Sunday, August 26, 2012
Sailing over lives: I Am No Mother Teresa
Walking into the lanes of the slum dwellers haven, Iti felt an unusual ache in her heart. Often she had thought about these people and sighed and pitied at their animal like existence. She was not sure what she was feeling today, the happy faces and cheerful demeanour contradicted her opinion. Kids playing on the dirty streets flanked by garbage, open gutters, shit and everything despicable evoked trivial guilt into her being. Why are they happy? The question hovered over.
Between her thoughts, Shiv interrupted her to show her his dwelling. Tot her surprise the dwelling was a lot cleaner and habitable than any other she had stumbled upon before. Bare brick walls covered with a tin roof. There were no doors and entrance was through opening covered by an old rug. She hesitated to enter, waiting for some to come out and give her the permission to invade someone’s private territory. But Shiv quietly led her inside. His mother was nowhere to be seen. The place was cleaner and organised to clichéd description of a slum dwelling. A 21” T.V in one corner, an old double bed, a rack neatly stacked with few clothes, one racking holding the utensils atop it a gas burner. Everything hinted towards a poor yet dignified existence.
Shiv took out a folding chair from beneath the bed and offered her to sit. Why was she here? What can she offer this family? What has dragged her to come here? She was no Mother Teresa. Neither can she pretend to be one. She began to rehearse how will she start a conversation with Shiv’s mother and before she could make up anything, his mother appeared.
"Namaste", mother gently greeted Iti.
Iti to her own amazement froze in her seat; the woman was partially covered with burn marks. Iti stood up and reciprocated. "Namaste"
“Your son was roaming on the roads in the morning. I though I should bring him back here”, Iti initiated.
“Oh, thank you but you need not have bothered he is doing this for many days now, thinks he can find his good for nothing father and bring him back but I don’t stop him. He will realise it himself one day and get back to his senses.”
“But he is just 5 and you should stop him. He needs to go to school; also he might get hurt while roaming around”
Shiv’s mother remained silent for a moment and began speaking again.
“I am running this house for 10 years. Shiv’s father used to work in a garment factory. He was paid well to feed the family but his desires of earning big money led to his demise. Now here I am running this house alone and taking care of three kids. You cannot meet them now. I sent them to the village to study just after their father died as it is difficult to raise children in this big city. We don’t have much in the village also but enough to make the ends meet and give them a good life.”
“Will you be sending him also?”
"I thought of sending him too but I need someone here with me. I will live in the city for one more year and then both of us will go back to our village. I have saved about one lakh in the past 5 years and I will use to start a new life."
Iti looked puzzled.
“Oh, you must be thinking how a poor woman like me can save so much money. But I am working as a house maid for so many years. Initially I used to spend everything on the house but one day I stopped. I took some help from my employer and got a bank account. Never told his father about this though. He would have grown suspicious. I stopped taking any diwali or holi gifts from madam and asked her to instead deposit money of the value in my account.”
“You should be an economist. You can run the country”
“I am illiterate. I can’t even read or write, but I know to read money.” She laughed.
Iti was speechless. And she thought she would help this poor kid and his family. She rose and asked to leave. She didn’t know what to talk more. Words refused to form a way with her and she willingly gave in.