We were travelling from my mother’s village to my father’s village, which is just 60km away from our farm for some religious meeting. It is getting hot in here as April approaches and we forgot to fill our water bottle. 20KM on the road, my elder son, 5yo Devagya, says – ” Dauaa (that’s what he calls me), pyas lagi ! ” (Father, i am thirsty). Thanks to Vindhyas on the north and Maa Narmada on the south, this area still has decent water table and most villages have operational handpumps with clean tasty portable water. Even if its not very pure, we prefer it anyday over the bottled water.
” Just look around Deva, we might see a handpump soon, and i will park the car by the side while you can go and drink water and also fetch it in this bottle for us.” , I told him in confidence.
Devagya is keenly looking outside the car window in search of a handpump that can quench his summer thirst. He gets little restless as every village passes. Finally, I spot a handpump and a small group of people around it , some drinking water , some perhaps waiting for the bus or a friend, some simply chewing tobacco – the favorite pastime of this area.
I park the car a little ahead of the handpump and give the bottle to Deva and tell him ” Ja , pee lena aur bhar ke le aana ! ” (Go, drink water and also get his bottle filled.) Handpumps are little tough to operatate for a 5 year old especially if not maintained well, which is often the case. He looks at the me with little surprise, ” How will I fill the bottle ? ” .
Ofcourse, you ideally would need someone running the hand pump while the other one fills the bottle. He was worried, how can he do the work of two ? How would he be able to drink water himself unless someone is operating the pump ? He could he my seat belts were on, so he knew that I am not coming out of the car.
I in all my confidence told him , and frankly I told him because I really meant it – ” Tum bus jao, bottle pakad ke handpump ke pass khade ho jana aur dekhna tumhari bottle bhar jayegi ! ” . (Just go and stand at the handpump and your bottle will be filled.)
I’ve always believed people are kind and loving. I have also experienced it. So, my faith is strong that when anyone will see a 5 year old boy next to a handpump with a bottle in hand , out of half a dozen people around the handpump, someone will definitely come forward and help the little boy. I , therefore, need not get out of the car.
I transferred the same faith on to him with more assurance, ” Beta, just go, someone will definitely help you …..you don’t even have to ask for help…” . Just like how every child has a trusting quality , Devagya , looked at me , trusted in what I said and went to the handpump.
Few minutes passed, he did not return. I waited few more when my wife said, Go, you only have to help him – no one is moving. I was surprised. This shouldn’t happen and doesn’t usually happen. Not at least in this part of the country where most people are still not so modern, not so educated and not so self-centered.
I looked out of the car window, I saw the boy standing with empty bottle in hand just next to the handpump, looking at the elders around as the elders also look at the child whenever they got time to go off their screen. A minute later, seeing that noone is coming forward to help – he put the bottle in front and ran back to operating handle – trying to fill the bottle all by himself.
I quickly came out of the car, and ran to the handpump and started operating it and filling his water bottle. He looked up and smiled so broadly.
“Aap bole the , jaoge aur bottle bhar jayegi…” (you said just go and water bottle will be filled…!?) he questioned me.
I lied to him and said, ” Yes, beta, I planned to quickly come out of car and surprise you by filling your water bottle…” See, didn’t it get filled ? Deva Nodded, a Yes. We both came back to the car and drank the sweet water and moved ahead….
As I drove, I wondered – what world am I gonna leave my child into ? Why no one helped the child ? May be another few minutes, someone would have helped the child ? May be they thought, he didn’t need water ? May be they saw the car and thought, some adult may also come …? So many may bes….
Amongst these may bes , my heart grew heavy…i was sad. I looked at the child and then remembered the entire scene of adults around….where is the love, care and sensitivity disappearing ? This feeling, this concern felt so real, even though it may not be directly applicable to his incident…..