Pearls of Pragmatism, in a train

I had a choice of editing the conversation, for it involves some really harsh realities but then, editing will mean turning my face away from reality……..I have translated the conversation for the benefit of those who don’t understand Hindi well.

Scene: Karnataka Express. I was on my way to Delhi. The train had just crossed Ghaziabad and it was pretty cold. My lips were chipping and I looked into my purse for some lip gel or something. There was nothing of that sort but I found a lipstick. It was good enough to protect my lips from chipping so I started putting it on. A vendor girl (who was selling socks) started watching me intently. She slowly walked over to me and sat down next to me.

Girl: Didi, ye lipstick hai? (Is this a liptstick?)

Me: (with a smile) Haan (Yes)

Girl: Main dekh loon? (Can I see?)

Me: Haan haan (Ya ya)

She took the lipstick and rolled it around in her hand with sheer astonishment in her eyes and then, handed it back to me as if it were made of porcelain.

Girl: Ye to bahut mehengi hogi na? (This must be very expensive)

Me: Nahin to. Maine jab khareedi thi to chaar sau sattar ki thi. (No, when I bought it, it was for Rs. 470)

Girl: (with her eyes wide with horror) CHAR SAU SATTAR??? (470???)

Me: Arey magar ek lipstick kitne saal chalti bhi to hai….. (But one lipstick lasts for years)

I don’t think she was very convinced with my logic as 470 MUST be a big amount for her.

Girl: Meri to sirf dus rupaye ki hai, gaon ke mele se le thi maine. (Mine is only for 10 bucks, I bought it from a country fair) 

Me: Oh, magar sasti lipstick lagaane se hoth kharaab ho jaate hain. Tumko lagani nahin chahiye. (Oh, but cheap lipsticks can spoil your lips, you shouldn’t use them) 

Girl: Arey Didi, hum koi shauk ke liye thode hi lagate hain. Lagani padti hai. Nahin to samaan nahin bikega. (It’s not that I’m fond of lipsticks but I have to put it on so that I can sell my wares) 

I gave her a puzzled look as I couldn’t draw a connection. Lipsticks and selling goods didn’t have any obvious link as far as I could tell. I think she read my expression…..

Girl: Didi, aadmi log to sundar ladkiyon se khareedna pasand karte hain, to humko sajna hi padta hai. (Men like to buy wares from pretty females, so we need to deck up)

Me: (with an apparent horror on my face) Oh

Girl: Aur kabhi kabhi to humko besharam banna padta hai. Apna dupatta jaan boojh ke giraana padta hai. Kuchh kuchh aadmi log theek hote hain, magar kuchh to yahan wahan haath lagaate hain. Lekin agar iske baad wo dus bees ka samaan khareed le to humko to faayda hi hai na! (Sometimes, we have to become shameless. I have to let me stole slip intentionally. Some men are ok but some touch us here and there. But after touching, if they buy things worth 10 – 20 rupees, it’s a gain for us!)

I was stunned. What all these girls have to do for earning! It was pretty shocking for me to hear it so matter-of-factly from a girl who said she was 13 years old. If she was complaining about it, maybe, I’d have felt better but it seemed she’d already come to terms with the way life is!!!!  She went on talking as if she had no idea of the turmoil in my mind.

Girl: Main to tab bhi bhali hoon. Mera to abhi tak paani nahin fata hai. Meri umar ki bahut saari ladkiyan to kab se so rahi hain paison ke liye. (I’m still better, I’m still a virgin. Many of the girls of my age have been sleeping with men for money for a long time)

Me: (this time, truly shocked) Magar tum logon ki umar to itni kam hai!!!! (But you’re all so young) 

Girl: (with a smile) Kam umar? Arey nahin Didi! Jitni umar kam hui, utna hi paani fatne ke paise jyaada milte hain. Dus saal ki ladki hui aur sundar hui to paanch hazaar tak milte hain. Socho zara, itna saara paisa, sirf do ghante mein!!! (Less age? No no. The lesser the age, the more the payment. If the girl is 10 years and is somewhat pretty then men pay upto 5000 for taking her virginity. Imagine, so much money in just two hours!!!!)

Me:  (I could stand it no more) Chhi, kitne gande se log hain. Aisa kaise kar sakte hain? Bachchon ki izzat ka nahin sochte! (How horrible! How can they do this? They don’t even think of the children’s honour)

I was referring to the men who offer to buy off the 10 – 11 year old girls but I think she thought I was referring to the parents who sell their children off!

Girl: Didi, jab bhookh lagti hai to ijjat ke baare mein kaun sochta hai? (When hunger strikes, who thinks of honour?)

I was tongue tied and she walked off. Life will be just another day for her but I couldn’t think for some time! Reality hurt, I knew, but this bad, I didn’t know! She had accepted life as it was. I never heard the complaining tone in her voice in about the 15 mins I spoke to her. She knew life was harsh and ME? I didn’t. Or probably, I didn’t want to know!!!!

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5 Comments

  1. Ananth said,

    November 29, 2007 at 3:11 pm

    I am as sad as you are. Though I knew that all this happens, hearing it from the horses mouth is always shocking!

  2. shamit said,

    November 29, 2007 at 5:19 pm

    Reading it itself is numbing, the matter of fact acceptance. Firstly I cant imagine how you would have felt speaking to her, and then I fail to fathom how do these minors, kids actually, live life this way absolutely illegal? Most painful.

  3. Tata said,

    November 29, 2007 at 5:42 pm

    This has been happening since the birth of the Earth. The only pity is that people who have money do not think of rescuing such kids. They can afford to spend hundreds on lipsticks and other unnecessary accessories to keep themselves, they feel, looking beautiful. Beauty is in the person seeing – not in the person herself. How God has made, one should live with it.

    Now about the kid you met on the train and had the conversation with – did you feel any sympathy for her and tried to help her? No!!! Then what for is this life and the money you have and the hundreds you spend on supposedly beautifying yourself?

  4. charles said,

    December 2, 2007 at 5:13 am

    Amazing that human beings can ever adapt to that brand of degradation. What would happen if she traded places with those more fortunate? I wonder if the blessings we take for granted would mean as much to her, once she experienced the initial fascination. Something tells me that anyone exposed to greater comforts would not wish to go back. Rather sad, though familiar, that she never knew an innocence that others would consider normal. One can only hope that she might recover from it, but I have known those who never do, even after years of expensive therapy. A candle has gone out within them. I can only try to offer comfort.

  5. Kripa said,

    December 3, 2007 at 1:57 am

    It’s a disgusting reality but unfortunately exists everywhere in the world no matter how civilized the country may seem to be!


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