It was a sunny afternoon. I was about to enter into the ICICI Bank ATM center to get some money and my attention was distracted by an elderly voice. She was around 60 years old and was selling kerchiefs. She isn't talking to anyone specifically but general. "Everyone sell lot of stuff all the day this way, and why don't i sell kerchiefs... What bothers him if i sell something for my survival?", her voice was spreading some resentment.
That place would usually be crowded in normal working days. But it was a sunday so the shopes looked quite empty and only few people are standing here and there in the tree shadows. It looked like one of the shop owner had scolded her not to sell kerchiefs near his shop... So she was cursing the shop owner...
There were some tiredness in her face, possibly because of hungry since she looked like she didn't have her food since morning. She was wearing a very ordinary saree and her appearance showed that each and every paise she earns by selling kerchief is abosolutely important for her survival.
She was just talking in general. But i was watching and listening to her even though i have been walking towards the ATM center. After few seconds, she noticed that i have been looking at her. Then she started cursing that shop owner looking at me. She came close to me and said "See son... What bothers him if i sell kerchiefs... I was just walking in the streets and sell some kerchief for my food. Why is he scolding me... Unkind fellows...". Whoever hears the way she told, would really feel sympathy. So was I.
I stopped walking and smiled at her. An immediate reaction in her face showed that she felt warm inside. I said to her, "just leave them... some people are like that only... don't worry..."
She told, "i don't know why these people feel happy by irritating and cheating poor old woman like me...". There was a bitterness in her voice.
She should have felt little comfortable towards me to say what she feels since i was listening to her. "I am sharing this with you thinking like you are my son... my husband is no more and i have a daughter. Since we are poor, i am afraid to send my daughter anywhere to work. She is a teenage girl, if something happens to her who is there to support me. Thats why i keep her at home and try to sell something like this [showed the kerchiefs at her hand] in this old age for our daily survival..."
Some layer of water started appearing in her eyes, which she wiped using her saree corner. Her voice continued, "i dont know how people even think of cheating me... just two days back, in this same place only it happened... " and she started telling me her bad experience...
"I was selling kerchiefs in this same street two days back and suddenly a guy came to me and said that some nearby social trust [a kind of community helping poors] is helping poor people. and asked me whether i need some help. i said 'yes'. He took me to the building on the other side", she was showing her fingers towards the building and continued, "he asked me whether i want a help as clothes or money... i said it would be very much helpful if i get some money so that i could buy some rice for food... he took me to the building entrace and told me to wait outside, and asked me whether i have 100 ruppes. i was puzzled but he told me to give him 100 rupees and he would get me 300 rupees from them... I dont know how i believe him. But for a poor old woman like me, if he gets 300 rupees that would be very much helpful for our food. so i believed him. I took the only money i had, 100 rupees, and gave him. He asked me to wait and told that he would get back in five minutes... I have been waiting there for the rest of the day but he didn't appear at all...", when she finished, there were full of tears in her eyes.
Then she continued, "I was asking everyone in that building, but no one answered. They simply said to me, 'looks like he has cheated you....' and asked me, 'why are you believe some strangers like this'...".
She continued with a big sigh, "all i believed is he is taking me to some religious trust who helps people... that may help me to get few lunch for me and my daughter... i dont know how people think of cheating a poor woman like me..." There was a big disappointment, sadness and bitterness in her voice. She finally told in a heavily sad voice, "i lost the money i had saved, so i borrowed some money from my neighbour to get these kerchiefs to sell...people are easily cheating me since i am old and poor and avoiding, ignoring me since my dress look little dirty...", when she said that, i could realize how much she had got hurt inside.
I really felt so sad for her. But i don't know what to say. I just told, "don't worry... you are not dirty but the guy who cheated you. dirty outside the body is toleratable but not inside the mind. guys like them are only dirty and those kind of people will never have a good life... god will take care..."
After that i wasn't there for a long time...