Couldn’t stand there anymore. Escaped in a hurry. Could no longer bear the burning example of the erosion of human values. The ground shifted from under the feet. Bleeding in the heart. Her last words were falling on my conscience like a whip ‘I have never been able to speak properly anything with the authority. That’s why, being a mother of three sons, I am begging for my survival, I am at your mercy for my livelihood.”
Every evening, while returns from the office, I use to get off the train at platform number one at ‘Mira road’ Station. A huge crowd gets off the train by that time and the entire platform looks like a human parade. Climbing the stairs to the flyover. Tired, exhausted. Walk through the skywalk to the auto stand and straight back to the home. This is my daily routine. Many beggars beg at the platform, flyover, and skywalk. ‘Please give me something, God will bless you. Listing these voices I cross the flyover and skywalk. Someday give something to somebody and someday nothing except someone who was different.
One of them was a little exceptional. An older woman, with a white saree. Aged around 70 years old with a quite fair complexion. Pull the veil lightly on the head. The wrinkled skin of the face but a lot of novelty in it. Expressionless indifferent eyes. Lean forward with the edge of the saree with two hands. She used to stand in the middle of the flyover just over platforms number 1 and 2. Never asked for anything from anyone like others. I have never heard her voice. She didn’t even look at anyone’s face clearly. Distinguished from everyone else. She really deserves respect automatically. She only raises faces when somebody gives something to her.
I can remember very well, I gave her rupees five on the first day I saw her. Then someday rupees ten, someday rupees twenty. Someday all my coins without counting. One day I picked up fifty rupees on the way to my office. I gave it to her on the way back. That day, she looked at me for the first time with clear eyes. Gratitude in her affectionate eyes. Maybe she does not gets so much money at a time. It was going on like this for some time. It became a habit. Giving something on the way back every day. She could now identify me separately. I don’t know whether she used to wait for me or not, but it seems to me that she used to be happy seeing me. We have never talked to each other.
Then I did not see her there for some time. The first day I thought, maybe she has not come for some reason. Then continuously did not see her for a week. I got a bit scared. An apprehension was created in mind, is she sick? She was old enough. Is she surviving? An emptiness engulfed my mind when I used to cross that place every evening.
Then, with the passage of time, I gradually started forgetting her. My daily routine continues, from flyover to skywalk to auto stand to way back home. This way, almost six months pass away. One day I did not go through the skywalk, Instead, I decided to stair down to platform number 4 for the exit. Walking down the stairs, I found her, standing just beneath the staircases. Same attire. A stream of happiness flowed in my mind. As soon as I went down a little more, my eyes fell on her eyes. Understood, she could also recognize me. I pulled my purse, thinking how much to give her. Meeting after a lot of time. We stood face to face. It came out of itself ‘where have you been all this time? Don’t you stand anymore at your old place? Have not seen you for log times there.
She became hesitant a bit. Maybe thinking what to say. Then she opened her mouth to say something and the first time I was listing her voices. She looked with blank eyes towards the stairs and replied ‘I was sick for some time. With God’s grace, I have survived. Moreover, I am not allowed to stand there anymore.’
I was a little surprised, then asked ‘who does not allow you to stand there and why?’
She remains silent for a while. Looking at the soil. I was waiting eagerly for the answer. She then said in a very low voice ‘I cannot give them the share of begging as per their demand. I have never been able to speak properly anything with the authority. I have given up my rights and affections. That’s why, being a mother of three sons, I am begging for my survival, I am at your mercy for my livelihood.”
Giving a glance at me, she bowed down her head. I became spellbound. Started sweating.
As much as she said, there are lots that remained unuttered. I could understand all. I gave her a hundred rupee notes and somehow escaped from there in a hurry.
Did not catch the auto that day. Started walking home with a lot of pain in my mind. Innumerable questions were raging in my mind. Our independence day is the day after tomorrow. The tricolor flags will be flying everywhere. So many words will be sparked on the stage. But when our mothers will get true freedom to live respectfully? When will we honor our ancestors? When our society will be really free from such injustice? When our dream of # FreeIndia will really come true? A suppressed guilt lingered in my mind. Am I not responsible for these? Have I really contributed to the betterment of society? With extreme fatigue, I rang my doorbell. Exhausted, repented, ashamed lied down on the chair. Closed my eyes, couldn’t hide my tears.