22 December, 2015
Rajghat Besant School, Varanasi

jaise aankhon ki dibiya mein nindiya
aur nindiya mein meetha sa sapna
aur sapne mein mil jaaye farishta sa koi 

jaise rangon bhari pichkaari
jaise titliyaan phoolon ki kyaari
jaise bina matlab ka pyaara sa rishta ho koi…

mohalle ki raunaq, galiyaan hain jaise
khilne ki zid par, kaliyaan hain jaise
mutthi mein mausam ki, jaise havaayein
ye hain buzurgon ke dil ki duaaein

kho na jaaein ye, taare zameen par

It was an early morning in December. The children of the school – about 300 of them – gathered in the assembly hall. They sat on the matted floor. There were no electric lights, but sunlight came in through the large doors and windows of the hall.

At the front of the hall about seven children sat facing the rest, with a teacher in the middle of them. They sang. They sang prayers, songs of devotion and goodness. They meant each and every one of them.

Their peers sang along. It was early morning and some looked like they had just woken up and walked in from their hostels. Others had wet hair and an appearance of having freshly bathed. There was something amidst them that was strangely missing in the city. It was a thing called happiness. He was surprised when he found it on the smiling faces of the adolescent girls quietly speaking to each other, girls who were beginning to have the depth of womanhood while still not having lost the unworldly openness of childhood.  Happiness was there in the innocence of the delicate and nimble six year-olds trying to find their place to sit, having just walked in. It was there in the quiet determination of the teenaged boys – waiting to go out into the world and yet, apprehensive of it. The eight year old girl with pigtails who came in late and sat next to him in the corner, gently moving to and fro with the music, had that innocent happiness too.

It was a place that was carefully protected from the madness of the world. It was a community where there was love and togetherness. The world entered it, still. The shrieking noises of horns and engines from the road outside, the air which seemed to be slightly unclean from the pollution in the city when one paid attention to one’s breathing, the older people in the school – teachers and visitors like himself – who were contaminated with the dirt and the fears that ran the world. All of these had entered the school. But like the beautiful forest that purifies toxic air and remains clean, the purity of the children remained intact, if not unblemished.

Soon, these children would be out of here and would be left unprotected in the madness of the world. The rush of the cities, the selfishness, the bad food, the terrifying crowds, the images and sounds – each of them designed to keep one’s attention as far away from the present moment as possible – all these would overwhelm them. Would they survive intact, with their innocence, purity and happiness? Perhaps not. As he looked at them and heard their prayers, his eyes became moist. The tears represented his own loss of that innocence. They also represented his sorrow for what would happen to these children. And they also represented his wonder at the fact that true innocence was still possible.

~ by tdcatss on December 29, 2015.

2 Responses to “Innocence”

  1. when i read something like this, i feel grateful for the existence….

  2. Thank you. I am curious about what you mean. :)

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