The Tribune - Spectrum

, March 10, 2002

‘Rainbow children’ who add colour to life
Rooma Mehra

"SOME people have a wonderful way of touching the lives of others with all the colours of a rainbow" — a remarkably poignant sentence that I discovered on a greeting card. It is hardly coincidental that these people are almost always either children or rare adults who still have, perhaps unwittingly, the child alive in them.

‘Rendezvous’, a painting in mixed media by the writer
‘Rendezvous’, a painting in mixed media by the writer

But this fission of colour is usually momentary, and one has to be quick to reach out and feel the rainbow before it fades away in the rays of routine and passing time. These are adults come, or drop from the heavens, unpredictably, and almost always incognito.

I remember one such golden rendezvous with a rainbow-child who arrived in the middle of a dreary scene disguised as a "meticulously efficient, extremely busy professional — hard as nails"... till the first time he happily put his foot in his mouth, and then equally happily, continued with the "meticulously efficient etc. professional" act.

I do not know about others but I personally find happily-made, clumsy mistakes one of the most endearing traits in a human being aiming for perfectionism in his or her life. Almost as endearing as tears in the eyes of a strong man and fury in the eyes of a lone woman making mincemeat of half-a-dozen eve-teasers. And laughing at the sum-total of mutually-made silly mistakes by perfectionists can make for at least one small glimpse of a rainbow. But, like I said, adult "rainbow-children" are very rare.


There are those exceptions, who reach the ultimate heights of wisdom and humanitarianism, while still retaining the hearts of rainbow-children, or more aptly, because they still have the hearts of rainbow-children. I wish I had had the pleasure of personally knowing or at least of having been born in the same age as The Mahatma.

One such wise rainbow-child who I did have the privilege of knowing was the late O.P. Bhagat. Every time I saw him in communion with the only things that mattered to him... the flower and the plant, the mountain and the grass, the sky and its cloud, the song and its lyric... the face of Buddha smiled in this violence-infested, terror-struck world. Every Christmas and on my birthday, Santa Bhagat came laden with gifts, laughing at himself last year for bringing the little chrome yellow toy car that he had bought in the States for my birthday! The little pleasures that life afforded me in the company of the 72-year-old Bhagatji, no purchased-by-money moments can ever equal. Flower-watching, swinging on swings almost surely meant for little children. Only person in the world who could give a mouth-watering discourse on the lusciousness of a mango, and then give the whole mango to me to eat! (he was diabetic). Also, only person in the world who knew his chrysanthemum and his litchi as well as his Ramayana and Mahabharata could write books on both. A rainbow-child with the wisdom and smile of Buddha.

But like I said, adult "rainbow-children" are very rare... Children, however, afford one such joys more frequently. Yesterday, a rainbow appeared unexpectedly at dusk in the grey evening sky fast giving way to the black of the oncoming night.

My sister and I were sitting in the nearby park, just ready to undertake the return stroll concluding our early evening walk, when we noticed a trio of little girls holding a hurried conference among themselves interspersed with some furtive glances directed towards us. Finally, they reached a decision and approached us.

The most enterprising among the three, a pretty little Afghan girl, addressed us in her halting English, "Excuse me",.. cough, cough, "Can I say you something?" Both of us nodded. "Can you write English letter for us?"

I looked at the disappearing sun and nodded quickly. Just as quickly, she produced a folded scrap of a ruled, white paper...made a bit damp and dirty, perhaps, by its long stay in the pocket of her frock. I held it silently while she rummaged in the other girl’s pocket and deftly brought out a stub of a pencil...unsharpened but in working condition.

"Please write", continued the little one — "Dearest Namrata"... There was a slight pause before she went on — "You should not have said such bad words to me. I’m sorry I was your friend. I shall never come to your house again. "Then write "Your friend, Nilofer" whereupon she was immediately interrupted by the other two, "No, no... don’t write ‘Your friend’, just write "Your Nilofer’..." while the other two nodded their heads in sad agreement.

I handed back the letter to the girls which was folded with infinite solemnity and reverence before being deposited in Nilofer’s frock-pocket again, to the tune of many "Thank you"s.

Walking back home, we felt the arrival of night postponed by a miraculous rainbow in the starry sky.

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