Published in the Hindustan Times Mumbai Edition
My train was scheduled at 9.30 p,m. I was at the station by quarter to nine. “On which platform does Mahalaxmi Express arrive?” I enquired with a group of coolies too busy chitchatting and sharing a smoke. “Platform number four”, came a reply in a hoarse voice without giving me even a single look. Juggling between my suit case and sack I reached platform number four. All the benches on the platform were occupied by passengers, who were surrounded by heaps of luggage. I was bit unhappy with the thought of standing for about half an hour.
As the saying goes, where there is a will there is a way, I spotted a bench which was in a dilapidated condition. An old lady with a walking stick was sitting at one end, keeping one old plastic bag and a vanity bag at the center portion of the bench. I quietly occupied the other end of the bench.
“Kahaan jana he?” asked the frail old woman. “Mumbai”, I replied. “Where does the train go in Mumbai? Dadar or some where else?” asked the lady with tobacco stained teeth. “V.T” was my reply. “From where the train starts?” was the next question. “Kolhapur” I replied obediently. “Where are you going?” now it was my turn to interrogate. “Madgaon” she replied. “Traveling alone?” was my next question. “No two people, who are accompanying me, are having snacks at the nearby hotel. We are two hours before the arrival of our train. So I decided to slowly march towards the platform.”
The ring of my cell phone interrupted our conversation. I chatted with my friend in Marathi. “Which college in Mumbai are you studying?” followed a question in Marathi from the old lady. I was extremely happy with the thought that I was considered a college student. “I am a lawyer.” I replied with traces of happiness amply evident on my face. “Even my daughter in law is a lawyer”, replied the lady. “So you stay in Madgaon…” “No, at Aurangabad.” The old lady promptly replied interrupting me.. “Both my daughter in laws are qualified lawyers. However one of them works as a court clerk” was the further explanatory note of the old lady.
Although, I was not interested in the conversation, by now I had started to enjoy it. The lady summoned a tea vendor and ordered a cup of tea. She offered me tea, but I politely refused. The lady took out three one rupee coins from her purse and handed it over to the tea vendor. She kept the plastic cup on the space created by moving her bulky body with great efforts. She took out a sachet of some tablets from her purse.
“Why did you move to Mumbai?” she asked popping up two yellow coloured tablets with tea.
“I had been to pursue my Master of Laws course in Mumbai University. On completion of my course, I started practicing at Mumbai”
“Life in Mumbai is very hectic. I am freedom fighter. I do visit Mantralya for some or other work. But I make it a point to leave by evening for Aurangabad. I can not stay for more than a day in Mumbai” I nodded my head in appreciation.
“Not only in Mumbai, but also in Aurangabad life is hectic. I asked my daughter in law to resign from her job for the same reason. She has been working for the past 30 years. I am an active member of Vishwa Hindu Parishad. At times I am at Ayodhya, Banaras, Pune, Kolkota. So I firmly told her quit your job and look after your family. I have a life of my own.” I smiled appreciating her confidence.
“So you had been to some relative in Miraj?” I asked equally engrossed in the conversation. “No. I had been to Pune to hand over some books to my grand daughter, who is pursuing M.D. in Pune. I had been to Sajjangad from Pune. I came to Miraj in the and booked my ticket.”
Sajjangad is a holy shrine located atop a hill with thousand steps leading to the shrine. “Did you climb up the shrine?” I asked surprisingly while staring at her walking stick.
“No. I went by Doli, for Rs.
“What is your age?” I asked bit hesitantly.
“I am eighty four years old” came a confident reply. “I get up early in the morning and do yoga and pranayam. I have my meals only once in a day. At young age like yours, one has the capacity to digest anything. At my age, I have to be very particular about my diet.”
“Train number 1012 Mahalaxmi express will arrive soon on Platform number four”, announced the railway loudspeaker in a surprisingly clear and audible sound.
“I will take your leave”, I said.
“Beta take care! Wish you all the best. Take care of yourself. You live away from your parents”
I started to walk towards the place where my boggie- S 3 was supposed to come. I was happy with the fact that I had earned the blessings of an old lady. The words of children and old people are genuine, because the former are ignorant and the latter have little selfish interest after finishing their youth. Hope all of us earn such blessings.
I was indeed impressed with the confidence of his old lady called Sharadabai Deshpande. I wish I am bestowed by her blessings forever. In the haste to catch the train, I forgot to ask her contact number. If any one of you have it, kindly let me know.