It was a self-exploration that made me understand myself. It was like discovering the one last elusive word in a jigsaw puzzle that completes other words.
I had to interview Father Francis Chittilappilly, Executive Director of BOSCO - an organization in Gandhi Nagar in Bangalore that provides succor to street children. I thought I would get it over with in an hour and then attend to the endless list of to-do that I keep in my handbag.
As I waited for Father, I watched the children in tattered clothes, picked up from the city railway station. These destitute children, who had run away from home, were generally rag-pickers. Their irrepressible enthusiasm and energy despite what life had doled out to them was remarkable. My mood, heavy with the incidents of the past few days, lifted considerably.
Father Francis came after a while, apologized and ushered me in to his office. He started telling me about what his organization was doing for the unfortunate children forsaken by the society. As he narrated several stories one-by-one, his eyes would soften; sometimes light up, only to be clouded by thoughts of the enormity and intractability of the problem.
I saw his assistants talk to the children, get their whereabouts, understand their grievances and advise them accordingly. In some cases the children refused to divulge any information, lest they sent them back to their families they had run away from. In such cases, father would call them in, talk tactfully and win their confidence. There were difficult situations when he had to play confidence-trick, as some of the hardened teenagers would smoothly fib their way through.
Father related to me the case of a ‘hyperactive’ girl, suffering from malfunctioning of thyroid glands, who had strayed away from her parents while travelling. She could not comprehend any question put to her. Father had to intervene; he made her draw, which in itself was no mean achievement, considering she could not be pinned down in a place. He had immense patience and with his power of persuasion he could extricate bits of unrelated information about her family, which he later pieced together. He later rang up her parents who promptly picked her up.
Father was a trained counselor. Our discussions increasingly revolved round ethics, sensitivity, savoir-faire… and I was drawing parallels in my mind about my own experiences. Before long I started telling him about my problems. He could see I was distressed; he gently made me probe into myself with ‘why do you think so’ or ‘can it be’. He offered no reasoning, no answers: just his ears, his smile, his love. I was pouring out my childhood and adolescent experiences, dilemmas and questions, analyzing rationales, motives and hidden agenda.
I finally stopped. I was calm.
It was catharsis. I had found all the answers I needed to.
Often we are the problems and we are the solutions too.
It just needs someone who can listen patiently to make us heed to our own inner voice of reason.
Uma Shankari is a Bangalore-based freelance journalist, passionaately interested in societal and self-development issues