I have stopped believing in clichés. I say this in affirmation as the past two phases of my life with Science Express have made me realize that this is a platform where time and again clichés have been overruled and disdained for good by people of all sorts. One such episode in particular substantiated to this fact once again when our train got a record breaking visitation of 60,000 visitors at Anaj Mandi, Rewari – a quaint station in Haryana. ‘This place has never seen such a huge crowd ever before!’ were the exclamations from the crowd who witnessed the sea of visitors storming in and out of the train.
My duty was assigned in Coach 4- the Adaptation coach. There was a group of students listening to my explanation on the formation of artificial glaciers in Ladakh when an old lady who was standing in the front caught my eye. It was certainly obvious that she didn’t belong to that school group. As I spoke further ahead about the different adaptation practices and examples displayed in the coach it felt as if she was the keenest of them all with a seeming interest in the subject. As we reached the Landscape Management Approach exhibit she started interacting with me and the students. I listened patiently to her qualms about not getting enough water-supply to the farms and how they have adopted Agroforestry on their land. There was a strange earnestness from her part and extreme admiration from mine. She had piqued my curiosity. I couldn’t stop myself from inquiring her name. Here is an old lady, more than seventy years of age, clothed in a modest sari and a shawl and when I ask her if I can know her name she suddenly blushes. Similar to all the traditional households, it must have happened very few times that her name has been used much rather asked for.
She leaned closer and whispered in my ear, “Radhadevi.”
Then she asked “And can I know my sweet child’s name?”addressing me as her own daughter.
She came the subsequent days too, always meeting me in my duly allotted coach. I spent a good time interacting with her. She said, “I love seeing girls make rotis and it is beyond admirable to watch them handle the gears steering aircrafts up and above.”
A cute little girl cradled in the arms of lady catches my attention at Shivpuri Station. That kid looks around the exhibition panels of Coach 5 with something that can be roughly identified as a blank glance. When I play with her she gives me a gummy smile. Her teeth were yet to come. I beam in happiness as she smiles at me and look at her mother for reciprocation of that mirth. But something seems wrong! That lady’s expression appears devoid of any emotion. She doesn’t return my smile. I go on explaining the exhibit of space occupancy by different modes of transport. There are three more girls around her- each dressed in same pattern of apparels, older than the other by a year or so. I can guess that they are her kids. As I interact with them they chirp and giggle in glee, but the whole time their mother keeps a poker face. Suddenly my mind gets anxious to hear her story. There is something which has drained all emotions from her face and heart and all I want to know is ‘What’. In an effort to get her talking, I ask, “Are these your girls?” On getting an affirmative nod, I say, “It is good that you are taking care of them. Nahitoh, Log to maar dete hai.” (People will rather have them dead.) That sentence works like a wonder and there is a smile on her face as she says, “Mar to mai rahi hu, har din.”(It is me who is dying, every day.)
Her face is now full of resentment. An emotion she veiled all this while.
Was it aimed at the society, her luck or at me? I many a times tried to comprehend. Or is it in regard to the whole shebang? I still wonder!
It reminds me of that old lady from Rewari, Anaj Mandi and I wonder what would have happened if she were the mother of those four girls.
Divya Pandey – As vividly described to the SECAS Blog Team: Nitin, Yashashree and Ritu!
(Divya Pandey is an expert in quoting and writing beautiful Hindi prose. Her tales are mesmerizing and skillfully webbed to keep the listener hooked until the end and compels intellectual comprehension on their part. She can be seen interacting with toddlers and children in the coaches. A very good observant and adviser, she is the person to be sought for when needing opinions.)