( pic source: google)
I was studying in class five or six, I guess. Vaguely do I remember the exact year when I first saw her. We used to look at her with a steady gaze of wonder and curiosity. Of course we laughed seeing her and then we would say ,”bichara ka bata aako hola , Ko holai? Usko parivar tai ka cha holai? ( where on Earth has she come from? Who is she? Where is her family? ). And so on our quieries would bundle up unanswered. It definitely was not the time of social selfies or famous facebook and although I have no picture of her I hold a very clear vision of the woman deeply engrained in my memory.
Her uncombed, tangled, dry and dirty hair was cut short perhaps by the local people around who rescued her from her long battle against the tiny mighty mischievous minions sharing their long habitat in her head which was their home . Most of the time, she always wore a smiling face, giggled when someone teased or called her with her single” bugs bunny” teeth protruding out her dark lips. She didn’t have a sharp nose nor did she have big eyes, but her small tiny eyes seemed heavy with lines lined up with her ascending age ; her features familiar to the faces around. If an artist had used the earth to create an exact figure like her, then her skin color would be no different than the earth used. Apart from her face I do not remember because most of the time she sat in a yoga position with an old rugged blanket covering her whole body except her face. Her dark tanned face did attract a hundred curious eyes. So not everytime is fair and beautiful attractive but her attraction was far different from them.
In a time when dark clouds hovered above, tempting the Earth to drink more of it, when road pits seemed more like tea pots containing milk tea, and the drains seemed cooking something awful , I saw this woman in the same place beside the same old yellow building, this time with a yellow plastic shielding her from the continuous rain, and she looked more like a chameleon as if absorbing the yellow colour of the that building. It was an amusing sight for us as children and we laughed looking at her and she in turn laughed looking at us.
I have no idea exactly for how many days or months and years she became a parasitic part of that place. There were rumours in the air about her history that she belonged to a good family and it was only after the death of her husband that she was degraded to such a beggarly state. But only God witnessed her past. Perhaps her family still existed or perished away or perhaps she did not belong to where she was now, no one knew. Whenever we passed by her she always exchanged smiles with us. Her eyes glowed with joy with her rich smile; her smile being the only makeup she could apply. Nowadays people carry smiles in their wallet I suppose.
We were used to seeing her in the same place posing like an ascetic but she did not stay there to gain enlightenment rather she was deprived, deprived of everything,everything that a normal person enjoys. But she was not like other beggars in the street because she never begged and to her fortune the local restaurants did help to fill her appetite and other than that she wanted none except a home but not a single person came claiming a relationship with her.
We know there is a lack of old age homes in our country and admist us lives people without any shelter. Her family abandoned her ; I abandoned her ; the society and the world around abandoned her, except the street dogs who themselves were abandoned and homeless. Her presence was lost among the generation who were lost in their complex cultivated universe.
Years after when I passed by the old corner where once she breathed the impartial air with her rich smile, I saw the vacant space, the yellow wall renewed and refurbished but still missing the presence of the same old frail and fragile figure which once had been its Sunakhari (wild orchid) and now a part of ”the lost generation”and only a subject of my writing. At least the wall did not abandon her.
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