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by Chandra Ghosh Jain
It was a cold October morning and we waited for our turn to get into the ferry. Everyone had to undergo the mandatory body scan before being allowed entrance into the museum. My legs were aching as I was on a whirlwind tour of NY. I had done a round of all the museums and this was my final must see on my itinerary. I was thrilled when my University had nominated me to attend a two week seminar on 'Globalization and Gender equality'. I had a week before I had to return back to work. So I was cramming in as much of sight-seeing as I could. As my knees wobbled and groaned its woes of carrying on in its fiftieth year with an ever burgeoning girth, I sat down and exclaimed, "Ah I can't carry on climbing up these endless steps."
The Lady whispered "I am tired of standing too. How my legs ache! Here you complain of a pain in the knees just walking around Central Park! How I want to lie down. Ahh….!"
I was dumb founded as the guide droned on about it being a gift from France in 1776. A hundredth Independence Day gift! Today was 2006. Imagine the paranoia of the people if she ever sat down under the present circumstances. I whispered back, "The security chaps will throw us all in jail. There will be talk of some new and improved method of remotely destroying the symbols of American Civilization. And don't ever talk of lying down. You are not like the Bamian Buddha, who were destroyed and no one cared to even protest.” I was panicking and sounded as severe as possible. But the Lady was adamant, 'What if I lean a little like the Leaning Tower of Pisa?'
She was in a rebellious mood. I ignored her and joined a group of elderly tourists clicking away furiously, all enthralled by this icon of independence.
The guide droned on about her aquiline nose, large eyes and firm chin. "Look at her beautiful flawless skin! The copper, a shield to all the environmental degradation."
All of us noted the green patina on her. Did I see the statuesque figure raise her brows questioningly?
"How would you like to possess a green coloured skin eh?"
The aggrieved voice floated in with the chill winds.
"Oh I am open to all colours, purple, shades of violet, maroon, orange, lilac, golden…"
There was a silence for a while. I smiled at the thought of having outsmarted her. "Ouch!" I jumped out of my skin as the Statue of Liberty in silvery gown and dark glasses posed to be photographed with a gaggle of tourists. There were relieved smiles all around as I understood my mistake.
Many such Statue of Liberty's were standing around, some fairly short to one that was quite portly.
"See I frightened you didn't I?"
The voice from the silvery coloured Statue of Liberty look-alike was gleeful. This one sported dark sunglasses. It did make her look quirky.
I had made the mistake of standing with her to be photographed. I began walking briskly trying to shake off this fresh nuisance.
A sudden strong gust of wind nearly threw me off my feet and I toppled over and sprawled at 'her feet.' Staring up from my grassy patch I watched the impassive face flicker with concern for a moment. I got up or rather was helped to my feet by holding on to her comforting solidity.
Rains were lashing on hard as the sky was split asunder by a brilliant flash of lightening. I was astonished to discover that the Statue of Liberty was very nonchalantly taking off her glasses and the dripping wet silvery cloak!
She stood amazingly tall and powerful in all her copper green beauty next to me on the grassy ground below. I looked up to see the pedestal above and the silent vacuum screaming it's absence.
I could visualize the entire US security swooping down on some hapless country or people holding them responsible for the shenanigans of the Statue.
"Please, please go back," I was pleading holding on to her immense feet.
She wiggled her big toe, "Give me one good reason why I should?"
"For the sake of the poor. The trampled on and the large silent suffering majority who look upon you as an icon of justice and freedom."
My teeth chattered more in fear than cold as I was sure of my photograph being splashed in all newspapers and TV for trying to escape with the Statue.
"You do not expect justice here do you?" She was certainly in a strange mood.
"How can you go in for metaphysical discussions here? Let's find a more comfortable place," I suggested.
As we walked in companionable silence the statue spoke up, "An icon of freedom and justice? Don't you think I am tyrannical? Imposing my concepts and values on others? Who gave me those powers? Isn't it because I am financially and militarily mighty?"
I made some soothing sounds, "Justice, we do not expect it anywhere. We are surprised and taken aback when it does occur. Tell me one instance in history that justice has taken place? Kings come and go, so called peoples' democracies come in their place. But justice there is no justice madam for the poor in the world."
She turned to retort but in the blinding rain we had walked right back to her pedestal! She stood silently nodding assent to my views as with a sigh of relief I clambered on the last ship going back to NY.