Thursday, 27 February 2014

Looking for home

"Amma, come inside, you're going to get drenched" she cried.

Pulling her Amma by her arm, she dragged her in the shelter that they were using temporarily. Of course, it would not do if the rain continued to be so harsh. Why had the gods no mercy? Where would they go?

Pushing her thoughts aside, she started to collect the meager belongings scattered around. A few clothes, utensils and pots. Wrapping them in a bandni cloth that her grandmother had given to her. It had been her fifteenth. "Gayatri, this is for you, especially today, you are now a big girl. Take care of your Amma. From now on, I want you to keep this chunni against your chest. "

Gayatri had only known the message hidden under her grandmother's words a month later. She had passed away in her sleep. After her death, things had changed all of a sudden. Her grandmother was respected in her village. After her death, a few vile men had pushed them away from the village. To her utter horror she had learnt some harsh truths. Gayatri had been born out of wedlock. A fact that was kept from her all her life. The gossip mongers in the village had obliged her with a few details. It was only due to her grandma's shelter that the villagers had let the mother- daughter stay on. After her death, they seemed to have brought out their hatred out in the open.

Her Amma had been mentally ill for as long as she could remember. The reason for her illness was unknown to her. She had asked grandma on countless occasions. 
"Why does Amma behave so? What ails her? "
"Patience my child, give her patience. And love above all." She had replied.

And patience she had given to her. For seven long years. They had wandered in places, village to village.


A thunderous noise brought her out of her thoughts. Lightning and thunder had been pouring along with the water. The sky seemed blue and grey and black.  Much like her mood. Stormy, wild. A small shelter of white plastic, under a tree, borrowed from a nearby shop. Of course the shop owner didn't know.  She would return it while leaving this village. She always did.
It had begun to flood a little in the surrounding, Gayatri was getting worried. Her Amma was shivering. Her conditions had deteriorated in the past few months.

She needed a blanket, and quickly.  Gayatri felt scared, but she couldn't let it affect her. She had to think quickly.

"Amma, here, take my chunni. Stay inside. It'll keep you warm." Saying so she ran out in the rain.

Gayatri walked for a good ten minutes in the rain. Scouting around the village for a sign of somebody who could help her. She could have sneaked a blanket from anywhere, but she dared not get caught today. What would happen to Amma then?

Lost in her frenzied thoughts, she dashed into something, rather someone. It was a little boy, no older than fifteen.

"Hey, can't you watch where you're going?" Cried out the boy. "Now look, You've made me ruin my shirt. Maa will surely give me a good hearing," he grumbled scratching the mud off his shirt.

"Somil...where are you running off to. Come back here this instant." A small voice could be heard in the distance.The boy's eyes lit up, with a look that spoke of guilt.

Soon after, a girl appeared on the horizon. She looked tired, as if she had had a great run. Though she carried an umbrella, her Green dress was soaked in the rain. Gayatri thought her to be around two years younger than herself.

The girl came near the boy and twisted his ears.

"Aah" the boy yelled. "Forgive me. I swear I did not throw paint in your room. It must have been the servant."

"Somil, you can't escape this time. You've ruined my room. I won't let this go this time. I will tell papa today!"

"Please dear sister, have mercy on me. Am I not a good brother to you?  I promise to clean it up soon," wailed the boy. He was now rubbing his ears in pain. They had turned to be a rather dark shade of red.

As if suddenly realizing her presence, the girl looked her way. Gayatri was stunned to see her eyes. They were the exact same shade as hers. Light golden, like the shade of honey. She was staring into her eyes.

"Namaste, I'm Stuti. Are you new to the village? I haven't seen you around here before," said the girl.

"How do you know.." stuttered a bewildered Gayatri. How could the girl have known her? Would she turn her in? Had she been caught today?

"Oh come on inside first, you're going to shiver to death in that rain. Don't worry; I am not going to harm you." Stuti reassured her with a warm smile.

Looking at the apprehension on her face, the girl continued. "My father is the village chief. I often sit with him. I know most of the villagers. We don't have very many families here."

Gayatri finally spoke out, "I can't. My Amma, she needs my help. She's ill. She needs a blanket to keep her warm. "
The girl seemed to be lost in thought for a while. "Somil, go grab some food and blankets from home. We will be waiting here under the tree. Be quick." Stuti ordered the boy. "Come let us stand by the shade of the tree. Somil shan't be too long"

Gayatri hesitated for a bit, but finally gave in, for Amma's sake. Soon Somil had returned with the necessities. The three of them started back towards the shelter Gayatri had constructed. They hurried inside. Gayatri covered Amma in the blanket whilst Stuti lit a fire inside the shelter, to keep them warm. The rain had ceased for just a bit now. However the lanes were still partly flooded.

"We should take you back home," Stuti said. "Perhaps the rains may start again. It seems like this storm won't cease so easily."

"No I couldn't possibly take more help from you. You have helped me and my Amma already more than what we deserve. We shall be moving out of here tomorrow. How could we possibly repay you?" Cried out Gayatri.

"Don't worry about that, I will have thought that she's my mother that I've helped. I have done no such favor to you. I will stay for a while."

Amma had stopped shivering now. And Gayatri began preparing some warm food. Somil sat by Stuti talking to her in a hushed tone. Gayatri fed her Amma the dal and roti that she had prepared in the morning. On seeing the handicap, Stuti asked,"whats wrong with her? Where do you come from? "

"My Amma, Sudha, is her name, suffers from a mental disease.  We come from a village far from here. You may not know. "Gayatri replied. She was yet to trust the kind stranger.
Stuti asked further, "do you have no family at all then? "

Gayatri seemed taken aback by the direct question. Quietly she whispered, “no."
And no friends, do you have no friends at all? Stuti asked in a compassionate voice.
Again Gayatri replied, "No."

Stuti looked at her with a strange look upon her face. It was almost as if it was hard to believe her. She didn't speak any further though. Gayatri didn't talk further too. She was a woman of few words.

Somil was sulking in a corner, unaffected by the entire exchange. He had begun to grow restless. Stuti then stood up to leave. "You may keep the blankets. I shall return tomorrow “she said.

Gayatri quietly shook her head in response, and soon both brother sister had gone, leaving Gayatri behind with her thoughts once again.

It had stopped to rain too; it seemed the gods had finally had some mercy.


Later that night, Stuti sat with her father on the veranda stairs. As she recounted the day's events to her papa, she remembered the old woman and Gayatri. She told her father about the girl. How she had refused to take help from her.

She had admired the courageous girl, and her love and devotion towards her Amma. She planned to take her father to meet the two in the morning. Perhaps they could provide them with some permanent shelter in the village.

"What did you say are their names child?" asked her father.

"Sudha and her daughter Gayatri."

On hearing the names of the two women Stuti's father was stumped. He was lost momentarily in memories from a long time ago. Memories that involved his long lost brother, Sagar. Sagar had run away from home at a very young age, in pursuit of a young woman. He had never returned after.

It was rumored that the woman was with child. The woman's name was Sudha. They had run away together and a baby girl had been born. Torn by anger and hatred for his brother at that young age, he had never bothered to find out where he went afterwards.  But it was soon found out that, Sagar had died in a tragic accident. Leaving his young runaway companion and baby girl with nowhere to go.

He hated the very thought of the woman who had lured his brother away. A reality that had caused his family to never be the same again. His family was torn apart. Sagar was the older child. He was the one who took responsibility. The perfect son.

After Sagar had left, his parents had not been able to cope with the fact that their son had run away. Stuti’s father had tried his best all his life to please them, but to no avail. The news of Sagar’s death had left the family shattered even more so. Both Sudha and her child were held responsible for his fate. Their name was a taboo in the house. His parents were living a dead life.

Stuti’s father had decided that he would find the heir, that he would find Sagar’s child. Perhaps his parents would be happy with a little bit of Sagar. Over the next few years he had tried to find the whereabouts of the two, but they couldn't be found anywhere.

A couple of times he had been able to trace them, but had been too late in reaching to them. His family had been blissfully unaware of his search. The names of Sagar and Sudha were still a taboo. With those thoughts in mind he couldn't sleep that night.

The very next morning, Stuti and her father were seen going towards the outskirts of the village. The flooded streets made it all the more tedious. It seemed to take forever for him to reach his destination. Finally, in the distance he could see the hut like shelter that was constructed. He allowed Stuti to call out to Gayatri, but he could hear no reply.

Peeking inside the hut, he saw an old woman lying on the blanket. Curled up beside her was a young Gayatri. They both looked terrible.  He could understand why his daughter had wanted to help the two. They looked like they needed it a lot. Glancing around the hut he realized the miserable conditions that they lived in.

Stuti called out to Gayatri. Gayatri was slumped over her Amma's feet. Clasping them tight. To never let go. In a frightened stance.

She stirred up, her eyes looked puffy, tired. The warm honey eyes met his. The eyes of his brother, Sagar. 

An air of nostalgia hit him, memories invading each second that passed by. The last time he had seen him go.

He'd found them at last.

His brother’s eyes, his brother's child.



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