Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Tea for Ten

Railway stations are often a place for great experience . People, crowd and the new aura brings a new experience each time we visit them.
This piece is from one of my travel dairies – Incredible Kerala .
I was travelling back from Cochin to Hyderabad and reached station an hour ago as instructed by my mom. You know how mom’s are worried about you being late and missing train when your travelling all alone!
I was patiently waiting for my train to arrive at Ernakulam station and was sitting on the railway porch totally lost into my own world. Suddenly a faint voice counted on my ears : baby can you please give me ten rupees?

Quickly clearing the phantoms of my mind and getting back to reality , I looked up.
Startled I was!
Couldn't I believe what I just heard ? or probably because of the one who was speaking?
Damn! How can a lady as old as sixty ,so feeble, lean , in the most poor condition she could be, be so fluent in english and is asking for ten bucks on a railway station.
Dear , I'm not begging ! She announced. Can you please give me 10 rupees to have Tea? I did not had Tea since a week.
I quietly took out a note of Re.10 from my pocket and planted on her palms.
My curiosity and joy to hear those few lines of english from a lady so old and poor in condition left me appalled.
I inquired- You speak so well english? where did you learn that from?
Her answer is the most disheartening story I could ever remember:
Hindi? She enquired .
Yes! I answered with complete joy.
You think I'm poor beggar ? Might be it’s correct. Two years before , I lost my husband who was working as a teacher at (a small town in Orissa she mentioned , apologies for not remembering the name) . He died with a heart-attack.
Few months after his death, my son moved to a foreign country and i was staying with my daughter-in-law and grandson.
All was good until we received the news of his sudden road accident. I lost my only child. My only hope. I was too old . Poor vision, Bad eardrums , broken heart was all I had.
A month later, my daughter-in-law, my grandson and I were travelling to visit her parents. We got down at this station to buy milk and water when the train whistled and I was left behind in the station.
I inquired from people and got know that this city is called ”Erk-ku-lum” (She couldn’t pronounce Ernakulam clearly ) and they speak a very different language . Since three months I am here and nobody came searching for me. I don't remember any phone numbers or address . I am old and my memory is weak now. I have been learning little bit of English by listening to people everyday . I was also once very well educated like you.

(By now her eyes were wet, tears rolling down her cheeks, her every expression of grief and melancholy were pristinely visible on her much wrinkled face )

Those poor road side kids there (She pointed towards the exit of the station ) , they go to the local school and teach me in the evenings .I stay with them now and love them .
 I try to converse with people in English to impress them . This makes me feel that that I am not begging and returning something to them for the money . When I get any money I feed those kids and myself.
Thanks beta for the tea today! You know I miss my family ". 
By now Sabari express arrived on the platform and the green signal was on.
Tears rolled down my cheeks as I boarded the train. Only I know how I wished to stay back and listen more .
It was a great learning day in my life and I understood there's no extent of karma and goodness.
It's willingness to give with what you have! The Desire to return !
Undoubtedly she has returned much more than that ten rupee note with her desire to learn , love and give back to the society .