A woman along the wall
Ever since I have known, I have been a regular visitor to Kolhapur. But it was only after 4 long years that I got an opportunity for an extended stay of 3 weeks. I‘d almost forgotten her until I saw her picture hanging along the wall with her name at the top of the frame. And then everything was recollected.
Perhaps, it is the only fate we all share.
I never knew when she was born, neither did she. But I had known her for 15 years, and it had always been the same.
It was a round face with wrinkles that intensified with my every visit; a withering body that clad itself with 9-meter long sari – Nau vari – worn like the dhoti. She always looked for a steady beam or a wall that would support her spine and entertain her eyes. Once located she would sit on her feet and hips with knees pointing upward pressing her chest. She had benchmarked locations – in front on Television or the kitchen that had constant influx of people or the veranda in the front of the house. We all fondly called her ‘Atya‘.
She would begin her day by carefully making a roll of her 3-piece bedding. The base on the floor was a woolen, black-colored thick carpet, ghongta, with a rectangular bed sheet on it and finally a thin green-colored, checkered bed sheet that also served her as a pillow cover. In summer she would claim her place near the television – on the floor or the bed. In winter, perhaps, she asked for a blanket. At half past ten in the night she would bring the roll from the rack, which housed all her materialistic possessions, of a dilapidated, wooden, creaking cupboard, , unroll it and then rest on her upper back, raise her legs couple of feet high, place her hips down, relax her legs, curse few people she had seen during the day before beginning to snore.
I later learnt that she was an illiterate, was born and married in a well-to-do family, and had a daughter. Her husband got into an inferior job which always made her live with guilt. She was, however, soon widowed. Since then she lived with detachment and indifference. She always looked for a change but changed isolated her back to the monotony of life. There was but only one place where she lived until life carried her. A woman who followed the rule of a civilized society – never decline to go for wedding or funeral, even of the foe’s. Her expectations were trivial and lived happily on their fulfillment. She would always lend a helping hand – for the mother of a new born, Utsav, weddings – and attend the funeral of any person in the lane just for a last glimpse.
She, of course, had some passions apart from soliloquy. She disliked cooking but helped in its preparation. She would avoid work that required much physical exertion. She loved cooking deep-fryed dishes and oval-shaped kadbuli during Diwali. She would whisk away the wheat, rice and other pulses. Many a times, she would help with cutting the green-leafy vegetables. She liked making Rangolis to please the gods and always screamed at me for wasting the colors. I never developed love for making Rangolis as even today I feel I don’t know how to use colors.
Now and again she would open her wired basked from the other corner of the rack. It had a sari to be worn the next day, another one gifted by someone, a brown-colored, buttoned purse with little cash, a bank passbook that she got printed every month and a Gold chain – her possession since time immemorial. I will not forget how carefully she placed a ten rupee note in my hand as a gift, to me and my brother, every year when my visit neared an end.
She enjoyed watching dramas in which the daughter-in-laws were the victim to the atrocities of their in-laws. It gave her an excellent feed to empty her entire vocabulary of curses. She liked bitching scantily clad Bollywood item girls but loved accompanying people to movies.
And then her heart ached, and the doctor said she would have to control her diet. Unable to believe her fate, sitting along the wall outside the utility under the azure sky, she murmured with indifference, “jau de baba, me tar sagla khanar.”
Six years ago her ashes were submerged in the polluted river of Ganges. Her inheritor earned a hefty sum of fifty thousand. Some were relieved while others wept and forgot.
She always enjoyed the walls.