I was walking along the pavement when I felt somebody pulling my shirt from behind. I turned round to see a little girl, hardly in her fourth, indicating to give her some alms. She was gesturing to be hungry. My one rupee or two rupees coin would solve her hunger and possibly many other problems associated with poverty. This was the same girl I saw everyday when I used to pass in my motor cycle. I had some work in that place, I was going to fetch my bike and head for the home.
As a matter of fact, I never give alms to children. That’s my insignificant effort to deter them from begging. But I know, many people do. Actually most of us do. And thus trapping them to begging all their life.
Nevertheless, I decided to offer her some food. There was a bakery-stall nearby. She had a dusty, torn doll at hand. One leg missing. Probably one eye was also at a loss. May be a castaway from a ‘rich man’s daughter’. I guess the doll was happy, if it had a heart. Because this little girl was hugging tight the rag at her bossom. Like a motherbird.
I offered her anything she liked. She was all round-eyes! She was repeatedly looking at me; not believing that somebody was actually offering her something to choose. Beggars cannot be choosers. Probably she has heard it already. And have understood by now.
She chose to have a pink biscuit. The one that you know is laced with cheap untested food colours. As an adult, you would always stay away from it, but to a baby, it’s irresistible.
After she finished eating it, she smiled coyly at me. Not sure if asking one more would be wise enough. I assured her to go on and try one more item. Since we both didn’t understand each others' language, it was all gestures.
She pointed her finger to me. I immediately understood that she is now depending upon my judgment. That pink biscuit didn’t taste great. Must be. I offered her rose-cake, which she devoured with great satisfaction. All the way I was looking at her gleaning eyes. She was very happy. So was I. she was looking at me furtively time-to-time. Whenever our eyes met she was smiling coyly. But there were flashes of pure bliss in her eyes, may be gratitude. I am not very good in reading signals of the eyes.
I noticed, despite her dirty clothes and appearance, she is a baby with exceptional beauty. Her hair is thick. Teeth are perfect, shoulders are slender and fingers elongated. This is what we call the hands of a sitar artist. She is fair and has a perfect nose. Very unlikely she is from South India. Her features doesn’t match that of South Indians. But probably she has been raised here. Because she was speaking the local language. Who knows she might have been from a good family. You get to see photos of one year old missing in newspaper almost everyday. Who knows, her parents, may be in Delhi are still waiting for her. Asking about her parents would be futile though.
She was satisfied by now. Her tiny stomach filled. With the help of a local, I asked her where she lives, she pointed towards North. Having known her address, I asked her whom she stays with. She said mother! And lo, her mother was present there, right in front of us. Waiting for her chance to be fed in the bakery.
As soon as I looked at her, she started doing all sorts of antics, as if she has not eaten for years. She was staring at the glass display like a greedy and looking at me in a hapless manner. Yeah, I am the savior.
She was dark, actually charcoal-black. Stout and had square, short fingers. The kind of fingers I hate from the core of my heart. No way that she was her mother. I asked her (with the help of the local guy) where from she got her. She said she was her mother. We coaxed her and told her to say the truth. But she was adamant. And hungry!
I decided not to give her anything, not a single paisa. She followed for a good distance and finally gave up the chase. I think she uttered some curse too.
I came home. And after some brain-storming with my cousin and her friends, decided to ADOPT the girl! Or at least, making an arrangement under which she get proper care and a proper education. I will pay for her living and education. I would admit her in a good orphanage. I was sure that the girl did not belong to that woman. And I was also sure, as is the fate of these girls; they will be forced into the flesh trade as soon as they are twelve. They will be sold.
So why not ‘sell’ me. We decided to offer the mother five thousand rupees to give the kid to us. Somebody suggested informing the police before I do anything. Valid point! I had to agree. The whole night we devised the plan. I was an overnight hero.
Morning, the same time, I went to that place only to find a different person replacing the girl. It was a boy of around the same age. I searched for my little girl the whole day, across the city. Asking everybody. But she and her ‘mother’ were not to be found.
It’s three months now. And I am sure, she must be somewhere in India...begging, clutching another piece of torn doll and dreaming. It’s a huge country. Many cities. No chance of getting her. No way.
To narrow down my search options, I have to wait ten years. There are innumerable cities. Whereas, the number of brothels are not that many.