A few years back I was busy doing a project in Lonavala, Maharashtra. And one Friday evening, I met this lady there, “Hirava Aaji’ means “grandmother in green”. Every Friday evening in Lonavala Bajar, a weekend market used to run. Clothes, fancy items, chikki, vegies, fudge, decorative pieces, it used to be a carnival. That evening I had no work, so went for little trolling. The moment I reach in the weekend market I got stuck. Seeing people buying things, family, couples, friends were enjoying the nice and breezy weather, I felt a little lonely.
And I saw her
Slowly I moved to a nearer tea stall and asked for a cup. Meanwhile, in a corner, I saw greenery. It was so green that one could not move their sight.
An old lady, in green sari and blouse, green bangles in her both wrists, chains in her neck, and a red vermillion round tika on her forehead, was selling all kinds of green leaves; mint, pudina, methi, green chillies. She was sitting in front of a closed shop, with a grumpy expression on her face. She was looking right through me.
I was surprised and started thinking, “How did I offend her?” The tea seller understood my confusion and said, “She is asking for a tea, I am busy here with the customers. I asked her to come and collect but she wants it served there.” I said, “oh it is not a big deal then, give me the tea, I will give it to her”. The tea seller warned me, “no Saheb, rehun de, she is not nice to people. Her husband has left her and never returned for more than 5 years. Since then she turned really rude”. Still, I took the cup and went to her.
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She asked rudely, “Tu Kona ahesa?” (Who are you). I showed her the teacup in my hand. She took it and said, “tumko kaun lane ke liye bola” ( Who asked you to get the tea for me). I just smiled, thinking that she would be soft post this. But she did not smile back. I tried to start a conversation, “Aaji why you all green?” She looked at me and asked, “why, majhe?” “Why are you in jeans and a t-shirt?”. I did not know what to say. I fumbled and said, “no what I meant that you are so green, it’s good to see that. Is this for some religious belief? I am just curious.” I smiled.
Her expressions became more aggressive when she uttered these words, “this is the problem of you people. You join religion with every colour”. She was way more progressive than I am. I felt ashamed. She looked at me, and that time she spoke with me quite mildly. I got to know how she is being judged every day in her village by her people, for not looking for the husband who left her behind. None of her children took care of her. In this situation, like any human being, I felt compassionate. And like any human being, we show compassion by making a compensate. I did the same mistake.
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“500?… Do you want 500 rupees coriander? What will you do with so much dhaniya? Take your money, I can earn. I take this money today, people will observe it and judge this. They will ask silly questions and irritate me. And I don’t want to spoil my habit of earning money” I turned and about to go back, then she called me again, and smiled that time and said, “yeh Dhaniya leke jao, ma ko bolna mast chatni banake khilaye”. Take the coriander, ask your mother to make a nice chutney out of it.