If you ever need to feel humble, visit an orphanage. I did.
This is all about the when-what-why-how that my mind encounters as it relives those moments…
The place is technically called an orphanage-cum-senior citizens’ home. But I would call it just an orphanage, mainly because it houses orphans of love – souls brutally spurned. Of the whole day, I remember too much, and I remember nothing. Picking at the remnants of the visit from my mind, I realize I seem to have grown years older suddenly.
I walk in, greeted by a pup, in all probabilities orphaned like its co-inmates. I try to greedily digest every frame of the scene as fast as I can. I freeze, caught unawares, stuttering for words, overwhelmed at the whole bundle of emotions hurled at me by the children. I am asked endless questions, “What is your name? Where are you from? Why are you dressed in pink? How old are you? Can I touch your nose stud? Can you lift me up? Are your fingers longer than mine? When will I get as tall as you? Have you studied second grade? Can you play hide and seek?” the glee in their faces mounting at having somebody for asking and for being asked about something.
I am shocked by what I see in the eyes of each of them, young and old alike. Looking into each eye is like staring at an ocean, an entity with outward life, but with an unfathomable depth. What makes these eyes so frighteningly wise? When did these eyes run out of tears? But with that haunting wisdom stops the similarity. The eyes of the children radiate undeterring self-confidence, with the inextinguishable gleam that comes from nurturing hopes that, when expressed, are always downtrodden. They look at me with solidly strong eyes that warn me I can’t pierce into their beings. The older people are magnetic… drawing me into their bones with their doleful eyes. They seem to be regretful of being able to see. It’s as if the eyesight is a painful reminder of what all they once saw and what all they are compelled to see now. The pleas in the eyes cry out loud that they would give anything to go back to their childhood days… leading lives of being wanted. It’s as if some giant hands have taken the children’s eyes, fitting them in the older people’s faces, punching the older people’s eyes into the eye sockets of the children.
They start playing hide and seek, the children clapping their hands in contagious enthusiasm, the older people looking on with pitiable yearning. It is like touching two ends of a spectrum altogether at once. It somehow gives me the feeling that I am there to learn. I feel they are telling me I still have a long way to go.
I feel they are all holding open dreams in outstretched palms, open to be seen by those who would care and dare to even pause from their busy impatient lives… a flaming desire in the eyes, for a miracle, to live happily ever after, as how it happens in fairy tales.
I pray, after a very long time in my life, that they should make it through these everyday battles. I turn to leave, a lump in my throat, tear drops in my eyes, my mind heavy with the realization of what’s inevitable. My heart full of the ghosts of their footsteps, I walk into the maddening world.