A few school children passed by and looking at them my friend said “i love school uniforms” I said “i love the concept of uniforms in school” and added “it is essential” Understanding what i mean, my friend said “my sister wanted to go to a government school and not a private one because uniform was compulsory in the government schools on all the days and not in the private school” and added “it becomes a humilation when some wear better clothes than you, for children” and i said “yes, clothes are also an icon of economy”
As i uttered “icons of econmomy” my mind went back to deepavali-the festival of lights, of 2008. On that evening i went and sat on the terrace of my house . All the surrounding houses were visible from the terrace. The lamps that took life in all the houses as darkness was seeping in made me realise that the number of lamps and the kind of lamps lit in every house was directly related to income grade of the house. Some houses had many lamps and the some had less lamps and even the life span of the lamps of some houses was lesser when compared to that of other. I also noticed that the crackers blasted in the some houses made more noise than that of the other. In the sound of some crackers the whispering of some crackers did get drowned. As i observed all this, i went to the other corner of the terrace from where i could see the site next to my which is empty and a construction worker has built a small shed there for living. That house (shed) had just one lamp burning in front of it and after a while a lady took that lamp in to illuminate the world within. The lamps and crackers spoke about the economic condition of its owner to me.
A few days prior to deepavali i was with a few friends where one of them said that he would not feel comfrtable, as a school going boy, to eat from his tiffin box, as some of his classmates brought chocolates and good eatables along with lunch while he used to take rice and sambar. He said that he used to feel that the tiffin box of his classmates mocked at him. The chocolates that his classmates used to bring, he said, used to laugh at him and his inability to buy such expensive chocolates.
When my friend said this, what else could i have have remembered other than the beautiful poem Taj Mahal by Sahir Ludhianvi?
taaj tere liye ik mazahar-e-ulfat hii sahii
tum ko is vaadii-e-rangii.n se aqiidat hii sahii
mere mahabuub kahii.n aur milaa kar mujh se!
bazm-e-shaahii me.n Gariibo.n kaa guzar kyaa maanii
sabt jis raah pe ho.n satavat-e-shaahii ke nishaa.N
us pe ulfat bharii ruuho.n kaa safar kyaa maanii
merii mahabuub pas-e-pardaa-e-tashhiir-e-vafaa
tuu ne satavat ke nishaano.n ko to dekhaa hotaa
murdaa shaaho.n ke maqaabir se bahalevaalii
apane taariik makaano.n ko to dekhaa hotaa
anaginat logo.n ne duniyaa me.n muhabbat kii hai
kaun kahataa hai ki saadiq na the jazbe un ke
lekin un ke liye tashhiir kaa saamaan nahii.n
kyuu.N ke vo log bhii apanii hii tarah mufalis the
ye imaaraat-o-maqaabir ye fasiile.n, ye hisaar
mutal-qulhukm shahanashaaho.n kii azamat ke sutuu.N
daaman-e-dahar pe us rang kii gulakaarii hai
jis me.n shaamil hai tere aur mere ajadaad kaa Khuu.N
merii mahabuub! u.nhe.n bhii to muhabbat hogii
jinakii sannaa_ii ne baKhshii hai ise shakl-e-jamiil
un ke pyaaro.n ke maqaabir rahe benaam-o-namuud
aaj tak un pe jalaa_ii na kisii ne qa.ndiil
ye chamanazaar ye jamunaa kaa kinaaraa ye mahal
ye munaqqash dar-o-diivaar, ye maharaab ye taaq
ik shahanashaah ne daulat kaa sahaaraa le kar
ham Gariibo.n kii muhabbat kaa u.Daayaa hai mazaak
mere mahabuub kahii.n aur milaa kar mujhase!
[The Taj, mayhap, to you may seem, a mark of love supreme
You may hold this beauteous vale in great esteem;
Yet, my love, meet me hence at some other place!
How odd for the poor folk to frequent royal resorts;
‘Tis strange that the amorous souls should tread the regal paths
Trodden once by mighty kings and their proud consorts.
Behind the facade of love my dear, you had better seen,
The marks of imperial might that herein lie screen’d
You who take delight in tombs of kings deceased,
Should have seen the hutments dark where you and I did wean.
Countless men in this world must have loved and gone,
Who would say their loves weren’t truthful or strong?
But in the name of their loves, no memorial is raised
For they too, like you and me, belonged to the common throng.
These structures and sepulchres, these ramparts and forts,
These relics of the mighty dead are, in fact, no more
Than the cancerous tumours on the face of earth,
Fattened on our ancestor’s very blood and bones.
They too must have loved, my love, whose hands had made,
This marble monument, nicely chiselled and shaped
But their dear ones lived and died, unhonoured, unknown,
None burnt even a taper on their lowly graves.
This bank of Jamuna, this edifice, these groves and lawns,
These carved walls and doors, arches and alcoves,
An emperor on the strength of wealth, Has played with us a cruel joke.
Meet me hence, my love, at some other place.]
27 February 2009