One soul – many emotions. To see the soul of a another is a privilege. And we get to see it when raw emotion exposes itself on the face as a reaction to an experience.
I witnessed this on a trip to Goa.
It was pleasant as I went for a walk that evening by the river. Not a leisurely walk – but one in which I would need to force myself into a pendulum like path – back & forth – in order to get the necessary exercise. The walk was meant to be fast, with a ipod plugged in to my ear to blur out ‘noticing’ the space time coordinates – which always pass slowly during exercise.
And so it was in a state of blurred hurry that I first saw this small lady in a sari, hair uncombed, urchinlike, at the gate of a famous building, standing and frantically screaming at other similar ladies that were sitting in a group. She was talking in a language I did not know. But it was clear that she had just discovered something a second ago, and was frantic and desperate with the new discovery. She screamed and rebuked the others angrily but helplessly – losing all decorum and politeness. And within seconds as her realisation sank in, she was frenzied with distraughtness. She turned around and started walking-running in the opposite direction, in the direction in that I had just come from.
It was only after she passed beyond my sight that I comprehended the distress that she was in and attempted to guess the event that could make any person as distressed a she was. I concluded that she had just learnt of either the death of her man or had lost a child. There is little else that could cause such a strong reaction of the raw fear that i saw on her face. It was not a sense of hopelessness – it was just a fear of unconfirmed and possibly avertable loss.
My heart was totally with her. There was nothing that I could have done to help her, but there just might be something i could do, so i turned around and walked in her direction. I wasn’t sure if I would catch up with her at all…and did feel a bit silly about attempting to follow her and thrust my presence upon her this way. But I walked on, hoping that either my fervour would die out or that I would meet her quickly. The latter happened - I did see her walking back towards me, with a toddler in her arms and a young 8yr old following.
I stopped her to chat with her. Gone was the distraught face full of dread. She was calm even though all the stress had not yet left her.
So she explained her story – as if justifying her screaming.
She and her friends were villagers from a nearby state – landless immigrants who lived in shantys mostly working as laborers for daily wages. She did not appear to have a husband in her life who would share the burdens of life with her. That day, she had asked the other women of her group to look after her children while she took up a day job nearby – and those women had failed her. The women had left her children in another part of the market and no one had any idea exactly where they were, when she discovered their absence.When she questioned the women, she had received indifferent answers – an indifference that results from the harsh constraints of lives enslaved in poverty and struggle – each had enough burdens in their own life and had no slack or generosity to care about the problems of others. Hence the apathy showed by the women who had been entrusted with this woman’s children.
So here she was now re-untied with her children, all as scrawny and malnoursihed as herself.
But there was relief on her face. An a sense of having been the recipient of great mercy! In that brief period of half and hour, I had seen an entire rainbow of emotions on the woman’s face.