At the park
doing my health recovery walk
in the neighbourhood park,
I chanced upon this child.
Safe in his mother’s lap
on a newly painted bench,
that only mothers can understand.
After a couple of laps
of my speed walking,
I stopped and looked at the child.
He, advised by his mother,
Waived at me and smiled.
I got very curious to understand
And asked his mother:
“What’s he saying?”
Her tahzeeb didn’t prepare her
To speak to a stranger or
Perhaps I didn’t speak her language.
She just smiled, and I could see
The thousand similarities
Between the baby and its protector.
I was so charmed that I requested,
“Can I hold him for a while?”
My gesture, open arms at that,
scared the child.
He stopped smiling, turned around
and hid face in his mother’s pashmeena.
The mother braved him. Prodded,
so that he looks at me again.
She wished him to be brave
and friendly. To survive where he is
or, to run away to a land
far off from the splinters, shrapnels,
Clarion calls or pellet guns,
he needed to be brave and friendly.
I waited for a while,
with open arms and my best smile
and the lines I spoke,
the promises I made
of toys and sweets
should enamor a child,
or, that’s what I thought
with my administrative knowledge
of a large rehabilitation centre.
After a few minutes,
mother’s embarrassment showed.
The child’s muffled wails
I could hear.
I said, “Thanks, God bless him.”
and carried on with my morning routine.
That’s what freedom means, perhaps,
to choose to be where you are
or, embrace complete strangers.
Tapan is a poet based in India. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org