I recently turned 18 and one of the few advantages of turning into an adult is that, I can now drive ‘legally’. By drive I mean a car and not a Segway. So, my parents decided to put me into a driving school (it’s fun initially, when you hold the steering wheel, and drive a full metal box and man oeuvre it and…… but then it gets boring). So one day as I was taking my driving lessons, I noticed something.
Now, let me first say I am very careful and I don’t let my mind wander while driving, however, that day I was at mercy of my ‘deep’ thoughts. As I was reversing my car, and my instructor beside me was giving me pointless instructions, my eyes caught the sight of a lady. She looked like the domestic help of some rich house, as her tattered saree and the dog beside her was a clear indication that her job was to walk the dog of the family. Her face was round and she had little hair, which were dyed red. I can’t really tell her exact age, as years of back breaking work had made her wrinkles more vivid and she stooped like an elderly lady. She just sat on the footpath and stared blankly into oblivion, and amazingly the dog did the same. Maybe both were tired of walking. I kept looking at her and wondered about her life, her family and her struggles.
I couldn’t help but wonder that does anyone ask her ‘how has she been?’, or how is she today or how has her day been. Nobody ever asks her about her dreams, her aspirations, what she wanted to be before she realized that her dreams didn’t really matter, as she was not born into a privileged home. Her blank expression gave me no clue. Does she still dream of a better life? Or has she lost all hope? I looked at her closely, and I noticed some scars, maybe she was a silent survivor of domestic violence and walking this dog was her only happy time. Or maybe her ‘masters’ hit her, or maybe a childhood injury. There were so many questions, but hardly any answers. Her whole life was a mystery to me. Is she literate? Does she ever feel lonely? Does she yearn for respect? People passed her and everyone went on with their daily lives, no one once gave her a second look. She is a no one in the society, a person who is insignificant to others. Yet her whole life is dedicated to serving others.
These thoughts made me think about the several others that had the same life as hers. Those who were practically no one in the society, yet someone. These are the people whom we look down upon, as they are “poor”, but forget that they are still human, and sleep like us, work for money like us and have dreams just like us. Then I realized that how we all say that how ‘every life is important’, but easily ignore the lives of these people. Let’s put this into perspective- my dog walker lady and an actor is caught in a fire, who do you think will be rescued first? I can already is the headlines- “XYZ actor dies” with no mention of the other causalities, and such easily the life of the dog walker was rendered insignificant and no even worth mentioning.
But whom can we fault? It’s not like this phenomena of favouring the rich exists only in India, it is universal. Everywhere, the rich gets the treatment first, the VIPs are evacuated first, and the exploitation of the poor doesn’t really matter to most of us. Let me pose a question here. Would we feel comfortable if our domestic help sits on the sofa beside us? Answer honestly. No. That’s the truthful simple answer. Many a times they express their grievances and their toils, but we simply sympathize with them and go on with our lives, some of us don’t even pay full attention to their words, but here if they give us some juicy gossip of their lives we are alert and listen with intense curiosity. Forget the ‘poor’ whom we don’t know, do we even offer our domestic help a glass of water?
After some time I saw the dog walker and get up along with the dog and walk along the footpath, a limp in her steps- further questions; I never saw her again, she was just a mystery lady who went away living her life (unknown to me), and left me searching for answers.