A Mehul D. Original
Part of the Bombay Diaries Series written by BackPunch
I saw her again today, wearing the same magenta (or was it maroon) sari with tattered borders. That sari would have made a good purchase when she would have got it. Navel exposed and few buttons of her blouse “missing”. She was playing on the sultry deception trick and was carrying an infant in her arms concealed beneath bundles of rags. Every now and then a “gora” tourist would pass and she would run to them, “10 rupees sir…10 rupees madam…medicines take…” waving what seemed like a prescription in front of them. Some would look with empathy at the infant and part with a 10 rupee note and on a good business day she would be lucky to get a 50 or even an 100.
Gateway of India was an ideal business location for her. She was in charge of the entire operation of deployment of resources in the area. It was her ‘Ilaka’ (locality). I heard her call out a girl in a dirty little frock, who was feeding her little brother. She immediately stopped feeding him and ran. “Taj ke saamne jaa…aur aaj agar nahi kamaya toh kalse navi Mumbai bhej dungi” (Ask for alms near the Taj and if you do not earn, you’d be sent to Navi Mumbai) she threatened the little one. I saw the girl run back and take her brother towards Taj.
I curiously stood there witnessing this just to see what happens next. I wasn’t disappointed a bit. I sat on the pavement and waited for some action. And sure enough, I saw a white Honda City approach and halt near the barricades. The woman saw the car and called out her ‘children’. As soon as she called, 8-10 young boys and girls ran towards her and stood in a line. She took money from all of them, their “daily wages”, put them in a sling bag and slipped it to the man in the car. With the blink of an eye, the car sped away.
I thought that was it but something made me stay back and told me that there was more. The woman took the infant and started walking towards a slum area. She walked to a dirty little hut more like a cardboard house. A lady opened the door. She barely had clothes on. She looked exhausted. The woman in sari just shoved the baby in her arms, slammed a 100 rupee note in front of her and fled.
She walked to a man, waiting for her in the shadows of a well known building. He mumbled a few words to which she shook her head in the negative and tried to back off. He grabbed her by the hand and slapped her hard not once, not twice but 4 times. She gave in to the brutality. He adjusted the woman’s sari making it a point to outrage her modesty while she meekly stood there. He took her to one of the ‘points’, made a call and a car inched towards them. She mechanically sat in the back seat while her ‘man’ collected the money from the front seat.
At some time in the night the woman returned to her husband and her son whom she had left at the only school which would take him. Her husband and son were sound asleep. She sat next to her son and tears rolled down her eyes as she moved her hand over his face. Clearing the rags on the floor she too lied down to catch some sleep, some rest and some respite from her ‘life’.
I didn’t know what to think of her. I was nobody to pass a judgment about her. She did what she did and would do it again and again, everyday only to see her son get a chance to a better life.
BackPunch: Something on the lines of this story has been doing the rounds amongst our team since a while. We have been trying to talk to a lady who begs during the daytime and interestingly ‘begs’ late night.
The entire post belongs to Mehul and BackPunch takes ownership only for the editing.
(N.B.: This is an original written by Mehul D. BackPunch hopes to see him write more often. Engineer by day, reader at night and a foodie throughout day and night, Mehul has a penchant for words and hope he rewrites his very famous ‘Superman’ work for BackPunch. He is a Dan Brown fan.)