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The Old Lady In Blue Sari

I was walking back home from the bus stand. A long day I must say, plus the honks of traffic and the bustle of the vehicles clearly didn’t make things any better.

On the way, I saw an old lady walking ahead of me. She carried a jute bag full of clothes—it was her ripened age that made her bend over rather than the weight of the bag she carried. A polythene with a few Parle G biscuits hung loosely from her fingers. She wore a blue sari wrapped shabbily around her petite frame. With her ragged white hair spread carelessly on her tiny head and her hunched debilitating body, she walked at a slower pace. I easily overtook her.

Through the corner of my eyes, I saw her turning into a lane—was it my curiosity or my pitying over her state, I slowed down and started following her.

Her steps were little and her walk was slow. I had to stop to keep up with her—I pretended to be on phone, lest she notices me following her. At one point, I saw her talking to herself, gesturing at the big houses that we were passing.

I realized she might have been not been in the best of her mental health, probably, downtrodden by the rugged conditions of her life . Walking parallel to her and keeping up with her pace, I saw her approach a few street dogs. She sat on the road side, called out to them and started breaking and throwing the biscuits  at them. I was so touched by her act—despite being in a deplorable condition, she was feeding street dogs, who happily waged their tails, feeding on the morsels she had to offer.

I couldn’t hold myself—I went near her and knelled down next to her. I started petting the dogs to make it look like I wasn’t following her lest she might become suspicious or uncomfortable. When she saw me, she started talking to me with vigor, but in a language I couldn’t understand. She talked about the dogs ( Naai in Kannada language ) in the beginning. We engaged in a conversation as if we were casual friends and had met after a long time.

A closer luck at her made me feel sad. Her face was a wrinkled with stretches of lines running athwart the face. Her puckered skin had adjusted to her aging body. Her eyes reflected the pain and turmoil a 75-year old could have gone through.

While talking, her tone shifted suddenly. From the bits of Kannada I knew, I could make out she was talking about her house—her voice wavered and streams of tears started pouring down her cheeks.

She continued speaking and what I understood was that somebody (probably, her family) left the house, leaving her alone. She said she didn’t know where they went. Her lips quivered—grief and dismay poured from her eyes. She spoke in low, cracked voice—though I couldn’t make out single word she was saying then, I listened to her.

I brought my hand near her face and, gently, rubbed off the tears from the creases of her skin. I pressed her hand in reassurance—though she might not have understood my tongue, I consoled her and asked her not to cry. The touch of sympathy made her cry even more—I tried holding back my tears as I felt her pain. She pinched her arms, showing the loose skin that hung from her thin limb. I couldn’t say anything to comfort her, but I offered her grapes that I had purchased that evening and the little money that I carried in wallet at that time.

She folded her hands to thank me, but I persuaded her against it. Refusing to accept her gratitude, I tried to deviate her from the topic by asking her about her home, making the shape of house by pressing together my finger tips. She understood and spoke something, out of which all I could get was ‘Kerela’. We continued talking that way deciphering and responding to each other’s words with our expressions and gestures.

People passing by noticed us and gave us quizzical glances. I thought I could ask someone to interpret the old lady’s language for me, but, then, felt against it. I might invite unnecessary comments and the old lady may get uncomfortable—so I stayed put.

We talked like that for good 15 minutes, after which we both instinctively got up to walk again as if we knew the time was up. She called on those dogs and started feeding them. She somehow explained me the way to her home—inge, ange and asked me where I lived. I couldn’t explain much but she seemed convinced and moved on, talking to the dogs and speaking to herself.

I continued walking towards home contented. Strangely, my heart felt lighter after talking to her.

old woman

Image Source: http://www.shutterstock.com

P.S: I didn’t want to take her picture. Taking and posting her photograph felt like a tool to gain attention online and a disrespect towards her.

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Amidst the Noise of World

Few days back I was travelling to K R Puram in a local BMTC bus. With its grandpa engines coughing in full thrusts with every shift of the gear stick, it was slugging through the tight traffic near the criss-cross of highways and merging traffics at petite roads. The surrounding noise from the honks and engines around could have mercilessly crushed the solace of any serene place and sanity of every peaceful mind. But here, everyone in my vicinity was swaying with the bus on every pit and hole on the road and hoping that the rumbling engine does more than just making the bus turn into a cacophonous big beast.

Sitting in the front, near the door, I was ruminating over my blankness of my thoughtless brain, when something caught my attention. A moment that seemed quite unusual from the corner of my eye until I turned and noticed a woman smiling and gesturing at another, who stood against my seat. Continuing to make a happy face she made signs with her fingers in fast repeated motions, communicating and conversing and laughing without a sound coming from her mouth. Her eyeballs were at a display of excitement, surprise and vivaciousness. Sometimes she opened her mouth to let out an air of exasperation other times simply to rest her transparent talk. The woman on the other side of the conversation, even moved her head, into a sudden long nod, time and again in response to her friend’s serious conversation. They expressed via swift moments of their hands that were clean and surprisingly I found myself comparing them to mudras of certain Bharatnatayam step. There was an elegance in the way they talked but without a sound.

Nobody knew because nobody heard, others including me just stared at the never-bothered ladies who I am sure must of spoken of the whole world by then. Yet that silence appealed to me in the greater noise of the world. It touched me not because I pitied their disability, but that I envied their ability to convey their selves effortlessly and retain their peacefulness in the disturbance that was everywhere and by default for everyone except them.

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Habbits Gone Wrong

I recently started walking to and fro, from home to office. The distance being just 1 km, one way and me turning into couch potato again, both the reasons seemed good enough to take up this habit.

So there was this day, my headphones giving me a good company, and the drizzle from above, all made it a perfect walk back home. The pedestrian path was much less crowded than on any other day until my path arched and I found a man, peeing on the adjacent wall, few meters away. With a hat on and his khaki pants, I found out he was a policeman. Disgusting as it was already, he finished his job and went ahead only to rub his hands clean against his trousers.

Until then I had worn this ‘O-GrossS!’ expression on my face and worst he caught my eye, turned as if nobody saw him and went back on his duty. I suddenly realized the drained out concept of untouchables seemed quite valid, and the gesture of respectful ‘Namaste’ so apt and perfect!

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Thru my mind


 

Peeing in public seems a puny problem. There is something, much more unpleasant and totally unnoticed, happening out there – NO WASHING HANDS!  And here I can feel you all going like “Eww..yulk..shit!..”

So next time, you meet someone new, prefer a namaste and promote Indian culture, because    you never know.

Develop it as a good habit and inculcate in others too, is all I can say.