I always wait for the gentle tug that is felt when a train starts moving. I will compare it to a push, which wakes you to reality. Many feel surprised that I prefer train journey than air travel, but to be honest, I always loved the daylong hectic journey amidst strangers than an hour-long flight. I find so many people similar to the characters that I have read about in some books or watched on television. At one such journey, when I was travelling to Delhi by train, an elderly woman occupied the window seat opposite to mine. I was busy reading a book and therefore, I did not pay much attention to her. As we moved along, somehow she could not hold her curiosity. She tapped on my knee. When I looked at her, she offered me some foodstuff from a container, which I politely refused. There she had her chance. “Where are you from?” she asked me in fluent Hindi while she was chewing the food. “Mangalore” I lied. “Achcha, achcha. You are going to Delhi, isn’t it?” she inquired. I nodded. “You have relatives there?” I shook my head. “Then where will you stay?” I think it was this question, which diverted my total attention to her. “Kya bataaon Auntiji? I am going to Delhi in search of a job. Parents are behind my life to get married and I do not want to. I have some friends there and they are ready to accommodate me. Let me see how things work out. How about you? Where are you going?” I questioned her. She looked deep into my eyes, heaved a sigh and said, “I have a PUSHTAINI MAKAAN (ancestral house) in Delhi. My daughter and son in law are settled in Goa and I visit them whenever I can. I do not have a husband. He left me when I gave birth to my third daughter…”
I was totally taken aback. Abandoned her because she gave birth to a daughter? I felt sad for her. She seemed to read my thoughts. “Achcha Hua Chala Gaya. Good that he left.” She replied as she closed the container. “I worked really hard to educate my daughters. If that trash of a person was still around, perhaps, I would not have lived.” She opened her water bottle and took a sip of the water. I did not like this pause. “Why do you talk like that? In India, woman love their husbands no matter what”, I tried to experiment with my sarcasm hoping she would tell me some more. “Haan beta. Soh toh hai” she replied looking outside the window. “Auntiji… are you alright?” I asked. “Haan Beta. I am fine.” She responded. “Just remembered some things that I wished to forget.” I closed my book. I found her story more appealing. Auntyji kept staring out of the window. She seemed to be lost in some thoughts. Well, she had got my curiosity soaring and I needed to talk to her. But How????…. Suddenly it striked me…
I pulled my bag closer, opened it, put my hand in and removed my most potent weapon… A DAIRY MILK CHOCOLATE!!! It is something, which in my opinion has the effect of getting my work done with ease. It has helped me make friends, get people talking or just made me happy. I pulled out the wrapper and offered her. Her eyes widened looking at the chocolate. Instead of taking a piece, she took the whole chocolate from my hand and started devouring it. She gave me a beautiful smile. That made me happy and gave me a chance to continue with the chat.
“So Auntiji, what are the names of your daughters?” I started the conversation. “Sona, Meeta and Bhavika.” She replied as she licked the chocolate from her fingers. “All of them are married?” I inquired. “Sona and Meeta are married. Bhavika wants to study further. I did not stop her. She is very intelligent. Currently, she is pursuing her second year of MA in Hindi. She wants to be a teacher. I feel proud of her. Moreover, I will work hard to see to that she has a good career.” Auntiji replied. “Good Auntiji. By The way, did their father ever come back …any time?” I asked. “Nahin Beta. He never came back. I do not know if he is dead or alive. I do not care anymore. Even if he comes back now, I will not accept him back. Husband is definitely a parmeshwar (God) provided he creates a heaven for his wife to dwell in. He had made my life a living hell. He used to hit me every day, abuse me and rape me. I was just like a vessel in his house, which he could use the way he wanted. It was a long nightmare for me. He wanted a son who would carry on with his family legacy. Well, if this is the legacy he wanted to pass on then I am glad that I did not give birth to a son.” She replied. I was surprised with her revelations. Hearing stories of domestic violence and conversing with someone who has faced the music is something else. She seemed to read my thoughts. “Beta, do get married. Do not get disheartened with my story. Just remember, marry someone who will love you for what you are.” She said. I nodded. She smiled at me. “I will take a short nap beta. Please look after my bags… will you?” She asked earnestly. “haan haan Auntiji. Please go to sleep. I will not go anywhere. ” I assured her. She smiled, stretched on her berth and closed her eyes. In seconds, she started snoozing.
I looked outside the window. The evening sun was setting. I looked at Auntiji. She was sleeping. The wrinkles on her face cried of her struggle but the smile on her face defeated her pain. She reminded me of a quote of Julia Child that I had read somewhere. “Drama is very important in Life. You have to come on with a bang. You never want to go out with a whimper.” Auntiji proved this quote right. She was a strong woman and in a strange way, she inspired me. I love women who come out of the trash and fly as if they own the sky. Till date, I have not forgotten her. I think of her whenever I am depressed and she makes me question my propensity. She says “Being an illiterate I can, being so educated… why cant you?” therefore, I dust my wings and attempt to succeed.
This is exactly what we need… isn’t it? We need to inspire one another. We can… can’t we….??