There are iron rods that jut out in the incomplete apartment complex next door. Seeming to arch out and reach the sky. Getting closer to the blue beyond and cotton clouds, everyday, a new floor climbed. Hoisted with bricks, cement, mortar, steel.
All in exchange of perhaps three square meals, happiness on a toddlers face and for inflaming the hopes beyond. At lunch time, they take a break. All those who climb those incomplete stairs of the yet to be complete buildings, hauling over bricks and mortar.There is one lady who i watch today. A lady who hurriedly canters to a small shed. From a distance, through all the din and dust, i hear a toddlers smirk of happiness and a mothers voice.
In a moment they emerge. An elder daughter swinging a discarded bottle follows.She has him on her hip. Sings a song in a language that is alien to me as they walk by. Mother. Daughter. Baby. Unaware of my or anybody elses presence, they seems present in her world. Fully present there.
The lady stops for what seems to be a fleeting second. With one swoop of her other hand and a slight bend, wipes clean construction equipment from the floor and ports it atop her head.
My camera goes click click obscuring the chord that tugs the heart. From somewhere, my own amma telling our childhood stories stream in. ‘kandhalile muthucharam kappathi kattivaithen..’ ( From tatters i saved this string of pearls just for you..), she used to say, repeating lines from a film song.
Today, with an elegance that could compare a Russian gymnast on a trapeze, this lady of this hot Mumbai afternoon sways along. Presumably for lunch. Lullaby on her lip, work load on her head and love on her hip.
Long after they are gone, the alien lullaby & toddlers response still rings my ear. And i do not wonder why.
It is around 6.30 AM. Mahabaleshwar. I walk the road to breathe in the fresh air and soak myself in. In some distance, a bundle of quiver seems to canter in my direction, at a brisk pace.
As she comes closer, i see a frail old woman.A bundle on her head. Barefoot. Carrying her slippers along. One on each hand. She seems to canter on. Each step is a struggle, i can see. And it takes a while for her to cross me. Slippers. Bundle et al in hand.
I am curious. To say the least. I turn around. And walk. Following her. In an obscure distance.
From afar i see a young lady approaching us. We walk on. They cross each other, with a greeting and wave. A slippery wave that is ! And the young woman tells her aloud, just as they are passing each other, ‘you should be wearing those slippers and not carrying them’.
She replies, with a panting quiver, ‘Shiri gave this to me. I don’t want to damage this…these will look good on ..( i cant quite catch the name)..’. She walks on. A few seconds later, a louder quiver emerges from the same throat. ‘I can do without these..‘ and as the voice trails off, i realise that the trail leads somewhere where i have no access to.
I drop off the trail. Staring into the sun, and the mist soaked land. I don’t have to look very far for love & promise. I realise.
Pedantic incidents, these may seem to you. To me, these shaped my 2008. Perhaps re-shaped, my mental map about hope, possibilities and women! There are two other women that i wrote about earlier. Do check out Vanita and the other woman that i know for a while now.
PS: On a completely different note, the missus and the mother-in-law are not featured here. Given the fact that they have ‘controlling interests’ in my life and therefore on this blog, featuring them here may involve a certain degree of conflict of interests. So in the interest of probity in public life… !!!