Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Old Lady And I

Summer was around and everywhere !

Bereft of songs, the   birds had made themselves scarce, while  dry and droopy trees  stood  silent in their misery. The quarrelsome street dogs  lying beneath the shades of parked vehicles seemed  unmoved by the  flies  that circled them. It was mid-afternoon and  the roads were almost empty. Those  brave enough to venture out moved in slow motion as though the scorching  summer had cast a spell on them.

Year after year the oppressive heat of an extended summer   subjugated me .I've lived in Chennai  all my life yet I couldn’t  quite get used to it.However,  I've  learned to suitably cover  my desiccated  skin , became more respectful  of the season and often spoke of it in hushed tones.  I daren’t curse , like everyone else, for fear of  a backlash .

Even now,  as I  bravely walked along a familiar road,  I felt the heat tearing at my skin  and  sweaty rivulets   run down  in protest . Bravado soon gave way to weariness  as I desperately felt the need for a drink  .  A  familiar sign   caught my eye and  I  found myself   in the  cool interiors of an  Aavin outlet. With a sigh of immense relief  I sat at a table  and  ordered the much-touted  flavored  milk.  It arrived soon enough and I began  sipping on  the cool drink  meditatively.  Within minutes my  eyes cleared and  I felt my  blood cells   cruising  again.The blazing sun was no longer menacing  and the world  became a much better place . It was at that moment  I saw her  walk in.

I believed she was in  her  late sixties. Her  saree  was draped  in a manner reminiscent of the countryside and there was  a certain   charm to  her  weather-beaten face. She   went  straight to the counter  to speak  to the men there and then came   to sit   at the table next to mine .It was evident that she knew the men, but  they appeared  unrelenting. Only money  will fetch  her  what she wanted,  they sneered loudly. She wasn’t going to get anything free !

I had, meanwhile, progressed on to a mango duet and was savoring the ice cream with much ado. After 15  minutes of waiting her tired eyes lost their twinkle . I caught her eye and asked if I could be of help. In an instant she was up and by  my table. She  was the cleaning woman  at Aavin’s  and at the adjoining Ayyappa temple, she informed me, which is why she was sure that they’d  give in to her request. The men, however, remained hard- faced and immune to her pleas.  I reached into my bag, fished out   a ten rupee note and watched as she placed the order .  The men at the counter  now seemed amused as they enquired about the   money. Without a blink she answered that  it was Lord Ayyappa who gave it to her !
She came back to the table with what she wanted –it was a  small glass of  warm  milk, for rupees five,  which seemed barely enough ; but it managed to restore  her  and she began  to  present  pieces of her life before me.After a while, when I picked up my bag and  showed signs of leaving she said,‘ You must come to the temple once. Just standing by the steps and praying  would bring you blessings.' 

 I was impressed with  the simplicity  of her  faith but what   really touched me  was the smile that she wore on her face despite not having enough. I didn’t have the heart to  tell her that this time her Lord had come in the form of a woman who didn’t want to stand by  those steps and pray !   I simply nodded, smiled at her and left.

Looking back I felt that the time spent with the old lady  held a meaning that no words could aptly describe. I felt like a pawn on the divine chess board waiting for its next move. The sun had relented, it was evening and the road began to buzz with life again. Looking up at the pale blue sky I  caught  a group of birds flying westward; like them, I too was bound for home !       


  1. ... and probably if you had gone there, someone like yourself might have had something nice for you too. For a moment you were lost in the role you played.

    1. yes nattu... who knows...? but as u said, it was a role play and i had to leave at the right time...

  2. Very touching Reeja and shows how little it takes to make someone smile, happy and content! :)

  3. Well written, and its really nice of you.