It was Springtime, a sunny, Sunday morning, Amma as usual was busy with her daily household chores, be it rain or sunshine, the old lady always followed her routine, from the break of dawn before the rooster crows, till the dusk weaves its conspicuous way to the dark night.
Swapna unwillingly pulled herself out of the bed, and walked drowsily towards Amma. She thought to herself, “let me enjoy, a few more days of pampering”, and smiled contentedly.
Amma turned around, smiled and said, “Come, sit, I’ve already heated the oil. I’ve such long, thick hair at this age, and look at your hair, it’s falling even at this age“. She lavishly massaged the oil, which Swapna thoroughly relished; in spite of Amma’s admonition.
“Amma, you’ve to tell me today, you have been avoiding for quite some time now, I’ll be leaving in a few days,” Swapna asked, glancing at Amma through the hand mirror. She was in a good mood, Swapna’s question brought a veil of sadness in her eyes, but she quickly recovered and said, “Mad girl, my childhood story, is about the simple village life we led in those days, not as complicated as city life nowadays”.
Amma’s story –
Nalini lived in a village with her parents and siblings. The void of bare necessities didn’t deter the love and bonding in the small hut, be it lack of food, water, electricity or even the leaking tin roof – nature provided them all, they slept in the open fields, winds blowing across their faces, ate the berries from the trees, drank the water from the lakes and played to their heart’s content. Her father was a daily wage laborer who toiled in the fields.
Nalini walked a mile to the village government school where there was one teacher for each class with no sections. She loved to read books, and after helping her mother with the daily chores, she sat under the street light, at night, to quench her thirst for knowledge. The results of passing the matriculation didn’t have any impact on her parents, and she was married off the next day, at the tender age of fourteen. She became a mother within ten months, to a baby girl, and the torture multiplied. First, her father couldn’t offer dowry, and the icing on the cake was to give birth to a girl child.
Nalini returned to her father’s house, devoid of her minimal possessions and her daughter. The only silver lining was; Nalini was selected, with all expenses included by the government agency for higher studies, in the city, which her parents gladly accepted, as a dearth of one mouth less to feed; was a boon for the family. Time passed by, the studies ended, and the benevolence of the government, landed her a job at the post office.
In the tide of life; with its ebbs and flows, one afternoon, when Nalini was sorting the letters as per the postal code, she found a white paper written in bold, capital letters.
” NALINI, Come to Vidhan Nagar, today at 6 pm, near the railway crossing and take the narrow right lane. URGENT”. Bewildered, she looked around; but found the skeletal staff at the post office, busy with their own duties.
Winter brings early sunsets, and 6 pm was dark as night. Nalini walked suspiciously through the narrow lane, with the distant dim light of the railway tracks; her guiding ally. Shocked to see the place, she stopped suddenly, when someone grabbed her from behind, she let out a loud shriek.
Nalini regained her breath, hugged her sister and said,” Oh Malini!! You scared me, why did you call me here?” Looking at Malini, she realized something was amiss. ” Is everything fine at home? Are you alright?” Without speaking, Malini ushered Nalini inside the graveyard, trembling she followed. In the dim light, Nalini could make out some familiar faces. She was puzzled, her suspicious thoughts played a weird game of hide and seek, ” Is that man, my husband? What is he doing here? Have his parents passed away? Then why this graveyard? We don’t bury the dead”. Before the mysteries could be unraveled, she found a young, tender girl lying, garlanded and ready to be lowered in the dark womb of Mother Nature. Nalini’s stomach churned, her head reeled, she was stiff as a board. The weeping words of Malini suddenly sounded distant, echoing from a mountain top, ” They killed your daughter; by depriving her of the required treatment”.
On regaining consciousness, Nalini saw the blurry face of Malini, stooping towards her and sprinkling water on her face. “Are you alright”? On nodding, Malini continued,” I want to tell you something, they’ll kill my fifth daughter also, take her away with you, then she’ll sustain, I’ll be relieved”.
Nalini’s simple life story ended.
Swapna’s story –
Single handedly Nalini bred Asha. Asha had one condition for marriage, the groom should be willing to stay with Nalini after their marriage. Along with her professional work, Asha assisted Nalini with her orphanage, and Swapna towed her Amma everywhere. Malini’s granddaughter; and Asha’s only child, Swapna, a modern lady, with an independent mind, and fiercely protective about her Amma, has cleared the final interview round of the IAS examination, and eagerly waited for her training period to commence. Her proximity towards Nalini increased over the years, and the relationship took a new level of friendship. Swapna hugged Nalini, tears streaming down her eyes, “Yes Amma, indeed, in those times, it was a simple life for you. I’m proud of you, and thank you, I feel blessed”.