Saturday, July 27, 2013

The little old lady that made me happy!

It's after a long time that I have been moved and overwhelmed in real life, in person; not one of those videos or those blogs or those news articles or those tweets or Facebook uploads...

Today I met an old lady. She cud have been anywhere between 75 and a 100 years old.  She was going about her life with so much acceptance, such innocense (and even a sense of humour I later saw) inspite of all the worldly problems of health, wealth and well, life as such.

She was almost hunch backed, about 3ft tall, had the early spurt of hair growth on her head, that follows a tonsure, a dirty gown on that covered her dutifully from neck to ankle, a dirty cloth bag of her few belongings or may be those that she needed for her business whatever it was. She walked a straight path on the busy main road, her eyes on the ground, not the slightest intention on her (evident from her body language) to even seek physical help, let alone stretch her small puny arms for alms, to the plenty of people walking around her, definitely in a much better state in life.

As I crossed her, I cud barely control the reflex to turn around and look at her properly, not just the outline I caught as I overtook her in pace.  My angel and demon were swiftly engaged in the battle of morality, of dharma and the practicality of my real life.

As I reached the bus stop to take the connecting bus, I (like the child we all are within) told myself that I wud wait and see if she wud head my way and if so I would give her a small sum that wud appease both the angel and the demon or atleast strike a compromise while they found new arguments as to wanting and not wanting the lady to head my way and debating over how useful or laughable the sum I had decided upon to give away was.

I had already extracted the money from the attic of a bag I had and was ready when the angel's wish won. The lady walked right into my way.

As I approached her she broke into such an innocent and infectious smile that I was surprised.  The battles that were waging inside me until that very moment I approached her were quelled, more like the demon was dumbstruck.

As I inserted the currency notes into her ( really small) palm she paused to squint at the notes and then gave it back to me with a half mute vocabulary and said 'kapde' (clothes). She tried showing me something with 5 of her fingers that I initially did not understand.  I told her to keep the money, mustered a warm and guilty smile and walked away.  To my surprise she walked to the bus stop and approached me.  She again tried giving the money back and explaining that she needed clothes making the 5 finger gesture.  Then it stuck me, or atleast the most I cud make out of it - I extracted some more from my purse hastily and gave her a relatively larger sum.  I told her not 'Khana milega' (you'll get food with this) this time but 'kapde milenge' (you'll get cloth with this), with a reltively less guiltier heart and a more satisfied smile.  I rushed towards the bus that approached while I felt all the eyes that were earlier watching us, slowly leave and the woman followed and got into the bus too.

For a second I thought she was following me but realised that she actually was travelling in the same direction.  I was not sure if my heart was happy or my ego unhappy.  I even thought may be I just got fooled and I wanted to walk away, into a corner, not wanting to look at anyone that might recognise me from the curious exchange or especially the lady.  For I was sad to leave her clinging to the support pole while a young fellow gave me the 'ladies seat' that he was occupying until then.

As the driver and conductor started laughing and having a jovial conversation with/about her or probably js couldn't help smiling at the innocent expressions of the sorry little creature to whom they tried demanding the ticket fare while she half mutely joked back giving them imaginary coins from thin her.  I was watching every word uttered with a beating heart, every eye on her that was curious or mocking, made me want to get up and pay the ticket fare.  But the demon had had enough. Angel was making feeble attempts.  As I realised that the diver and conductor were merely having good natured fun and did not expect to get anything from her, I relaxed and let go of the idealist in me that had decided to hail the conductor (as inconspicuously as possible) and pay him her bus fare.

When I saw her alight from the bus on her own accord at her destination, I breathed a sigh of relief
and told myself that she is going to walk 'home' as safely as she had travelled so far.

Then I started marvelling in earnest at the astonishing strength and happiness showed by this frail child of an old lady.

I wished I had given her a hug, that I had taken her home with me, given her good shelter for the night, a square meal of food and the love of a daughter or granddaughter; like the scores of people who are currently doing this for thousands of people across various cities everyday without expecting anything in return.

I wished I had given her the big bar of chocolate in my bag and as I thought this it also crossed me that it cud even have been adverse to her if she had diabetes.  Then the irony stuck me. The irony and cynicism of human nature that doesn't really let us move beyond our limits as a 'practical person'.

Well this was a small portion of just what I cud do.  May be one random day when I cud.
If I were asked to spend all of my earnings in such deeds or even just a significant amount monthly for these people (as those many many noble hearts are doing), I wouldn't be able to.

This was just a lucky day for me, probably a celebration for a dear ones birthday that wud be here in one day.

But this also saddened me, for this was also the dark irony. For I had expected people to have noticed.  This consciousness had embarrassed me causing me to seat myself into a corner.  I had thought about how they wud have perceived me.  May be I am js a pious Muslim doing her duty during the month of ramzan (for I did have a costume similar on) - though a duty no less nobler - but still done because you are supposed to.

I was saddened at these thoughts that had crossed my mind.  I tried to dispel it by thinking how nothing  matters - how people perceived,  whether or not they even noticed.  At the end of the day it made me happy, moved me and made me smile.  Then it was touché, the angel smiled at the demon.
I recalled phoebe and F.R.I.E.N.D.S.  Accepting this innate human pride or whatever that was was more graceful than I had thought. All that mattered was I have done something to help someone and in the process made atleast two people - the lady and myself.

I walked the rest of the way home with a slight spring in  my steps, blessing the little lady's soul.

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