It was a great morning. A sound sleep last night enabled me to actively start my day. I woke my daughter up at 8 a.m. “Get up baby or else you’ll be late for your school”. She was cuddling to her pillow and her bed sheet as the climate was cool in Bengaluru. Slowly she rubbed her tiny eyes with her little fingers, pretending to be lazy to go to school. Then I told her that she would miss the yummy parathas if she didn’t speed up. I had promised her yesterday that I would make aloo parathas for the next day’s lunch. It reminded me of my mother who made yummy finger licking parathas for me. Perhaps my daughter had forgotten about the parathas that she had told me last night. Suddenly she sprung off her bed realizing and rushed into her bathroom.
I was busy making parathas and I had to be quick. I was rolling the last one and as I turned around I saw my daughter in front of me with her towel draped around her. This was her usual habit of standing in front of me every day after her bath, as an indication to get her dressed up. I went to her wardrobe and she yelled “Mama yellow!!”. That’s her favorite color, in fact half of her wardrobe is compiled of yellow dresses. I made her wear a yellow frock with a yellow hair band. I felt I was forgetting something…. Yes…. the sweater, but where is it. “Where is your sweater dear, you haven’t worn it, it’s too cold”. Kids tend to misplace their things, so was it with my daughter. She misplaced her sweater. I was sure that she would miss her bus and be late for the school. We were messing up the entire house for her sweater. Finally, I found it on the hanger where her father usually hangs his bath coat. I had to be quick. I was getting her to wear the sweater and buttoned it up. Swiftly I had a glance on the color of her sweater which made me think of her who was knitting the sweater that day…
THE NOSTALIGIC MUMBAIKAR
I lived with my family (my parents, my brother & sister and my granny.) I was pursuing my BA degree. It was a great fun to accelerate my scooty and reach my college that was 40 minutes away from my house. College days were just full of fun and masti along with occasional studies. But that is a point where everyone would take up their career seriously and head towards their destination. And the major point is I was in “Mumbai”-the city of dreams.
It’s like a rollercoaster ride to be in the city. Any lethargic human would easily pick up speed in this city. It’s fast and exciting. The city is full of energetic, enthusiastic and high-spirited people. They just move on towards their destinations and wait for none. The best place to see half the Mumbai’s population is in the local trains. It is very rare to see the trains empty or without rush. One can see people hanging everyday holding the pole in the train. Though the train journey is tiring, it provides one so many acquaintances who later become friends, who eagerly wait for you to share their joys and sorrows with you. Along with this one is provided with full entertainment especially in the ladies’ compartment. The moment they see any male species getting in, they would not hesitate to drive him out of the compartment with lot many abuses in different accents. I remember enjoying where ladies kept fighting with one another of not getting place to sit or to give them space to get down when the station was about to come. It was an important habit of the passengers to ask their co passengers where they were getting down so as reserving their seats beforehand. It’s fun.
And the food…… is just mouth watering. Any tourist or visitor must certainly savor the spicy “vada-pav” in this city, otherwise their trip is incomplete. It is served as a breakfast or a snack in the evening. The “pav-bhaji” is worth relishing and all kinds of “chat” are a must to try. Everything is just wonderful about the city, people come as tourists or visitors but ultimately become (mumbaikars) residents of the city, it is that captivating. I really had a great time in this city.
A HAPPY FAMILY
I started from home by 9 a.m. to reach my college. It takes an hour to reach and while returning I picked up my younger sister from school at 5:30 in the evening. She is one sweet little innocent stupid sister of mine and fun to be with and sometimes a pain. Being the youngest in the house, she has lot of attention, care and pampering from everybody in the house including me, that’s the reason she’s very stubborn. She‘s a smart brat, but lovable. Her confidence is that nobody would say no or never to her whatever she desires for. On holidays she would sit on my head to take her for a ride on my scooty. But she doesn’t realize she had a daily evening ride from school to home. She does have an explanation for this that it was my duty and pleasure to pick her up from school and not her desire and mood to enjoy the ride, which she would only experience on a holiday. This was my daily routine of “pick” service for my sister.
Almost everyone would be home by seven in the evening. My brother would also return by then. Unlike my sister he’s a calm, sober and responsible person. He was in his BCA first year. He was creative too and had a skill in animation. He’s a typical mama’s boy; I and my sister called him “mummy ka chamcha”. He would be busy with his technical work. We three are very close to our granny. Though she is 70 years old she can still work better than my mom. She was a woman with strong will power. She would tell all her painful as well as good experiences of her life that would inspire us. My father, like an obedient son, took very good care of her. So, my place would always be “houseful” after seven.
A FACE IN THE HUBBUB
As usual I got ready for college that day and I was prepared to attend high dose of lectures. I started by nine and reached college at ten. Apart from the fifteen minutes lunch break we had four continuous classes. It was highly impossible to sustain one’s concentration for four hours. Literature is interesting when one takes great pleasure in it and not when one is tormented with nonstop classes with boring topics. Somehow, I retained my energy and was waiting for the last fifteen minutes to end. Hah!!!! I heaved a sigh of relief. I just rushed towards my scooty after the class and moved on to reach home. I was busy driving and I felt that my vehicle was weighing lighter than before perhaps, I realized I forgot to pick my sister up from school, so I had to go all the way back to her school. I picked her up and the time she sat on the scooty she went on chattering about her teacher, her friends, her plans for the weekend and so on. I kept driving. Heading homeward, I got struck in the traffic. It was too tiring. I just wanted to rush home as early as possible. I grossed out. I saw a lady selling vegetables in her basket and screaming “bhaaji lelo bhaji, taaji taaji bhaji” in a typical Marathi accent. I was wondering looking at the traffic police how he never got tired standing and directing people for so long. The ear-splitting scene at the signal was getting me hot under the collar. Added to this was sister’s nonstop chatter. I paid deaf ears to her jibber-jabber, oblivious of what she was talking about. As I looked at my watch, I realized that it had been half an hour since I got struck in the traffic. I raised my head annoyingly; my eyes halted at the garden of the Ganesh temple and there I saw this old lady sitting. There were few more people sitting but my eyes just rested on the old lady. Before I could switch to next thought the traffic cleared and I rode.
REVELATIONS ABOUT HER
After coming home, I was still thinking about her. Later I got busy with my other activities at home and went to sleep. The next day was like any other usual day and on the way back home from college I again happened to notice this old lady sitting in the temple. I saw her the next day and then the other day. I just couldn’t refrain myself from her thoughts. I had no clue for why I was thinking about her so much. I couldn’t sleep. Her picture was flashing whenever I closed my eyes. She was very old, grey headed with very few strands of black hair. She wore those soda glasses the same which my granny wore. I made up my mind to meet her in the temple the next evening. I went off to sleep. The next morning, I got up as usual, as it was Sunday I started with helping my mother in the kitchen for breakfast and then for lunch.
I was cleaning my room and sorting out my book rack. While I was busy, my sister screeched out saying “di….SRK’s movie”. I rushed hurriedly and sat in front of the idiot-box and watch “kuch kuch hota hai”. Both my sister and I are diehard fans of SRK; we would forget our meals whenever we were smitten by his performance on screen. It went on till 4:30 p.m and suddenly I realized that I had to meet her in the temple. I freshened up a little and was ready to leave the house. By the time I reached it was 5’o clock. I was waiting for her to come and rested myself on a bench there. Soon after few minutes I could see her coming towards the temple. She came in but did not have a glance at me and sat in her regular place. I was watching her keenly as she took out a needle and wool from her brown “jhola” bag and started knitting. It was 5:30 now. People started coming in, few visited the temple, and some sat in the garden. She never spoke to them nor did they speak to her. I was still watching her. Time just flew; it was 6:30 then. She had finished knitting two small sized red color sweaters. It looked so pretty she put her sweaters into her jhola and stood. I thought she was leaving. But no…she was plucking some flowers from the garden and headed towards the temple. She gave the flowers to the temple priest and he placed them at the feet of Ganesha’s idol. Crowd started coming in the temple, it was 7 now, the aarti time. I too joined in. It lasted up to 40 minutes. After the aarti, the priest offered Prasad to the people and everybody left. I saw this old lady leaving the temple and entering an old, two storey apartment across the road.
In conversation with the temple priest, I enquired him about this old lady. He said to me, “she’s kaveriamma”. I asked him about her and her family. He said to me that he knew Kaveriamma for a long time. She was a regular temple-goer. She also got her husband and her two sons to the temple. Her sons excelled in life and secured good jobs. Kaveriamma’s husband died of heart stroke a year before her sons got employed. She got her sons married and they left abroad promising her of their visits every year. I asked the priest about her sons visit that year. He said they never returned to this lady, but sent her money orders from abroad. Kaveriamma was sad at this. She was a woman of self-respect and great dignity. She only used her husband’s pension for her livelihood. The other money what her sons gave was donated by her in charity or gave the temple for “annadan” to the poor. I was in sorrow after listening to the story. Since then kaveri amma came to the temple daily at 5 p.m and left after the aarti. As I came home I saw my granny relaxing on her rocking chair. I was emotional post meeting; however, to comfort myself from her thoughts I hugged my granny affectionately and thanked God for her well-being. I didn’t feel hungry that night and went to bed early. The next morning, I woke up with a “kaveri-hangover”. I wanted to meet her again, but I was busy with my exams. But I strongly decided to meet her soon after my exams. I was trying very hard to get my brains on studies. I struggled for concentration and somehow wrote my exams.
THE LONG-AWAITED MEETING WITH ‘AMMA’
“Phew!! Exams are over”, I let my breath out. Finally, it was Sunday. I was waiting for the evening and wanted the time to fly. But the time was so slow and restless for me that I could not concentrate on any household work and instead messed up things. My mother kept speculating what was wrong with me that day. I would just look at my clock, showing me 12:30, 1:30, 2:30, 3:30 and then I leapt on the couch seeing 4:30 in my clock, dressed up quickly and left the house. I reached the temple at 5 and sat on the garden bench waiting for Kaveriamma. And there I found her. She was unable to cross the road as many vehicles were passing by. Her feet were trembling, and she appeared frail. I crossed the road immediately and came close to her holding her wrinkled hand, crossed and reached her to the temple. We both sat. She smiled at me. Her smile made a deep impact on my heart. She pulled my cheek and said “naam kya hai beta”? I replied to her “Krishna”. Her eyes were filled with joy and she told me that her second grandson’s name was also “Krishna”. She took her jhola onto her lap and took out an old photograph of her family. She pointed out her sons in the photograph with joy and tears in her eyes. She also carried her husband’s handcloth and called it “rumaal”. She showed me the sweater which she knitted herself for her grandson. For a while I felt that, maybe she was waiting for someone to come close and talk to her. Her joy knew no bounds when she was interacting with me.
She spoke very little with a mild shivering in her tone. She enquired where I lived and how many brothers and sisters I had. I told her that I lived with my parents, my brother, sister and my granny. She said how lucky my granny was to be living with us. In our conversation she did not utter anything against her sons. Whenever we paused in our conversation she just smiled at me. Her smile was contagious and went deep down in my heart. We attended the aarti together and left the temple waving at each other.
THAT LAST SUNDAY
After I came home, I started feeling a sense of contentment talking to Kaveriamma. But I went furious whenever I thought of her sons, who left their mother all alone in such a big city.
I met kaveriamma every Sunday and sometimes took my younger sister along with me to meet her. She liked us both. She felt very happy those few hours spent with me and my sister. By now I was at the end of my final semester and was getting married soon after my final exams. I met her on one Sunday; she inquired me about how I wrote my exams. I also told her that I was getting married and she expressed her happiness at the news. She blessed me and kissed my forehead. She gifted me a small Ganesha idol, which she preserved since many years. She asked where the boy was from. I told her that he was from Bengaluru, so I would shift to Bengaluru soon after my wedding. Though she was happy she felt poignant with the news. I could read her feelings on her face. Then with a sudden smile she said “nayi zindagi ke liye bahut bahut shubkamnayen beta,mein bahut khush hoon”.(Congratulations for the new phase in your life ,all the best and I m very happy for you). Before I could take out my wedding card, she held my hand tight and said that she would not come for my wedding, but her blessings would always be with me and asked me not to force her. She left the temple smiling at me.
I got married and within a few days, I left for Bengaluru. I missed Kaveriamma on my wedding. I wondered why she restrained herself for my wedding. Later I thought maybe she felt whoever was close to her and whom she loved and cared for, would leave her alone some day and go far away from her.
THE LONGING REMAINS
“Pomp! pomp! pomp! is your child coming or should I leave”, the bus driver yelled. With a sudden jerk I got back to reality and saw my daughter running towards the school bus. “How come you are late today madam, you always stood ready waiting at the gate before I could reach your place”, said the driver. I just smiled and said nothing, I was still in thoughts.
“Bye mommy bye”, “bye dear have a good day”. They left.
It was a great life with my family. My parents also shifted to Bengaluru due to my brother’s job here. I had no reason to visit Bombay again. But I have a desire to see Kaveriamma again. She always resembled my granny as I was very close to her. Somehow, I didn’t want to miss Kaveriamma in my life. Someday I would introduce my “Kaveri” (my daughter) to Kaveriamma when I pay a visit to Mumbai. But I’m afraid if she’s still there; (in thoughts) maybe she’s flown abroad to her sons or I’m scared if she is……………