I lived in central part of the old city at that time….in a congested, cozy neighborhood…where everyone knows everyone, with all their past histories and extended families too….
There was a mad woman….roaming out on roads…with no house…no shelter…..no whereabouts of any sort…. She was mentally disturbed beyond repair…She was unkempt but a very beautiful woman. Fair, tall and with a proud erect posture…she used to walk with grace not conceivable to any ordinary woman….her cloths were torn and patched…but she wore them well….there was an air of dignity around her…. her stark white hair were tangled but she kept them rolled in…what used to be an elegant roll.
Even through those disoriented eyes I always saw a glint of energy…..
In crowds of dead hearted men and women living lives equivalent to rats breeding in dingy holes….she looked like a ray of undaunted hope… though she was labeled a hopeless case, and I was warned to run home whenever she entered our lane…
People teased her…..and she used to get angry…lose her mind….she looked like a lost doe in the middle of hunters…..so helpless…. Those dignified elegant eyes used to shed tears…it wasn’t pain though…..it was anger…pure hot anger pouring down from her heart….
But in such old rickety neighborhoods people are very closely knitted to each other…. She had a few well-wishers too…..who saved her from those scavenging beast like men…..
I remember an old lady, who used to sit in the parlour of her house, watching the street, while her fingers ran on a rosary, singing god’s name….. She used to call this mad woman in her quivering voice….to come and sit with her for a minute or two…. I have seen the mad woman sipping tea with the old lady…..like a married daughter had come to her maiden home….to chat with her mother…. Those old cataract eyes showered her with love! They did not care about her mental disorders, did not care about the dangerous anger of the mad mind….they only knew simple innocent love!
That day the old lady called out to me while I played on the road, in front of her parlour… we never used to talk much…but she often gave me a sweet from a glittering jewelled box on her shelf. That was all the communication that was needed between us. In return she would get a hard unsmiling stare of five year old me! I hardly smiled at anyone…..but still the old lady knew that I appreciated her sweet very much…and that I liked her wrinkled toothless smile more than the sweet! But our custom of wordless speech was broken one day…. The lady told me to sit with her….on the clean daubed parlour floor of hers…. And I sat silently…we were at ease….homely….
She suddenly spoke to me…. A conversation that had started in her mind I guess….
It was the story of the mad woman….told to me without asking for it…..
A story that stayed buried in my heart….forgotten for all these years….
“Once upon a time….the mad woman was not mad….she was an only daughter of her parents, and only sister of her brother. The family was respectable middleclass household….known for a generous hand and kind heart. The daughter so beautiful was also a girl of good “samskara”, a well- behaved intelligent kid, she was delight to all…..
In her teens she met a boy who liked her very much…..pursued her till she too fell in love with him…..
A silent love story was taking shape in that neighborhood….where everyone watched it….and smiled naughtily! Love is a wonderful power that binds two hearts together….”
I was watching the old lady….her eyes were lost in the rosy memories of past!
She kept continuing the story though…
“Of course a long family drama took place as a prelude to that legendary love marriage! But the girl was not just well educated but also wise…..she took us elders of the neighbourhood to her parents…. Our eyes had seen so many seasons…..we knew that this man who loved her so much was the right partner for her… he wasn’t as educated as she was….he was not of her cast…..but you see, once in a while god makes a match like that…to show the real fabric of love to entire world!”
The old lady winked at me with a childlike laughter as her shaky voice narrated on….
“so finally the marriage was agreed upon…..
The bride was ready in a traditional red outfit….clad in jewellery from head to foot….yet she glowed in a light that was coming from a lovely smile of hers!
What a marriage it was! Whole lane was decorated with flower streamers! not just her house….! There was music and sweetmeats and kids danced around in the crowd…..
And who knows whose jealous ill gaze fell on her….. Police took away the groom, under the crime of murder of a well known industrialist in the city….
Everyone was aghast…. He never looked like a murder to me… I always thought he wouldn’t even hurt a fly!”
The old lady was still resolving the puzzle of human mind while telling me the story…
“Who knows what happened of that boy….nobody saw him after that night….. this girl went mad slowly….waiting for his return….. her family took care of her for a while…tried many psychiatrists…but she was not cured…. After few years, her brother got married. I always told his father that the girl was not right for him….but he did not listen to me….. He said, with your consent I agreed to marry my daughter…and see what happened of her…. I need no more suggestion from you” Right he was….
I could do nothing…but watch the family going to pieces in front of my eyes…. The new bride that entered the house changed not just the furniture, but the soul of that house….
Now the parents are sent to an old age home. The brother and his wife have put a fat lock on the door….they now stay abroad. And this girl….roams around in the lane….coping with her own lost mind….”
“Was it destiny….was it the law of karma….who knows what ruled the whim of that almighty?!”
“I am past age of a hundred now…. I am watching his world sitting right here in this parlour that he gave me….. I have fulfilled the role I was given responsibility of…. Now all I look forward to is the tryst with the almighty god himself!”
She remained silent now…..
The old lady was a simple common neighbourhood granny….who was talking to one tiny me…. She never doubted if I understood her well…. Or may be she did not care that much?!
I remember her parlour growing dark…as the twilight faded off the sky…..a skinny wrinkled old lady sitting with another skinny five year old… and then there was the mad woman in the story….sitting next to me…. And I was not going to run home because she was here….
We were three generations….three women of different age and time….three people marked as mad somewhat! We were in one time and space gathered together fetched from three different worlds…. We were wise….carefree….and unaware of the world of other humans that bustled in front of that parlour….