With each passing day in life, every human being starts experiencing newer and different things.No matter how rich or poor, strong or weak he maybe life never treats him different. Hunger, illness, pain, happiness know no bounds to any particular sect or group.In the eyes of the lord we all are same,its only us who differentiate people based on the IPhones in the hands and BMW?s in the garage. Things apart, this small piece of write-up are an incident that dates back to about 2 years ago in Mangalore. I never knew what I had been doing until I posted about this on a Facebook page and and things changed forever.
AN UNUSUAL FRIENDSHIP
I was born and bought up in a small town called Kudremukh in Chikmagalur District and after 18 yrs of stay there moved to Mangalore as dad got transferred here. Finished 5 years of study at SDM and now I stay at Karangalpady, Mangalore with my family and currently manage my own business.
It was about 2 years back I believe I was riding my bike towards Balmatta on work.The time Was around 11 in the morning when I got to notice an aged woman, almost above 80 yrs sitting on a pavement of an under bridge near Goldfinch Hotel. Very weak, old, dressed in an old saree, the lady looked hungry and struggling even to look at things properly.
The place where Ajji used to be found always, sitting on the pavement slabs
I couldn’t continue seeing her state, so just stopped the bike a little ahead and headed towards her. As I was walking towards her I noticed she was spreading her hands and asking some women passing infront of her trying to say something but people were just avoiding her and walking as if nothing is happening. I reached the old lady and saw a few coins in a old rugged aluminum plate in front of her. The plate too probably was as old as she was. From a closer look she looked even more weak, wrinkles all over, and most importantly looked very hungry. I felt she might not even have had one proper square meal in days. I didn’t know what do I do now..had a water bottle in my bag which i took out and handed over to her along with a 20 Rs Note and told her to eat something. The summer is so scorching in Mangalore nowadays that without water you may even die..so that water bottle would do good to her I felt.
As I turned behind and left the lady was waving hands in the air as if she wanted to bless me. I just smiled and started off my bike and turned one last time behind and saw that she was drinking water from my bottle sip by sip. I left with a sigh of relief. Met my clients, finished my meeting but one thing was constantly revolving around in my head was the old lady. I was kind of feeling guilty that I should have given her something to eat..Maybe she was too hungry at the moment..so immediately after the work at around 2 pm I headed straight to the place with a parcel of Ganji oota packed from a small canteen nearby to Kadri temple.I had noticed she had no teeth when I met in the morning so I thought Ganji and soft rice would be easier for her to consume. One thought that was constantly eating me up from inside was, what if she has left the place? But luckily when I reached she was still there..sitting on the pavement looking at each passing vehicle and individual..maybe in anticipation of something from them.
I quickly ran over to her and said ?Amma , here is some fresh food for you please do have it?.I couldn’t help but notice a small twinkle in her eyes. It was past 2 already so I said please have it and when I was about to turn behind I could feel a shivering hand on my head. I turned behind and the old lady was smiling with her hand on my head.I don?t know if anything at all had made here smile in the past many days. Her age, the torn saree, a pair of old hawai chappals, an old aluminum plate with a few coins and stick to walk were the only assets the old lady had. And when she smiled and put her hand on my head it was one moment in my life I felt so blessed..not just because she blessed me but for I made her forget her pain for a second atleast when she smiled and murmured words best known to her.
So after letting her have her lunch I left the place with a bigger smile than she had on her pretty face. Came home with so much of happiness and relief inside me. But at the same time had a pain inside me that today I was there but what about other time..The next 2 days I had to pass by the same road around 2 to 3 times but she was not there..was she gone..?? Had absolutely no idea about her whereabouts too..Surprisingly found her in the same place after about 4 days and met her again..
An year passed since that day I kept visiting the place often and made sure I can give something to her..Once in a week or two I would take her the same ganji oota too which she would relish and I would get to see her smile with delight. I would sometimes miss my Friday prayers but never missed meeting Ajji atleast once a week..I dont know what is the feeling but it gave me the pleasure of a lifetime seeing her smile once in a while. I tried finding her whereabouts, where she lives but couldn’t understand as she didn?t speak properly initially. Days passed by and slowly I started understanding her talks too. She always use to communicate only in Tulu and my Tulu being not the strongest I used to try to reply back. The toughest possible sentences used to be framed in Kannada and Tulu mixed but as they say, friendship knows no barriers, we would easily understand each other.
Slowly I happened to realize that she belonged to Shaktinagar and her children had abandoned her so two to three days a week she would take a bus early morning and reach Mangalore and seek alms. The under bridge near Goldfinch had been her spot for quite a long time. It gave her shade from the sun and the rain, wouldn?t cause her anxiety as its not a 24/7 traffic congested spot too. So by sitting in that place whatever little alms she used to get would be taken back and she would manage her day to day expenses, mainly food.
Many days passed and it was somewhere in the month of December. I visited Ajji one day just like any normal visits. The time was somewhere about 9:45 am in the morning since I had just started for work. Whenever I used to pass by she never used to call me, she would just wave her hands in the air as if she was saying hello, but today when I was passing her gesture was different. She was waving her hands as if she was calling me. Parked the bike and went to her and asked if all is good. Ajji said, ?Maga, Please don?t feel bad but can I ask you something..? Please go on Ajji, you don?t need to hesitate, I continued. Ajji said, ?You have done enough for me which even my children couldn?t so you are the only one I can ask you something without getting disappointed. I feel very cold these days Maga..Can u please get me one of your any old used bedsheets..?I have never felt so cold all these years, don?t know if the weather is cold or my body is giving up..Can you please help me maga..??
A chill went down my spine,not because of the cold but because of the words she said. At our homes we have multiple bedsheets, Rugs and what not fancy things whose sole intention is to make the bed look neat, pretty and tidy. Infact some rugs we never used for years who warm the cupboards continuously. And here was a senior citizen who didn’t have even one single bedsheet to save her from the chilly winds. Not wasting a minute I said I will come back in sometime and rushed home. Hardly took me 5 minutes as I stay very nearby. I knew what I had to do now, very well infact. Mom had bought me a rug last year sensing an increase in the cold sadly which I had never used. Put it in a cover and reached the place in minutes.
Ajji?s face just glowed with delight seeing her wish being granted. I told her that a rug would do more good to you than a bedsheet as you need special care now. The only two things I could see on her old wrinkled face was a smile and tears in her eyes. She folded her hands and said ?God knows how long I can sustain myself in this world maga, but till my last day I don?t think I will forget you?. Without a do I told her anytime, anyday you need anything please do let me know, whatever in my capacity I promise I’ll do it. As I was about to leave she removed the rug out and wrapped it around herself, sat down and smiled.
That moment I realized I will have to try and do something beyond this so that I can get more help to Ajji. So as an initiative wrote a small story about Ajji and my friendship and posted it on a Facebook page called as ?Mangalore Confessions? where our identity is unanimous. In the end I ended the story with, ?Anybody who wishes to meet Ajji and do something for her from your side too, can find her in the under bridge on the right hand side on the road of Goldfinch to Juice Junction. She is available most of the times there in search of some love and care.?
I never thought there would be such an overwhelming response with thousands of likes and comments like ?We are proud of you brother?, ?Glad to you know humanity is still alive?, ?I never thought I could make people smile like this, I promise I will do my bit too? and many more. But the majority of comments were, we have seen her sitting there many times but it?s a promise whenever we see her anymore we will definitely not ignore her, thank you so much for opening our eyes.
I really didn?t know if all these would really do something but I was glad people were happy and had a desire to do similar things atleast. Met Ajji I think probably a week after all this happened and the first thing she asked me was, ?Maga, have you told any newspaper people about me..? there are so many young boys and girls coming here with food, bread, fruits. Some of them infact sit and talk to me too for sometime..Did you say anybody about me???
I just smiled and said I did not know anything and told her maybe she might have lost her own children but God has now indeed blessed with many more children who wont let go off her..She didn’t say anything..she just smiled and put her hands on me and blessed like she always did..she knew it was me but she did not ask again..she did not know the fancy thank yous and sorries..all she knew was to bless and pray for us, which we all need the most always.
A couple of months passed like this and after sometime Ajji stopped coming there. I would sometimes daily go and check but never turned up after that. Tried enquiring different places but to no avail.There is some dialogue in a Hindi movie where the hero says, ?Jiska pata nahi hotauska pata nahi chalta? .True to that she didn?t have an address or a mobile. She appeared out of nowhere and disappeared in thin air suddenly.
Even to this day I don?t know if Ajji is alive or not. I hope she is..if not I hope she had a painless, gracious send off like every other human does. Life infact is not fair to everybody but we definitely can try and lend a small gesture of support to the weak and the needy.Ajji never knew my name nor I knew hers, but we connected and God got us together. I don?t know is she needed me or not but I definitely needed to meet her to realize the importance of even a morsel of food, a rupee coin, a bedsheet, a bottle of water and so many things.
The small message I want to convey here is there are plenty of people around us who are in need of love, care, food, clothes..if each one of us could find a little time for them I think the joy of living increases..We all have to realize that one fine day we all will be old, weak and needy..and believe me friends..the happiness and satisfaction that you get by doing such small gestures can never be equivalent to anything else..
I sincerely hope and pray wherever you are, whichever world you are in, you are surrounded by happiness and peace always Ajji.
Tauseef Ahmed M
Author: Tauseef Ahmed M