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A question of answers

Should we judge people by their looks and by the clothes they wear? Ruchi Sharma shares her experience.

india Updated: May 20, 2006 20:06 IST

Drains were being dug for rainwater harvesting in our colony. It was a holiday for everyone except the construction labourers who had been moving from house to house digging drains in our street for over a month. I sat in my drawing room talking on the phone when suddenly I saw a woman labourer open the gate and put a thin tattered cloth in the shade on the floor of the verandah. She laid her baby on it and left for work. The baby wore a soiled T-shirt and torn shorts. It lay on its back and made futile attempts to turn on its side.

I observed that though the baby had hair on its head in the front, it had none on the back. I questioned my mother about this anomaly. My mother thought that perhaps the friction of lying on coarse sand had rubbed off the baby’s soft back hair.

The baby’s cries grew louder. A boy of four to five years entered our verandah, lifted the baby and cradled it in his arms.

He too was unkempt and wore a shabby pair of trousers and dirty T- shirt. He sat on the threadbare cloth, and rocked the baby. The baby quieted down. He looked like the baby’s elder brother. Another boy, about two years old, joined them, carrying two dirty plastic glasses. He filled them with water from the tap in the verandah and tried to make the baby drink water. In the absence of the mother both brothers were parenting the helpless baby.

The elder one sang a lullaby and the exhausted baby fell asleep. The two boys retreated to a corner and opened a bundle of dry chappatis. I gave them some vegetable to eat with that.

When the mother came to check on her children I couldn’t help asking, “How will you educate your children?” She said, “God who brought them into this world will provide for them. He is their caretaker. We may have no home but we have faith.” I had no answer.