18 August, 2008

Maushi's colours

Maushi's husband has passed away. So, I went to visit her. Her room is 8ftx8ft. A kholi as they call in Mumbai. A small kholi in the middle of a slum in Mumbai. A kholi which I reached by tracing a narrow path running parallel to a small gutter. A maze of small such rooms made of tin and cardboard sheets supporting each other in this huge throbbing city. I entered the kholi and saw her sitting on the only bed. Maushi is tiny, perhaps 4 feet tall. And says she is 69-years-old. She looked shattered. She hadn’t eaten for days. Her son looked heart-broken to see his mother broken. Seeing them struggling with pain brought tears to my eyes too. The pain of someone suffering for a death. The pain each one of us know and suffer at some point in our lives.

Before leaving, I hugged her. She held me tight as if she wanted to breathe no more. I stroked her hair that day and wished her pain would wash away soon. While leaving I traced my way out of tiny Maushi's tiny room crowded by mourners.

Over the past months, Maushi has slowly graduated from wearing a colourless saree. Today, there is a gold chain in her neck, pretty ear-rings and a bright maroon printed saree draped around her. Perhaps she is done mourning. Perhaps she is done crying. Perhaps there are no more tears. Perhaps she doesn’t have any other sarees. Perhaps she cannot keep her precious jewels anywhere safe. Perhaps she is just a poor old lady with very little resources.

Or maybe tiny Maushi has once again taken control of what is hers and on which no one else has a say. Maybe Maushi is choosing which of the societal rules she should follow and which new ones she should make for herself. She has started living with a new-found freedom. And she has started by bringing back colours in her own life.

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