Where are they?
My family of bibliophiles set out to the crowded World Book Fair at Delhi to satiate our obsession with books. Admittedly, I might be a case of the ‘bordering on paranoia mom,’ so I ran my kids over a dozen times on the “What to do if you are separated from us” drill. Our phone numbers, and residential and e-mail addresses were memorized, the various organizers (the people with the tags) were pointed out, and my children were under strict orders to go to these people with the tags and report themselves lost if they were separated from us.
Instructions given, everything in place, I could now concentrate on taking in the smell of books, the titillating sight of thousands of publications and the mere thrill of being engulfed by them. Not entirely though. The marvels of motherhood!! My inbuilt antenna was up - I could sense the co-ordinates of my kids’ presence; my preternatural eyes were on - I could see the children in spite of my two physical eyes glued to the books.
A day well spent, a day passed too soon, we finally dragged four tiny tired feet and four more reluctant feet out of the fair. I was relieved. We had reported no losses and no separations. Into a recently done up underpass, through a rare landscaped road divider, and then through a more seemingly familiar and offensively unkempt underpass we walked to our car.
In the second underpass, there were four street kids – all happy and beaming – playing a game. It looked like great fun, at least, to them. They would hide themselves in four little depressions in the pillars and jump out all at once, shouting in unison, “Mummy Papa Kaha Hei? Mummy Papa Kaha Hei?”
They were highly spirited and overjoyed with their game; my kids were skeptical of these street kids and their unkempt appearance, but as all kids can, they too sensed the fun factor in the game and were smiling. But I was troubled. I was troubled the whole night; intermittently, the whole of the next day; every now and then, even now, when I recall the incident. And by the law of progression and nonchalance, I should perhaps fade this memory out of my system by swaddling myself with other brighter and happier incidents.
But I know that I will never be able to get this incident out of my mind. This is going to trouble me forever. The happy faces, the merry laughter and the thrilled game were all amazing. The jingle too was mirthful from their lips, but when it reached my ears it was taunting and scorching, barbing and pleading.
I wonder how the jingle would continue (if it were to).
Mummy Papa kaha hei? Mummy Papa, where are they?
Mummy Papa ghar mei hei. Mummy Papa are in the house.
Hamara ghar kaha hei? Where is our house?
Hame nahi pata hei. We don’t know.
Street kids, stolen kids, orphaned kids and castaway kids, I am sorry we are letting this happen to you.