A dash of Pepper…

…with a splash of Mint

Stories behind faces

Posted by Pepper on May 15, 2012

I have always been fascinated by stories, especially real life ones. As a child, I would spend my afternoons listening to my grandma narrate incidents of her childhood. She would share with me little details of her school, of how she feigned a stomach ache when she wanted to skip class, how her dad caught her once and other interesting snippets from her past. Oh the joy!

My love for real life stories grew as I grew in age. I would see people on the road and wonder, where are they coming from? Where are they going? Are they happy? Sad? What will they do after they get home? What will they eat for dinner today? Do they have a family they will share their meal with? Or will they eat in solitude? The questions run through my mind at the speed of light.

I’ve moved around quite a lot, and each time I move into a new rented house, I spend a few minutes looking at the walls and other remnants of the family that occupied the home before us. Sometimes I see a lone nail, sometimes I see tape marks. It makes me stand and stare. Did that nail carry a framed picture of a happy family? Had some kids put up posters of their favourite cartoons where the marks now stand? Did the walls witness their joys, their tears, their laughter? Who were the people who lived here? Where are they now?

One of the perks of living in India is that it gives me endless opportunity to observe people living different lives. I see couples going on a bike, with a child in their arms. I see people sweeping the streets. I see delivery guys, chatting on their cell phones as they hand you your stuff. I see people wearing ties, going to work in their air conditioned cars.  I see people in local trains, merrily chopping vegetables. I wonder, what style will they be cooked in? Will that be their dinner today? Are they leading such busy lives that they need to chop vegetables in a local train? I stand at the door of the train and I see houses passing by. I see clothes hung on the line in their balconies. Sometimes I can actually glance into their homes. I see women cooking in their kitchens. I see people chatting in their living rooms. And I wonder what their lives are about, what their stories are. What are their names? Who are they?

Many weeks ago, I was walking on the street by myself in the afternoon sun. There was a lot of construction work going on in the area. I saw two street kids swimming in the drainage, splashing around, laughing and having a jolly time. A closer look at the filthy water made me cringe. Clearly, the kids were having a good time and did not care about concepts like hygiene and sanitation. I pulled out my cell phone to take a picture. One of the kids waved out to me with a smile. I smiled and waved back. The moment they were done, they ran out, wanting to see the picture I had clicked.

“Aye, hamara photo liya didi ne, aa ke dekho”, he called out to the other kids, who ran towards us to see the picture. Their excitement passed on to me. Before I knew it, a group of kids were flocking around me. One of them held out his hand towards me, asking me to place my cell phone in his palm so that he could take a clearer look. I observed the mud in his nails, the sweat and dirt that caked his hands and I hesitated for a second, before feeling guilty the next. How could I deny a child the pleasure of holding my phone, just cos I was worried about the stains on my touch screen?  I was overcome by guilt because of the thought that crossed my mind.

The kids admired the picture for a while. Some of them asked me to click them. They stood posing in the middle of the debris. I asked each of them their name, where they lived, what they did all day, who their parents were, thus satisfying my urge of knowing their life stories.  Turns out most of the kids belonged to the construction workers that worked in the area. Other than loitering around on the street, the kids didn’t do much else. After spending a while with them, I turned towards them to say bye. That’s when one of them came up to me and asked me, “didi, yeh camera kitne mega pixel ka hai?” After which, he went on to ask me a couple of more questions that blew me over. When I asked him how he knew all this, he smiled and said “Mujhe sab pata hai”. I couldn’t help but return the smile.

He waves out with a smile


82 Responses to “Stories behind faces”

  1. vethal said

    super awesome post. u know what I am also like you. every time we are in a different town or when we pass by small towns and villages when we go by car for a hioliday, i ask the husband what the people do for a living. Once he told back, “you always ask the same qn” !!!

    the dabbas , the village folk combing the hair, there is soooooo much to observe.

    • Pepper said

      Oh there is just so much to observe in this world. That is one reason I love travelling to different places. It gives you a chance to see how different people live their lives. I think now I will focus on travelling to villages within India. That should be a fun journey.

  2. Appaaa…how much you think!! 😛 😀 😀
    “I see clothes hung on the line in their balconies”- I see this often while coming back from office and whenever I see this, I keep thinking about “how many people are there in that house, when will they fold it, who will fold it etc etc .Somehow all these thoughts will finally lead to one single thought – “what will be there for dinner today, I should call amma and make sure everything is ready” 😛

    I imagined the scene of kids surrounding you, excited about taking pics 🙂 beautiful!!! 🙂

    • Pepper said

      Haha, looks like you think as much as I do 😛 It’s just a different line of thought though..
      That was truly a beautiful moment. I wave out to those kids even now if I see them. 🙂

  3. Kanthu said

    Life and its little joys..:-)

  4. scorpria said

    “Mujhe sab pata hai” — i loved his confidence! Couldn’t help smiling at this post 🙂

  5. DI said

    I love stories too, life stories. In fact, when I used to travel a lot to get to work some months ago, I would generally observe people on the road, and wonder what their story was, how their life was, what they would have done during the day, etc. It fascinates me to no end. So mush so, I remember one day, I saw this guy fall off his cycle, he was not hurt, but his steel tiffin box rolled out and the rice in it spilled all over the road. I think I spent a good half hour feeling so bad for him, and the person who had so lovingly packed him the lunch and now all of it was wasted. I know, weird.
    Also, kids these days huh ? 😀 It is awesome to see the joy they derive from such small things!

    • Pepper said

      I love your comment DI! Your description of yourself fits me perfectly. I so know I would have felt bad had I seen the rice strewn about on the road. I would have surely thought of the person packing it. I like to know it’s not so weird 😀

  6. R's Mom said

    You girl, are an amazing observer…loved that picture and the fact that you were ready to give your phone to the kid…I dont think I would have done that honestly!

    and oh, LOL on the mega pixel question…somethings are unexpected in life na!

  7. Mujhe sab pata hai.. offcourse kids these days know it all and the ones you met , their way of living and surrounding have made them street wise too ..

  8. all i can say is 🙂 loved the post…

  9. Loved loved loved this post, Pepper! 🙂 The last part made me smile like crazy.

    I am a lover of stories, just like you, and can spend hours listening to them. I love to wonder about the lives of people whom we pass by on the streets or whom we meet by chance. I have been reading Frances Mayes’s books and she also does just that – dreams a whole lot and makes up lives for the people she sees around us. While reading her, I was like – God! This is so much like me! And now, you too! 🙂

    I even did a post about dreaming and Frances Mayes: http://thegalnxtdoor.wordpress.com/2012/05/14/of-soul-authors-and-dreams/

  10. R said

    Awww. The other day, the Ma song from Taare Zameen Par was playing at the mall that I work in. For some reason, it always makes me tear up- not so much for the Ma sentiment as for the innocence of the child. Something about this post reminded me of that.My sis and I used to make up stories about the people we saw from our train window, when on our long distance train journeys, as kids.
    Now everytime I travel on work, I do this with the people I see at the airport. Admittedly, its less fun what with boring, corporate types, but then you will always spot a dad who quickly rushes to the bookstore to pick up a candy or a book or a toy for his child, the display picture of a dog/ baby/ girlfriend/ mum on the phone of the person in front of you at the check out line, the heavy- hearted boyfriend who doesn’t want his tears to shine through, waving good- bye at his girlfriend or my favorite from my latest trip, where a mother was convincing her 6- year old first-time flyer daughter that the airport bus is really the plane and how it will spout wings mid- way down the road and take off! They are precious moments and sometimes, you are grateful for the little glimpses into other people’s lives 🙂

    • Pepper said

      Oh that song gives me a lump in the throat for the same reason.
      Totally loved hearing about the mom convincing her 6 year old about the bus being the plane. How totally adorable. You are so right, these little peaks into peoples lives are precious 🙂

  11. bingo said

    this sounds very much like my own lanka :)……I too love to watch other people when I’m on the move…and you know what? I think I understood the hindi part of your post as well though I have no idea about your language….:)

  12. Smitha said

    Wow! You are such an observer! I do this when I travel by train. See houses and wonder what their stories are, who lives there.

    And that little boy! He sounds so smart! Heart-warming!

  13. this put a smile on my face! I miss india 🙂

  14. abhivyakti said

    A treat to read , very well-written 🙂
    I get this feeling when we pass by busy restaurants and I can’t help but wonder about the different stories and different reasons that people are “there” , at that place. Maybe its old friends catching up, or a couple on an evening out or parents visiting their children at the university or maybe someone got a promotion or some other little happy celebration..I can sometimes map them to events in my own life…
    Our country is so colorful…so many shades of life blending together..I use to love traveling by train for this very reason..to be able to imagine myself in open fields or a little house bordering the tracks..you describe it so well.

  15. Jazz said

    Wow what a beautiful post Pepper, I sometimes glance and think about the lives of people too, and true, those thoughts run at the speed of light for sure. Even I love travelling, loved the kid’s scene you described. You’ll get to know many more stories now that you are in India. Happy Storying. 🙂

  16. seema3 said

    Street kids are really very smart, they do know a lot and thier answers just make you smile. Loved the little boys confidence.
    Wow–how do you manage to think so much, even I see all this but dont observe so much I guess

    • Pepper said

      There are times I am so blind, I will be looking for my cell phone when it is lying right in front of me, and then there are times when I observe the minutest detail. I guess that happens with everybody. Different personality traits at different times 🙂

  17. Sig said

    I love this 🙂 One of my favourite things to do is to people watch and make up their stories in my head. Funny how sometimes reality is stranger than fiction tho! That kid sounded so cute too – makes me miss India

  18. Haa the joy of being in a place like India where there is no shortage of subjects 🙂 This is something we miss here….one can’t keep staring at a driver in a car and wonder too much…can we? I am sure we will get royally honked :mrgreen:

  19. pixie said

    This is such a beautiful post.. 🙂
    And that kid seems to be very smart! 🙂

  20. Deeps said

    Oh my my he knew about mega-pixels and all of that..impressive! Beautiful memories penned in there, pepper! When I read RM’s post on her meet-up with you, I did wonder if you had moved back yet or no. This post tells me that you have :). Hope the transition was smooth! Heres to a wonderful life back home 🙂

  21. Preethi said

    We should learn from these kids who seem to be so contended with whatever little they have in their lives.

    • Pepper said

      That’s thought crossed my mind too, you know. Those kids seemed so very happy, playing on the streets. People who have everything are so full of complains. They make their own selves unhappy.

  22. Pri.. said

    Life is Like That…We, at least I need to learn from the kids to be content with what I have…And indeed India is a country of the contrasts…Beautiful Post Pepper!!

  23. Ashwathy said

    Love this post 🙂

    And yes even I have a habit of wondering about other people’s stories…. wondering about different peoples’ lives…as I pass them on the street…watch them in their homes….
    It takes all kinds to make up this world…truly…

  24. Anusha said

    Loved loved loved this post !!!!

    Everyday joys beautifully described 🙂

  25. lifesong said

    I loved this post. Even I like to think about other people’s lives as I see them. I love to observe people in their homes especially when I go through fly overs (you get a very good view of homes from there) trying to imagine the lives they lead 🙂

  26. metherebel said

    Beautifully written Pepper! You somehow seem to have retained the child like innocence. I used to think like about people when I was a kid. Most of the time it was the teachers. Teachers were like celebrities them 🙂

    “didi, yeh camera kitne mega pixel ka hai?” This is was something I least expected the boy to ask!! I can imagine the situation 🙂 Like the boy said they are more smarter than we imagine them to be!

    • Pepper said

      You used to think so much about the teachers? Lol. Me too. At one point, I became friends with my teacher’s son, who was my age. And through him, I got a glimpse into my teacher’s perosnal life and I was beyond excited! Teachers really were like celebrities.

  27. ashreyamom said

    i understand that you observe a lot and think a lot also..
    nice post..
    // Mujhe sab pata hai// LOL..

  28. Jack Point said

    Nice, very nice post.

  29. Kartikay said

    That brings me to the question: how many megapixels was it? Hehe! Nice post, ji, very India-India!

  30. I was reading your story on my way to the office, I imagined myself in Mumbai, a city that I love very much. And before I know it, I was already at the office, I didn’t even notice the usual crazy traffic in Casablanca today. Thank you

  31. aame said

    Wow that’s so sweet of you ! These small ‘out of the way’ joys feel so special hai na 🙂 And these kids are so full of joy and enthusiasm to learn and discover ! And am glad to know am not the only one who ‘thinks’ about the probable stories behind faces 🙂 Loves this post !!! XOXOXOXOXO !!!

  32. As usual, your story has made me smile. Thank you Pepper. I’m glad you’ve become a collector of stories.

    Love, Miffalicious. [miffalicious.wordpress.com]

  33. ajay said

    Loved this post 🙂 Little snippets, simple stories, ordinary busy life.

  34. This is so so eeriely similar Pepper ! Not really my first time here coz’ I have read you before but just that I am commenting here for the first time 🙂
    I have often wondered similarly. especially on rickety bus rides when I used to see isolated families in huts wondering what they do for provisions, do they grow their stuff, how do they travel, what will they think of before sleeping, are they happier than us etc. Ihave also always imagined of being stranded there someday and then make up stories of how I will communicate with them if we have totally different languages and how I will manage to get back home. The power of stories is like that, no?

    Every little thing you wonder has been on my mind at some point in time. I even bug my better half with these questions and he is always humouring me with cooked up stories.

    I just LOVED this post. I kind of still read Jataka tales online if I cannot manage to read anything over tea. This post was just so AWESOME ! 🙂

  35. Reema said

    Observing life around one is a good way to pass the time during travel. I too do it.

  36. Deboshree said

    What a lovely post, Pepper. There are so many stories behind faces and in so many subtle ways, they seem to converge. The picture is of a scene so common in today’s busy world and yet, very often we miss out on its contrast. Kids having a good time splashing about and doing nothing, as opposed to people rushing by in their vehicles. Ah, life.

  37. Sharell said

    Ah, there’s always a twist in India. 😉 Such innocent but clever kids!

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