08 September 2008

Another Neighbour

Unless I am really ill, I take a daily walk in our neighbourhood. I started doing it just for my health and it has become an occasion for my nam simran - I wrote about that some time ago - as well a the opportunity to meet the neighbours.

I live in an incredibly diverse neighbourhood. Just about any race, religion, ethnic group and many different nationalities live here. It's really uber kaint. I love it.

I especially enjoy the kids. Most of them are surprisingly polite to me. I must be a strange site to them, but usually they step aside with their skateboards, skateshoes, whatever and give me and my cane a wide berth, usually with a wide smile. Although I don't know their names, I think I know most all the neighbourhood kids by sight.

So I was surprised to see a little girl the other day whom I had never seen before. She was riding a little girl type bicycle and wearing a very nice blue outfit. What grabbed my attention, though, was the longest braid I have ever sen. I was totally enchanted watching her throw it back and forth, tossing her head as she rode around in a cul-de-sac off the main street. I just stopped walking and stood and watched, wondering how she kept that braid out of the spokes of the wheels. After a time, she pedaled over to me.

"Bibi Ji, you are staring at me."

I guess I was, at that.

"I enjoy watching you having a good time. And I was admiring your kes. It's very long."

She jumped down off the bike and it was well below her knees. A braid! I wondered how long it was open. "I wonder that you don't catch it in your wheels."

She giggled. "That's why I keep it moving."

"Well, have you thought about making two braids and then tying them together in the back?" I had done that when I was a little girl before my mother unceremoniously took it upon herself to shear me.

"That would look stupid." Spoken very seriously. "Anyway, I like it down. And in a few years, I'll be wearing it in a bun. Right now, I like to show off."

A very honest, forthright little girl.

Someone had been writing to me about how she had heard that many of our young children today are shaheeds come back here - for what purpose? A thought crossed my mind.

I asked her straight out, "Are you a shaheed."

Without any hesitation, she replied, at once, "Of course. You already know that."

Almost glaring at me, she stomped her foot in little girl exasperation. "Ooooohhh! Don't you remember?"

"Do I know you?"

"Oohhhhh! You know! I gotta go!"

She jumped on her bike and disappeared into the cul-de-sac. I haven't seen her since.

I was left stunned. Who was this little girl? Of course, of course, my first thought was Sandeep, my shaheed son, returned to earth for some purpose unknown to me. That seems a little far fetched.

Perhaps we were just two females with a wild imagination, a shared delusion.

Or perhaps, she was a phantom or a hallucination produced from my damaged brain. I'm really not sure.

It was, in any case, both pleasant and puzzling.

"Little girls, like butterflies, need no excuse." Robert A. Heinlein