Waiting for Rampal: A Leaf from the Past

Sitting in a coffee house, waiting for a business client, I was finding it difficult to stay calm. I was forced to meditate on the nature of ‘wait’ and how ‘waiting’ impacts the human mind. As I kept ruminating, my thoughts unconsciously led me to the time when I was still a young child. I traversed back in time, dived into my past and became completely oblivious of my present ‘wait’.

Waiting could be exasperating. It could be taxing, tiring, humiliating. It can leave you fuming, fretting, annoyed. Sometimes, however, waiting can be fun, especially if one is waiting for ones D-Day, expecting a promotion, a salary hike or meeting a long lost friend or a loved one.

Sitting in a coffee house, waiting for a business client, I was finding it difficult to stay calm. I was forced to meditate on the nature of ‘wait’ and how ‘waiting’ impacts the human mind. As I kept ruminating, my thoughts unconsciously led me to the time when I was still a young child. I traversed back in time, dived into my past and became completely oblivious of my present ‘wait‘.

On a hot Friday afternoon, in a small sleepy town in the remote corner of the country somewhere in central India, the kids waited anxiously, straining their ears for a distinct sound. It was almost 3.00 p.m. The sound was expected anytime between 3.00 p.m to 4.00 p.m. The long and dreary summer afternoon had prolonged the wait. It seemed like ages before the familiar ‘toot-toot’ of the bicycle horn could be heard at a distance. The kids rushed to the window and there at the curve of the road emerged a hazy outline of a man riding an old black bicycle. As the figure came closer, the sound now became loud and clear. The kids grew excited; the curls of their lips widened into broad grins. The kids jumped and leaped towards the main iron gate entrance at the far end of the garden road with finely trimmed hedge on either side and small white and purple petunias flowering in the artistically designed flowerbeds that were encircled by small pebbles and painted white with lime powder (chuna). Stop! stop! they shouted in chorus. The hooting sound and the cycle came to a standstill.

The mysterious rider alighted from the bicycle, there were two large white bags hanging down from the two handles at either side of the bicycle. The bags were overstuffed with soft, spongy, sweet smelling, mouth-watering delicacies, whose aroma filled the air. “Why did you come after so many days, this time” ?, asked one of the kids. The lean and thin man with dark brown complexion and small brown eyes responded with a feeble smile. He unloaded the bags  with mild difficulty as his left arm was amputated or he was a victim of natural disability. Mother signaled them to come near the shaded verandah. She asked him if he needed some water, as he looked pale and worn out. Mother went inside and brought him a glass of water and some jaggery, which he accepted gladly. After that, he asked the kids in a more enthusiastic voice “What would you like to have children” ? The bag when opened, appeared like a Pandora’s box which revealed packs of freshly baked cakes, candies, pastries, cream rolls, muffins and assorted cookies. There was a whole range of  delightful delicacies to satiate the sweet tooth. The children picked their favorites and their hearts were filled with boundless joy. Mom payed the bills, the kids waved happy hands and in unison shouted, “Come soon again Rampal bhaiya!

Rampal, the thin man with one arm and a bag full of goodies used to visit the Campus once in every 15 days. He was a welcome guest and indeed the most awaited one. He was a harbinger of priceless happiness to these kids. Living in a campus residential area, situated on the top of a hill, surrounded by nature, cut off from mainstream, where marketplace was miles away, the small vendors like Rampal were a blessing in disguise.

Today, there are a thousand places just round the corner where you will find the most exquisite of bakers and confectioners. The market is flooded with shops which offer the finest and most scrumptious treats of delicious cakes and cookies. Pineapple cake, Truffle cake, Fruit cake, Black Forest, Marble cake, there is an array of cakes available. I relish them all, but nothing tastes as pleasing, as luscious, as gratifying, as heavenly as the cakes and cream rolls that rolled out of the magical bag of  Rampal. None of these can match up to the aroma and the sweetness that was delivered to our doorsteps by Rampal.

The sound of the cycle bell is still ringing in my ears,  I can see you riding towards our house with your bags filled with tempting yummy delights. I am standing at the same  old gate hoping to find you there…

Waiting for Rampal was like an endless wait but the ‘sweetest’ one that one could have ever craved for. It is amazing how different people from different walks of life, touch our lives and leave such lasting impressions on our mind and heart.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Murder, Rape, Violence,Child Abuse: Who will Take the Responsibility?

What kind of a hell are we living in? The temples of learning have been transformed into dark caves of horror and bloodbath. What is this environment of violence, abuse, humiliation and shame that our children are wrestling with? Even as investigations take place, inquiries are set up, media cries foul and activists spring into action, can justice be ever done to the innocent lives? Who can bring back to life the 7 year old to his parents?Who can heal the injured hearts and the battered souls of young ones? Can there be a release from these intensely painful and tormenting experiences?

 

Seven year old boy brutally murdered in school toilet, rape of 5 year old in campus premises, 4 year old child made hostage for non-payment of fees, 11 year old girl child punished to stand in boys toilet for not wearing the school uniform? If a child is not safe in his own school, where is the child safe today? It is beyond words to describe the plight of  the parents who admitted their child to school to provide him better education; they woke up every morning with a hope in their hearts,  a prayer in their mind,  prepared the breakfast, fed their kid, dressed him up , escorted him to the safety of the school gate and left him to the secure environment of the school, only to discover one day, that their little boy, their beloved son is brutally killed inside the school. Oh Mourn! mourn the loss of humanity; pity, pity the death of society; Condemn; condemn the culprits of heinous crime. Is that all we can do? Sit back in silence and watch with fear the game of evil-doers?

What kind of a hell are we living in? The temples of learning have been transformed into dark caves of horror and bloodbath. What is this environment of violence, abuse, humiliation and shame that our children are wrestling with? Even as investigations take place, inquiries are set up, media cries foul and activists spring into action, can justice be ever done to the innocent lives? Who can bring back to life the 7 year old to his parents?Who can heal the injured hearts and the battered souls of young ones? Can there be a release from these intensely painful and tormenting experiences? Above all who is to be blamed and who should be held accountable for such shameless occurrences?

What is more disturbing is that the investigations have revealed severe security lapses. There are no adequate provisions in schools to monitor the security of children. While most public schools do not shy away from charging hefty fees from parents, they have shown little sensitivity in adopting safety measures and evolving preventive strategies to counter such horrific deeds. When there are such demons lurking in every dark corner, shifting the blame and avoiding accountability is a crime. Hiding a crime is a bigger crime. Is the prestige, name, fame, ego of a person or institution larger than our morality? The children are the collective accountability of the parents, teachers, schools and nation as a whole. To provide them a happy, healthy and safe childhood is our primary responsibility. Instead of working in isolated spheres, it is time to join hands and come together to combat the evil forces. The guilty should be punished. Juvenile laws should be strengthened. There should be no mercy for such inhuman behaviour.

At this moment of deep crisis and loss of faith, safeguarding our children should be our  immediate priority. What steps can be taken by the school authorities and parents to help create a secure environment?

  • Focus on prevention, preparedness, response and recovery
  • Tighten security by guarding entry points, corridors, galleries, restrooms and other private corners
  • Restrict entries to kids zone, keep high vigilance by maximizing the use of security cameras, communication networks, lightening and fences
  • Strictly conduct police verification of all staff and employees before hiring
  • School visitors management system should be consolidated by keeping single entry point and installing smart entry system and scanning machines at entry point to prevent unwanted visitors
  • School and Parent Community coalition should be established to develop transparent measures and ensure collective efforts. Participation of parents will enforce deeper trust and heightened sense of responsibility
  • Educate the children to spread awareness and empower them
  • Never think “It cannot happen to me”, create an emergency plan and a strong backup

What could be deeper tragedy of the human race to see its children suffer and live under constant fear of survival? Childhood is the most precious gift of lifetime, it is full of careless laughter, innocent talks, fairy tales, magic world charms and funny games. Happy childhood lays a foundation for a happy life. Engulfed by fear and surrounded by pain, children today are forced to live under pressure and swallow the pain. If we allow this to happen it will happen, if we do not act, nothing will change.

Let every child have the right to stay alive, let every corner become a secure palace, let not there be sleepless nights, no horror, no fear, no more abuses , no more tears.

Only we can bring back hope and joy, we can help the little ones to overcome fear. So raise your voice against injustice, let not the evil win. You can bring a change in the world. Join hands to let humanity win.

Be an agent of change…