Yesterday evening, I was waiting near the counsel’s chambers to hand over the money for purchasing stamp paper for the sale deed. I felt drained and exhausted. Never before in my life had I made such a huge financial commitment. It is a gamble that I took; only the future would reveal its fate.
I was on the corner where the road turned left and the lane by the canal veered off to right. Roosting crows cawed; men slunk beside the tea shop. Roosting humans hurried, harried, home. I waited for the lawyer, tense. The recurring thought was how unfit I was in the survival business. I am the kind who would be comfortable in cold mountains; it is not an escapist’s fantasy. I just know I do not belong here.
Then, from the darkening lane, an old woman appeared. Walking briskly, she came up straight to me. I have a habit of automatically noting physical features (cultivated from reading too many detective novels as a boy!). I note the faded, crumpled, soiled green checkered rag that you might call a sari. I note the shabby blouse and the wrinkled, dark skin. Hair is partly grey and she has lost most of the frontal teeth. On her left shoulder hung an old fashioned ‘air bag’ stuffed. I note: beggar woman, late sixties or early seventies, must have seen better days - no, not a beggar; I see it in her eyes.
‘Ente Makkalevide poyi?’ she asked me, Where have my children gone? I assume that grave, expressionless countenance I use for dealing with drunks, the mentally unstable and other avoidable humans. It is a mask of blank face. It works, usually. She glares. She repeats her question. I get uncomfortable and glance at the men standing by the tea shop. They are curious how I would handle the situation. She too glances at them and asked –‘‘Ente Makkalevide poyi?’ The men turn away, avoiding her eyes. I realize that she was not really expecting us to answer her question, because she turned and walked away briskly into the crowd of humanity, asking over and over, about her children.
The old woman is swallowed up by the crowd. I lose sight of her. Nothing really matters, does it? Really, nothing matters.
******** Balachandran V,