COUNT ON

COUNT ON

~Based on true story


It was a Tuesday morning and I was in a hurry to take my train to my destination Kodambakkam from St.Thomas Mount. It was a busy day. I had not renewed my train pass and there was a big queue in front of me. Even then, there was no irritation. Only that, I had to encounter this old lady sitting near the counter. I have seen her several times in this place. She always filled the place with a foul smell from the leftovers of her food. I have never liked her till that day.
That day she had a company of three people. She was not begging to them. It was them who were begging to her. There was this man in his forties, a lady almost his age in a pink nylon saree and a small girl, with a bag on each of their hands. The line in front of me was long enough and I had no choice but to hear their conversation. I was shocked to hear that man call that lady Amma. So, she had a family and still she was allowed to beg. I was furious on that man. If he had taken care of her, she would have never come to this stage.

He was pleading in such a low voice. With what I could hear, her son was requesting her to come back to their home. That seemed to be a good offer but I did not know if the old lady would accept it. I thought that going with her son was better than begging in a railway station. Now, the girl went near the old lady, calling her Patti. Her face lightened on hearing that. The girl hugged the old lady beyond all the foul smell from and around her. She said that her name was same as that of hers. The old lady's eyes were wet. I could get that the old lady had left their house when the girl was too small to understand anything, even before having a name. The small girl said that she would love to be with her always. I wanted to lift that child and say that I would pack the old lady up and send her to their address, for my heart melted seeing that little girl crying in a public place. The old lady was about to talk, when this lady in pink said some highly unpleasing words to the old lady. 
She said, "You want to eat without doing anything. Begging or stealing. Don't you have anything other than this to do in this world? If you had lived under me, you would have never begged."

When she finished, the little girl was looking at this lady with disgust. The little girl released herself from the old lady. She looked at the old lady with love. They talked a while without words and then the little girl went back to that man (her father) and wept. After a minute she said, "It is my fate to be without mother's love and let us not drag patti into this ditch", she said. I admired the little girl's maturity and thought that the ditch the small girl referring was more nauseating than the old ladies foul smell.

The man looked helpless and weak. He covered his tears with his red kadhi towel and saw his mother. She was now like a steel, hit by an iron rod when red hot. He left that place with his daughter. This pink saree lady followed them shouting some bad words and arguing that she was right and questioned them if she had done anything wrong. Nothing less than worse, I thought.

After filling myself with pity for the old lady, I saw the line and still I had 10 people ahead of me. So, now what? The day would be disaster, with lots of overwhelming feelings for this old lady sitting near the ticket counter. Then suddenly, a man in the most dirty cloth appeared from the crowd, moving directly towards the old lady. He looked the same age as the old lady's son. He came to her and said, "I thought you would leave without saying a good bye. Did they come? Your son and your grand-daughter. I only identified your son. I have seen him in the photograph you once showed."

She smiled at him.
"You are my unborn son. If you do not want me, tell me that. Don't show that by bringing my past to me."
"Don't be a fool.", he shouted."I always like to be with you. But, you love your son and grand-daughter right. You should go with them. Wait. I will bring them back. I can find them."
He was restless. He wanted them together. He wanted to see her happy.
The lady grabbed the man's dothi and made him sit and narrated the incident to him.

Finally, "Yes, I love them", she said, "But, I don't want to go with them. I gave my entire life growing my son to a good position in society. I never knew anything more than him in this world. When he brought another woman for his lust within 10 days of his wife's death and threw me out of my home for pointing out his mistake, I stayed without any regret in that house for his little girl who lost her mother at her birth. But, I left the home, only when he believed that woman over me for some unworthy money. He bet me with a bamboo stick and said that I was not loyal to anyone, not even to his father. He immediately regretted what he said and pleaded for my forgiveness. I forgave him. But, that does not take his word from my heart. I am hurt."

Five of them in the front and I just wanted to run to her and ask why did she not go for that little girl. She needs her care, was my point. The man repeated the same question to her.He should have heard my mind.

The lady turned to him slowly and said, "She will do good. I know. Because, she knows what life is. That bitch (She was referring to the pink saree lady) said that I have to accept my mistake if I have to enter that house. I can accept it for the sake this small kid. But, I cannot see this devil calling me a stealer in front of my little girl. First, that would make my little girl feel worse than this and would drain all the confidence in human kind. Second, now she would know how to stand against the world when it blames her for the mistake she has not done and the next time I see her, I should not beg. I should make her proud."

The man turned towards the wall and kept his hands on his face. He rubbed his eyes and said that he would get them something to eat and left that place. I never knew when I got my ticket. My legs automatically went towards the old lady and I offered her a ten rupee note. She smiled at me with content, rejected it politely and wished me good luck. I continued my day. There was no pity, but pride. The old lady had made a mark in that small girl's life and so does the girl.

A few days passed and everyday, I saw the old lady. She never begged these days, but she was cleaning the shops near the station and selling peanut cakes in train. 

One day I found the man with the dirty dress crying to the wall near the counter. He said, "Now you showed me how painful losing a Mother is. Come back and take care of this orphan. I will never beg again. We can work, earn and live as you said. We can be family. Come back to me, please." He was weeping like a child. 

I don't know if the old lady was dead or alive. I never felt sad. Wherever she is, she would be happy being her. Happy for another changed soul. She is the best teacher of life and the best learner from life.

In the wall it was written, "Don't steal or beg. Work and live till your last breath."

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