A few months back, when I was in Mumbai, I was traveling along with my family to go to a restaurant. I was seated in the front seat of my sister’s car and my niece was sitting on my lap. She was dressed in a very fashionable pink dress with a flowery hairband. I was teasing my niece about what we would order for food, always countering her choice from the menu with an opposite option which she didn’t prefer.
As we were waiting for the traffic light to turn green beneath the Andheri flyover, we saw a boy walking between the dense traffic. He was wearing a sparsely buttoned shirt, and his bare feet had layers of dust on them. He was probably my niece’s age. Dark complexioned, his hair was unkempt and shaggy, probably from days of not bathing. He was moving from car to car, trying to sell flowers. When he came to our car, he tapped on the windows as usual with pleading eyes. The closed windows and the car radio cut out whatever he was saying, but we could hear the tap. All the same, we were preconditioned to ignore his presence and all looked ahead. Our unsubstantiated morality guided us to ignore such entreaties under the justification that if obliged, the poor boy would settle for this career as an easy option and accordingly ignore his studies.
But may be my niece, yet to be fully enveloped by middle class morality, looked at him once. The boy must have noticed my niece too. What thoughts would have transpired in their minds? Would they have perceived the stark contrasts in their fortunes? Would they have tried to consider the reasons for this contrast? Would they have regarded each other as distant as animals from different species? Would one have hated the other? How many such interactions would be required to take away their ability to be surprised by such stark contrasts?
How many years would it take so that there are no such unfortunate interactions? And what would it take?