Welcome back !! 🙂
I went to her. She was sitting on the floor with all the utensils. I said “Namastey”. She didn’t say anything but made a gesture by joining her hands and smiled. I didn’t go from there. She looked at me again and asked, “what are you doing in this hostel?” . I was happy she was talking. I replied, “ I am doing an internship at the university.” Well, I guess she didn’t exactly get me.
She inquired further, “Do you have any siblings?”
“Oh yes, I have a little sister. She is in 9th grade.”
And without wasting another minute I asked her.
“Amma, where do you live? ”
She answered back really quick, “I live in the small house diagonal to this hostel.”
“And, with whom?”
“Well, my husband is dead but I have 3 sons. I live with them.”
“Amma, if you have three sons, why do you work here?”
*Oops!! That was little too personal*
Well, she didn’t say anything but got up, as her work was done, packed the leftover food from the kitchen and went back.
The cook, I guess, was observing all this. So, the moment she went, he came to me and said, “One of her sons is a rickshaw driver, one works at some shop and the younger one is unemployed.”
“Then, why does she work here. Two of her sons are earning!”
“They are married and their wives, apparently, doesn’t like her that much. She gets no money from home. I have seen her sons beating her at times as well. Sometimes they don’t feed her. So, she works here and whatever is left after the lunch takes it home. That is her dinner.”
I was numb.As I turned back I saw her coming back. She has forgotten something. It was snacks time so I took my tea and offered it to her. She looked at me for a while, smiled and then took it.
At night I went to the main gate, and through the bars of the gate, I tried to find her house. It wasn’t difficult for me. I saw her sleeping on a folding bed, with a plastic hand fan in her hands, under the peepal tree.
I felt sorry for her but also I was really proud. I have seen woman who after being abandoned by their family start to beg. But she didn’t. She chose to live respectfully. She didn’t depend on anyone.
I left banaras two days later and haven’t seen her since then. But, I still miss that smile. I miss that woman, who never gave up.