness the play. Satya came to me and bragged how the girls had won over the boys last week. The teen boys gave an immediate counter, “We weren’t there last week akka, they played only with small boys”, and gave a chuckle.
It was time for play, and we feared these tiny girls might not be able to handle the teen boys’ rash/mighty blow. We brought in the concept of first 10 mins of boys play, followed by girls play, so that everyone gets a good chance. This was enough, Satya’s eagerness to lay a hand on the winning streak got busted. She wanted the ball right away, and was upset big time. Little did we realise her temper would rise in the mere 10 minutes, as we called the girls for play.
We cajoled her and cajoled her and cajoled her, but nothing worked. She gave us an “I am angry, and that’s it” look. Phew! The girl had her mind, and no amount of coaxing did the trick. She refused to join, while the others girls had their session… 😦
At the end of it all, while bidding bye my seniors, and I went to her home and coaxed her again. This time she listened to what we said, but the smile was still missing. The best part was that even the boys tried to make her feel better saying it is just a game, “next week you can play first”. Finally, just before we stepped inside the car, she hugged and said, “kovam elam onum illa, summa dhan.” (I am not angry, I was simply playing with you)…
We heaved a sigh of relief, and told her, “See sathya, we all come here from very far just to be with you all for sometime, and if you get hurt, it hurts us too. So keep smiling okay?” There it was once again, her loving smile lighting the place 🙂 Thank god for that!
3) As we were heading out, another kid say 6 to 7 years, came running, shook our hands and said, “Thanks akka! iniki engalku sapadu potadhuku.” (Thank you sister, for giving us good food today.) My! those words were really loaded… Her innocent voice is still ringing in my ears. With a lump in my throat, I said,”oh please kanna! don’t thank us, It is God who provides us everything! Thank Him! Look forward for next week okay, we will meet you then.”
“Make sure all of you eat those protein packets… Make sure you wash your hands before eating…” a host of ‘make sure’ statements followed, and they religiously nodded to all of it.
“Seri kanna bye, adutha varam pakalam.” (see you next week kiddos, bye)
“Okay akka. Bye. Sairam!”, so saying the entire lot of teens and preteens ran behind our vehicle, as they bid bye with a wide grin on their faces…
Wah. It was a satisfying Sunday morning.
Now I know what it feels to be a mother. Only few days back I was conversing with one of my friends, and I had remarked how I think I don’t have maternal instincts. Neither does she. We are not this “annomonnu… kunnumonnu” kind of kid lovers. They are cute. Full stop. Not anything more than that.
Everyone emotes – the sympathy – empathy – love – care – patience – everyone has those, but mothers are the epitome of such characteristics. To provide, to nurture, to love, to care. My! To have those instincts unconditionally, especially for kids with whom you need a lot of patience… Well, it makes the title of a mother that much amazing. As for today, I got to experience a pinch of that motherhood out of the blue.
Here’s to mothers, and a hearty Mother’s day wishes to all moms out there. God bless!
And to all those Shorpanajeri kids out there, as long as we have a million loving moms around the world, I know you will all have a wonderful life.
Amen… Masha Allah… Samastha loka sukino bhavanthu… 🙂
And most of all, here’s to our cosmic mother. Hear! Hear!