It was raining heavily, pouring down - a welcome respite from the heat of the past week. Huddled under the small over-crowded bus stand, I was waiting for the rain to let up so I could walk back from work, when suddenly, out of nowhere, she came walking towards me, and then asked in a breaking voice, brother can you give me something to save my child? She almost startled me, her eyes were deep with sadness and her red sari was torn. I have never seen such a potent sorrow which hits a person like something solid. Her child seemed sick and was shivering. Could be just a ruse to milk money out of innocent bystanders, being the crook I am I stood wondering if she thought I was as naïve as I looked. I practiced looking naïve as she practices looking sad, like her child who practices being sick.
The child was the best actor amongst us; he was shivering like a scared calf, I thought to myself as she started walking away. I could hear her murmuring in tamil ‘probably he thought I was cheater like everyone else in these parts. Little does he know about the integrity of this chinnamma’ and she kept on going about her fate and also her son’s. I don’t know if it was her eyes or her son’s, something stirred in me. I went behind her and I impulsively touched the child’s forehead it was burning. She was telling the truth after all. I stopped an auto nearby and motioned to her to get in. She said ‘Why anna, give me some 5 rupees I will buy some chukku (dried ginger) and rub the paste on his chest it will be ok!’ but I insisted, reluctantly she followed.
These private clinics treat diseases well but one has to sacrifice his life to earn what they demand, I was ready to spend my day’s earning on this child – after all it’s a child life. The wallet in my pocket had money, not mine but the young boy’s - who was standing in the bus stop; he must have been a sales man. A couple of line in English and a naïve but decent look is all it takes. A casual line about the sudden rains and he did not even realize the change of location of his wallet – anyways the sin of stealing will be made even by the merit of feeding my mother and curing this child.
She was quite irritated, may be the crowd which kept staring at her. She asked me to take the child in as she was very wet and her sari was torn. True, it a resembled a patch work quilt, old tattered one that too. After a quick check and a few medicines, I rushed out with the child, but she was gone! I checked everywhere. Asked a staff to check the toilets if she had fainted inside. I enquired the ward boy giving her description. He dragged me aside and said ‘Sir please drop the child and run away. If you are looking for chinnamma, then this should be a kid stolen from somewhere – they make these poor kids sick for money! You are the fourth this month. She has no use of people like you, who come to hospital instead of giving money. So many of us know her here and are waiting to hand her over to police, so she ran away. Had you given her some money she would have dropped the child somewhere, She waited for you to go in only to abscond!’
Down went my pride of being shrewd. Having swallowed a dose of my own medicine, I left the child with the police – who insisted that I would have stolen the child. ‘Saar, I am a thief but I am not so lowly to kill a child to eat’ and went on to give them an earful about ethics and morals of honest crime. Having known my crime history which is clean (only pick-pockets and Mobile theft, not even chain snatching) they let me go. I kept cursing that devil in the form of a woman – who put to risk the life of the child for a few rupees. She can do prostitution for this. I called her names and walked towards my home.
As I neared my home, Krishnan rushed to and said ‘Machan your amma is in hospital, GH. Some auto fellow hit her’. I went to hospital to see her, safe but wounded. Relieved I asked her what happened, she finished the story and added, my good times that lady in tattered red sari came and rushed me to hospital. She in fact paid for the medicines and donated blood. Blessed be that chinnamma!!!! I was bewildered and excused myself and went for a walk to see if I understand what this game of life and fate is all about.