Cry, our beloved country, that there are reportedly twenty million | art and culture | Hindustan Times
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Cry, our beloved country, that there are reportedly twenty million

Children orphaned or abandoned amidst us because of poverty or disability. They have nothing and nobody. And yet we sometimes fail to appreciate our own many handouts from destiny. Renuka Narayanan writes.

art and culture Updated: Jul 31, 2011 01:35 IST
Renuka Narayanan

Children orphaned or abandoned amidst us because of poverty or disability. They have nothing and nobody. And yet we sometimes fail to appreciate our own many handouts from destiny. I would like to retell a related story that has never ceased to haunt me. It’s about a little boy born blind in a poor village priest’s family near Delhi. His parents and siblings shunned him for being ‘imperfect’. The other children got sweets and clothes for Dipavali, he did not. If he sat at the door when his father taught other children, he was told to leave and not show his ‘unlucky’ face.

One day, when he was six, a band of wandering singers went by. Drawn by their songs, he stumbled after them. Unable to drive him away but unable to look after him either, they fed him that night but stole away early in the dawn while he slept. One cannot begin to imagine the child’s sense of abandonment; or his grief at the loss of even that fragile acceptance he enjoyed that one day in their company.

Stumbling on, he came to another village and sat by the pond. We will never know what prompted him to sing aloud but he did. It turned out that he could carry a note. The villagers stopped to listen and who knows why, told him he could stay and they would feed him. Perhaps it was the order of a kindhearted headman, or some good woman offered to mind him. Fed and sheltered by virtue of the accidental discovery of his voice, he even began to compose songs. Some people even wrote them down.

But stories of a certain figure disturbed the blind boy deeply. This person was everybody’s darling. His parents loved him, his playmates loved him; the whole village loved him; why, the whole world seemed to love him. Had he consumed all the love in human hearts, that there were only scraps left for the blind boy? A slow, painful journey of discovery brought the lonely orphan to the boy who had everything and everybody; it had begun really with that moment of total terror when he’d woken up and found himself absolutely alone.

You know him well. His name was Surdas and the other boy was Sri Krishna.

But what if Surdas had been unable to sing?

Renuka Narayanan writes on religion and culture