Sheela Murthy is working on a book of small autobiographical stories, expected to be available next year. Read excerpts here.
Manhattan to a Montana Cowboy or Mumbai to a South Indian Farmer
Boarding the red and white public buses to go to school each day was not unlike a scene from an old Western movie, with cowboys leaping onto moving trains from their tired horses.
Anxiously, my big sister Shree and I lunged ourselves onto the bus as the driver graciously slowed to five miles an hour so that we could make our daily leap of faith, bags stuffed with schoolbooks in tow. Passengers jumped on and off of the still-moving bus, which rarely came to a full stop. I wedged my small frame into the overflowing crowd. Cattle lived more lavish lifestyles than us commuters on that ghastly conveyance through Delhi. It was as overwhelming as Manhattan to a Montana cowboy or Mumbai to a South Indian farmer. Of course, there was no room to sit on the dirty cheap plastic seats, but neither did I have to stand. The main cabin was teeming with compressed bodies and people who towered over me. The surrounding limbs propped up my body. I looked up at a skyline of brown faces, staring impassively at nothing, waiting for an opening to move … to breathe. I too gasped for air, but choked on a thick medley of foul body odors. Claustrophobia set in and every muscle in my body tensed as the bus made its way to the school. By the time we arrived, my daily ration of energy was already spent.
There Was a Girl Called Lakshmi
There was a girl called Lakshmi from a poor neighborhood who came regularly to clean our house. She must have been twelve or thirteen years old. She was dark, and a black ribbon held her slightly matted braid. Her daily attire was a non-descript salwar-kameez, and, at times, the clothes that we handed down to her. She did her work quietly, under the direction of my mother.
I often wondered what her life must be like. My father would tell me, “You know, Sheela, there is absolutely no difference between that girl and you. You just happened to be born to this house. Had that girl been given the same opportunities with which you have been blessed, she might have done ten times more than you!”
More to come!
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