It was one sunny evening when Tinni decided to do nothing in Paris. She had no one there. She had no friends. She went to Paris only because it was her dream to be there one day. Yet, she still had no idea why she wanted to go there. When Tinni saw you, she was not too fascinated by you. You seemed so meek and piddling compared to others present where she came from.
She was sitting and looking at the tourists and some locals sitting and reading a book. A woman approached her. She was old and fragile. She sat beside her and she spoke in English, “You are Indian”, she said in thick French accent. “Dam!n Do I still look Indian? Why couldn’t I look Spanish?” she thought. “Yes, I am Indian”. When Tinni looked deep in her eyes, she looked a loquacious kind of person.
“Yes, I can tell because a man passed by you, your feet touched him by mistake and you touched your head”. I have never seen anyone else do it. I visited Delhi 20 years ago. I will tell you one thing though, you were not even sorry when you did that gesture.”
“It is a habit I guess, like most other habits we have in our culture.”
“But your habits are governed by tradition and culture. Most of them have lost meaning today”.
“I think most habits do not have meaning. Like I when go to the States I hear ‘Thank you’ from so many people. Rarely do they mean it. It’s just a habit. However, I think the mind is more complex than we think. It knows that it needs kindness and deserves compassion.”
“My child, habit without reason is dangerous. Most of your habits are sanctimonious. Why do you need to be so hypocrite?”
Tinni had rarely met someone who could really vex her or get her riled up. She looked at the calm river. She remembered Joan of Arc, her ashes and thought it was better to be polite and not judge people by just one encounter.
Suddenly, everything around became white noise. She saw the river still and quiet. It was a beautiful sunset. He was calling her to enjoy the warmth. The old lady might have many complexities like the city itself.
But, she is Ganga and Ganga is compassionate yet proud. She realized, she did not have to hear the woman anymore. “We touch our head when we brush our feet accidentally as a sign of apology. It is good to question a habit or tradition but to say they do not have meaning is wrong. Each day we are breaking and making tradition as time changes. But you and I are bound by logic which keeps us moving. Apology need not be loud. Thank you need not be compulsory. But they are essential. I have a sunset to catch. It was nice talking to you”.
She might have been rude. But should Tinni have let it go? She couldn’t. But she started thinking – Am I really hypocrite? She walked by the river looking at the sun set. The night was going to be unfolded, with new thoughts and new people.