I got out of the office cab on the main road and started walking towards home. It was sunny when we left the office. However dark clouds huddled menacingly in the sky now, making it look like a raging black ocean over my head. Soon, big drops of water started spattering the road off the day's dust and grime. Since my Haversack with the laptop has a waterproof cover, I didn't worry too much about the rain. I walked home getting drenched by the minute. That is when I saw them. A lone woman and six children, construction workers at the site, on the way home. The building she was working on was yet to get off the ground. So she had no roof over head. She was also pregnant. From her looks, I placed her to be from Rajasthan. Construction workers in south India, rarely have more then two kids. The children aged from 2 to 7, were huddled together, as the thin plastic that passes off as their roof, was madly flapping in the wind, leaving them at the mercy of the lashing rain. For some reason, her pregnant state made me very angry. There was going to be another kid here soon, huddling with the rest, braving the elements. Children of the Earth.
I walk home with a heavy step. My mother is horrified to see me. She cannot understand why I will not take shelter under a tree or in a shop. I am fed up of telling her that I love to get drenched in the rain now and then. Very soon I am snuggling under the blanket, after a hot meal, Raasnadhi podi liberally applied on my head, reading William Dalrymples “From the Holy Mountain”. I am a sucker for such books.
My mind wanders to the lady and her gaggle of kids. The rain is raging furiously now. I wonder how she will cook with her stove all wet. Finally I get up and decide to take some food for her and her kids. I pack two loaves of bread, some potato curry and some bananas and set off towards the construction site, amidst howls of protest from my mom. She wants me to wait for the rain to abate. But it doesn't look like letting up.
The lady is still there, standing in the rain stoically. I give her the food and tell her in Hindi to give the kids too. There is no expression on her face. She calls out to the kids and they appear, one by one from under the half constructed stairs, looking at me wide eyed. I stand there. I want to see the kids getting the food. She hands out the bread, two slices a piece and some potato curry to each kid. The kids eat mechanically, shivering in the cold. They wipe their hands on the seat of their pants and look at no one in particular. She hands out the bananas. It is also consumed without expression. I decide to leave before my mother calls the Indian Army.
The familiar stab of annoyance resurfaces when I see her swollen belly. I ask her when her baby is due. She says, any day. I ask her why she has so many children. She looks at me puzzled like I have asked her why the sun rises in the East. I tell her to stop having kids after this baby. She looks around for her husband perhaps. Maybe he will answer this girl’s weird questions, her eyes seems to say.
I leave the place resignedly. The rain still rages on. She and the kids are out there. Waiting for it to abate, so that they can go to sleep. Nothing amiss for them. Just another day in the journey called life.