Saturday, 14 July 2007

Mudiwali Budi( The Old Lady Who Used to Sell Mudi)

Its a tale of love and pain. Love when it becomes unconditional it is heavenly feeling which my mother experienced. That was a long time back.
THat time I used to stay in Siliguri- A small town in West Bengal( on the chicken's neck of north eastern India).
We had a house in that town where I grew up. We did not have a very affluent life. Everything me and my sister asked were not to be fulfilled just by wishing for it. My parents made me understand the value of money and the hard work that goes behind to earn it. But parents words were not enough untill i saw poverty in my own eyes.
An old woman used to come to our house to sell Mudi (kind of puffed rice very popular in Bengal). She was old, too old, i would say, too carry that huge sackful of mudi on her head and walk around. But she seemed to me surprisingly stron inspite of her thin stature. She used to come everyday and sit in the varandah for a while in those hot summer afternoons. My mom used to sit with her for sometime. And the old lady would tell her lifestory. It seemed to me like an endless saga of pathetic incidents pain poverty and sobbings. Which although I was not from a affluent family seemed quite odd to me. I could never believe that life can be this tragic. Somehow it seemed unnatural and blown out of its proportion. She used to come everyday and sit there, probably in my mom she got a friend who would listen to her day to day life lessen her boredom loneliness for sometime atleast.
I used to mock my mom. I used to tease her calling her mudiwali's best friend. Mom would scold me to talk like that. But i never stopped. I thought this lady comes because my mom gives her things( like old clothes, sweaters and all...Once a piece of jewellery as well for her daughters marriage).
What i gathered from the other things that my mom later told me is her life was very painful. and she is very poor. Somehow her son is going to a school in the night to pass the secondery atleast. and her daughter will be married soon( which she was and soon she became the source of another unfortunate event).
This lady was all by herself. She lost her husband as soon as she got pregnant with her second child. She had to work even in her labor months on the field and its only hard work which made her earn a living for her two children. she was lonely and living in a place where few ppl cared about her. In her village none really was a friend to her to whom she could talk aand probably relieve herself from her agonising lonliness. So there was my mom.
As I said earlier I thought this was a give and take relation between these two individuals. I tried not to think as my mom's son, but some third person who doesn't know any of the subjects and analyse their condition. I while doing that I more and more became convinced that this was a petty poor rich relation, the poor is living totally on the consideration of Rich( The word RIch is to be taken relatively here).
But what I failed to notice is the other small gifts that is coming from the woman to my mom, and the smile in my mom's eyes. My mom knew she is poor and can not probably afford to give gifts, but everytime she came she used to come with some or other small things like a small ripe mango from the tree just beside her house in village. a half of a Rohu Fish which her son had caught while fishing in a pond nearby. These gifts were unique in nature. Mom always wanted to discourage her from bringing gifts as she feared this would put additiional pressure on this old lady. But she never stopped. Once she said, "eigula je ani tumar jonno ete amar bhalo lage. "Probably it gave her the chance to give off the burden of all those things that mom used to give her and stand side by side to mom. Probably these enabled her to think mom as a friend and not as a giver. Mom also told me the same thing when one day i asked her. I got a new angle of this relationship that day. I learnt friendship.
Then came the time when we were moving out of Siliguri to Kolkata( previously known as Calcutta). I was not there at home that time. Dad, Mom and didi were there. Few days before the day of departure, the lady came home. My mom had already told her that we were shifting to calcutta. that day it became a spectacle really when she started crying. She was sad. She was crying like a mother who is going to loose a child. She was crying and telling who will talk to me if you go away? who will care for me? when after many days mom told me about this i saw those blinks of tears in her eyes. and I knew there was love. there was friendship a kind I never experienced a kind which I would die for to feel and a kind only people who are very lucky like mom can feel. I am proud of you mom. I really am.
[The picture on the side is not the real woman just an illustration copied from Google Image search]


ad libber said...

You portray an extremely different situation. Never can people nowadays give so much time to an old, poverty stricken lady for the sake of an odd bond of friendship. Your mother must have been a very special woman.

The Ancient Mariner said...

Thanks for that Ad. I myself could never imagine myself falling into such a relationship that's why i look at it from distance and with extreme awe and bow down and say Hats off to you Mam.

Gauri Gharpure said...

hey there,

this one's emotional...

i can sort of relate to the mudiwali old woman, not in the sense u ve described, but as the n number of simple, hardworking and toiling men and women I see in Kolkata. And their innate simplicity of thought. There's some naive kind of warmth in the people of West Bengal which is just so damn endearning..

The Ancient Mariner said...


On behalf of the people of west bengal Thank You!

Roz said...

Good for people to know.