He fumbles with his groundnut pod. A defiant three-or-four-year old that will not call for help. It slips out of his fingers once or twice, and he darts in its direction each time, pulled by his fascination with the shell-hard thing that won’t give in to his will. He raises it to his face for careful examination, gripping it at the tips with four skinny fingers of his left hand, pivoted underneath by his thumb; observing the fine lines sculpted along its length by no human hands. After careful inspection, he bares his teeth- the first weapons of little ones his age, flat and chiselled little things they are- and sinks them into the once-upon-a-stubborn shell of the dry groundnut, and a satisfying crunch reaches my ears. One would expect a child so tender to have no insight into the rules for savouring groundnut. But he pulls his hand back from his mouth, the cracked shell with it, and raises his right hand in a delicate, if not dexterous, dance to free the two halves of the now divided groundnut shell. He peers at the purplish-brown treasure encased within, a grin of victory on his face as he looks at me. I smile in return, knowing deep within: “This one is a fighter”.
I do not often have such ‘moments of truth’ with scrawny looking children clad in dirtied pants, running around the marketplace; that would leave me queer. Perhaps that pant-clad child is a representation of mankind and our will to survive. Science lies. Perhaps the aged do not lose their teeth to age; perhaps they lose them to long years of gnawing through life and its woes, of cracking new spheres of emotion and even more-overwhelming loses. Plausibly, our teeth fall out from gnawing for survival.
Artwork by Kenart