A Girl With A Basket
Written by -William C. Douglas
I had left New Delhi for the Himalayas. I was going as far as (तक) Bareilly by train and then by car to Ranikhet-an old British army hill station located (स्थित) on a 6,000-foot ridge (किनारा) opposite (विपरीत/सामने) a 120-mile stretch (विस्तार) of snow capped (ढंके) Himalayas. The train was slow; and it stopped at all the way stations. At every stop I swung (घुमाकर) open the door of my compartment, and walked the platform.
The platforms were packed (भरे थे) with people- Sikhs, Moslems, Hindus; soldiers, merchants (व्यापारी/सौदागर), priests (पुजारी), porters (कुली), beggars (भिखारी), hawkers (फेरीवाले). Almost everyone was barefoot and dressed in loose white garments. I would ask at least (कम से कम) three people before I could find one who spoke English. We would talk world affairs (मामले) and every major topic the news of the day produced. In this way I was trying to get a feel of the pulse (अच्छी तरह से परिचित होना) of the nation (लोगो की), checking opinion against official (आधिकारिक) attitudes (दृष्टिकोण) and reports.
At one station my routine (सिलसिला) of talking with the people was interrupted (बाधित हुआ) . As soon as (जैसे ही, ज्यों ही) I alighted (उतरा) a group of young children gathered (इकट्ठा हो गए) around me. they were selling basket- hand- woven (हाथ से बुनी), reed (कच्चा) baskets with simple designs (आकार-प्रकार) and patterns (तौर-तरीके). They held the baskets high, shouting words I did not know but conveying (व्यक्त करते हुए) unmistakably (साफ-साफ) their desire.
The children selling basket were sons and daughters of these refugees. They or their parents or relatives had gathered in the cities, setting up stalls (दुकान), manufacturing (उत्पादन करते हुए) simple articles (वस्तुएं), trying to make a living in markets already overcrowded (खचा-खच भीड़). They lived in cloth and grass sheds (छप्पर) that lined (पंक्ति बद्ध) the streets. The peasants (किसान) among these refugees, had been accustomed (आदी हो गए) to little all their lives for the annual (वार्षिक) income of an agricultural family does not exceed (ज्यादा होना) on an average one hundred dollars a year. The average unskilled (अकुशल) labourer makes thirty cents a day or less than two dollars a week. There is one meal a day - an onion, a piece of bread , a bowl of pulse (दाल) with milk , perhaps (शायद) a bit of goat cheese. No tea, no coffee, no fat (वसा), no sweets, no meat. One hundred dollars a year is not two dollars a week, yet even that small amount is hard to earn (कमाना) by selling baskets to people too poor to buy them. That no doubt is the reason these little children descended (टूट पड़े) on me like locusts (टिड्डियाँ). I an American, was doubtless (बेशक, निःसंदेह) the most promising (आशा जनक, भरोसेमंद) market they had seen.
My arms were full. I had no room (जगह), let along any need , for another basket. Balancing (व्यवस्थित करते हुए) my baskets and fans on my left arm, I reached (हाथ डाला) into my right coat pocket and got a handful (मुट्ठी भर) of change- perhaps fifteen cents in all- which I deposited (रख दिया) in the basket that the young girl held imploringly (विनय से) before me. I tried to explain that I could not buy the basket but extended (बढाया) the gratuity (उपहार, दान) as a substitute (के स्थान पर, स्थानापन्न). I realized (समझ गया) at once what offence (अपराध) I had given. This child of nine, dressed in rags (चीथड़े) and on the edge of starvation (भुखमरी) raised (उठाई) her chin, reached into the basket , and with all the pride (गरिमा) and graciousness (शान) of a lady handed the money back to me. There was only one thing I could do. I bought the basket . She wiped (पोंछी) her eyes, smiled and dashed down the platform, headed (के तरफ) for some grass hut that would have at least thirty cents that night. I told this story to Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. I told him it was one reason I had fallen in love with India.
The people I saw in India those in the villages as well as those in high office- have both pride and a lively (जीवंत) sense (भाव) of decency (सज्जनता, शराफत) and citizenship (नागरिकता) They also have a passion for independence. This beautiful child- born in squalor (गंदगी) and poverty, uneducated (अनभिज्ञ, अनजान) in both grammar and manners (तौर-तरीके, सलीका) had given me a glimpse (झलक) of the warm soul of India.
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