Who fills their cup of joie de vivre?
By: Desh Bir
The other day I found myself scanning the temporary stalls at the Dussehra fair of our town after a gap of nearly twenty years. Way back then, I had to visit the site almost every alternate day to meet our son’s demand for such a tour to buy Ram Lila trinkets. Yet this time now, it was our grandson’s turn to goad me to take him there.
As is wont, the child was engrossed in watching with greedy eyes the colourful items at display left and right. While catering to the child’s curiosities, I was , simultaneously, trying to absorb the essence of the existence of those stall owners who had made it possible to embellish the otherwise desolate and unclean grounds where there was a rainbow-shine and a rising surge of vibrancy.
Suddenly a sight caught my daughter’s attention. A three-year old was putting the stick-kulfi alternately in his one-year old sibling’s mouth and then in his own mouth. The younger one, sitting in his brother’s reassuring cozy lap, resented it when the elder one pulled it towards his own mouth. Yet, smile would return to his face when hurriedly the elder one put the kulfi- stick back in his mouth. Both of them noticed us watching them fondly and the elder one smiled no end.
There was a blithe abandon in the children’s act of shared the licking of the dripping delicacy. Both of them sat on a dusty plastic sheet while their mother, in her twenties , sat in the next slot amid her bright, showy toy ware, waiting for customers coming with children who could insist on buying something from her store laid out on ground.
As she noticed us relishing the act of our fondly watching her children, she shared a smile with us which, perhaps, even the proverbial Mona Lisa would have envied. She had her cup of joy full to the brim, no matter she had no customers at the moment.
At one shop on a steel-bed selling plastic swords, daggers and clubs, the boy attending to us was hardly ten years. It seemed that he was demanding an exorbitantly high price. I bade for half the amount he had quoted. Instead of bringing a scowl or frown to his face, he only smiled and said like an accomplished professional that it did not match his purchase price. Now he got busy speaking to the equally young co-professional vending items on the next bed. No despair! No resentment seemed to gall his mood! He was enjoying every moment of his time and sure enough, he was more thankful to destiny than most of us are. At least I and my daughter felt that the boy was much more blessed than we were! That compelled us to goad him into talking to us again and to sell his wares for a price that suited him.
A little further, the child accompanying us took fancy to the facemask of a lion hanging on an unattended baton stand. Two girls sat gossiping at the next bed-shop as they sipped their evening tea. It took them sometime before the younger one surmised that we wanted to buy something.
Showing no hurry to hook the young customer, she turned to us and quoted a price. Again , it seemed a bit more than the item deserved. When I made a reasonable offer, she spoke to the elder girl and the deal was clinched. Now she didn’t have the change and turned for it to the next shop.
There she indulged in some joke and forgot all about us for a couple of seconds. She seemed to be ecstatically immersed in the act of living the present moment to its minutest fraction. As we turned to go back home we were haunted by the question as to who fills the cup of joie de vivre for these simple folk who have neither much money nor a comfortable home nor a healthy work place ! The question still lingers….!!!!
(The author is a Retired Principal Govt. College, Hoshiarpur (Punjab)