Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Patiya Ma

When my mother was a kid, there was a maid who used to live with her at my grandparents’ place. She did the cleaning and washing for the house, and also looked after the children when my grandparents were away. She stayed with my family for about ten years, returning to her village home when my mother moved out after her marriage.

Everyone called her Patiya Ma. I don’t really know what her real name was, and what Patiya means, if anything.

Anyway, some years ago, on a visit to our village, my mother and I went to meet Patiya Ma at her place. Patiya Ma now lived alone, her children having deserted her with all the money after her husband’s death. She had a house, but it hardly could have been called so. It was a kachcha makaan, with a tin roof placed on top to prevent sunlight from coming in. She herself showed no sign of well-being, old, wrinkled and thin.

All I remember of Patiya Ma from the brief meeting is she squatting on the ground, hands joined together, wearing a worried expression on her face. She said she wanted to die, and when my mother asked her why, her reply with a faint, twisted smile was “Jiyab ta ki ki nai dekhab”, which translates roughly as “If I live, god knows what more I’m destined to see”.

She repeated this line after almost every thing she talked about – her family, her health, her shortage of cash.


But why am I writing about it? What’s the point?

It’s just that for the last few days, when I’ve been having all kinds of examination papers dished out at me, when I’m feeling utterly helpless trying to cope up with it, when the world seems to leave no chance to annoy, trounce and demoralise me, I feel suddenly reminded of Patiya Ma and her favourite words.

Jiyab ta ki ki nayi dekhab.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Another Dark Man

Gurgaon Railway Station. I have just got off my train from Ahmedabad. As I keep the luggage on the back seat of my car parked just outside, I feel my throat dry. I walk over to the market opposite to the station to get a bottle of mineral water.

The scene here deserves special mention. This is old Gurgaon, not the sort of place you associate with the name, poles apart from its savvy incarnation. There are no malls here, no six-lane highways, no high-rise apartments.

Instead, there are narrow and dusty roads, a bunch of innumerable estate agencies and liquor shops, cows and pigs. For all you know, this could have been your local village bazaar. There is also the sun right above, putting on the heat. Everyone around looks busy with himself, typical mid-day time market scene.

Amidst all this, on the narrow road divider, there lies a grey-white cement sack, and a man. The man is dark, and very thin. He is wearing a white shirt and a dark blue lungi. He lies there in a very peculiar position, as if he had first dropped down on his knees and then, had suddenly dived head down into the sack. His face is buried deep into the cement, the sides covered by his hands which seem to be holding the hair above his ears.

For some reason, he looks annoyed, angry. He looks annoyed with his world, like a child would be with his mother if denied a bar of chocolate. Something about his demeanour suggests that he is determined, very sure about the fact that unless his world comes up to him personally, gives him his bar of chocolate, and apologises, he won’t move an inch. He’ll stay right there all day, with his head buried in that sack, like an angry, spoilt child.

The world, meanwhile, gives a yawn. No one takes notice of the man. The sun above shines its November shine.