One Sunday morning when I was sitting in the boundary of my house, feeding tidbits to street dogs, I saw an old woman with a spherical water vessel of brass in hand, waddling towards the peepal tree. She had small eyes and her face looked as though it was amalgamated with several pale lines. She was dressed very simply in white salwaar-suit, and her hair doused with oil. As she came near by me, I bowed to greet her. She didn’t respond and made her way to peepal tree. I did not feel bad and continued to look at her.
The old woman was aunt Jeny and I had always heard everyone calling her aunty. She was aunty of my parents, neighbors and their children, milkman, postman and even the aunty of uncle Kamesh, who took sanyaas from government services two months ago. I often wonder that she might not be aunty of her parents. I could not remember her looking young. She looked as old as peepal tree and her hair as long as the sprawled stems. Every morning, from past eight years she came to the rickety temple, setup under the peepal tree. As she sprinkled the water from vessel onto the iron bars which girt the temple, I could see the peace and calmness on her face. I do not know what power lies in the name of God which gives solace to everyone. I have never come across anyone who could say himself as a true atheist. I met atheists but never true atheists. Often people begin to say them atheist when some tragedy happens in their life and then the same people secretly pray from God to take them out of the hard situations. A couplet I wrote few months ago after heavily drunk:
Ae khudaa ye kaisa hai tera nasha
Nashe mein bhi bolta hun ae khuda ae khuda
O God! What addiction of you I have got
In inebriety too, I mumble O God! O God!
Then she poured the water onto the bark of tree and began to swipe off the blots. The stains clung to it when children hit the mucky ball while playing street-cricket. She was very calm and kind-hearted. She had never forbid any children to play there, nor did she feel resentment. But while meditating her prayers, she requested the children to stop the game in a fear that the ball might hit her. Then she would abide her prayers and the game of cricket would begin again. After wiping off the bark, she kindled incense stick and wheeled her hand in front of the portraits of Hindu Gods. Then she tucked the sticks, somewhere, near the portraits and began to mumble the lines from a small red book which had God Hanuman as its cover.
Aunt Jeny along with her family came to our street, twenty five years ago, when I was not even born. I had never heard about her husband from anyone, nor did I ask. Long years ago, her son married with Deepa,. The brother of Deepa, Mr. Chawla caught me outside his house when I was waiting for her daughter (with whom I had a love affair) to arrive on the boundary of the house. Mr. Chawla slapped me twice and menaced if I would come again near the house then he would break my hands and legs. The only thing I noticed that day was the bottoms of Mr. Chawla were more rounded and bigger than his beautiful, arrogant wife. What he needs is to be cut the bottoms and dangle it on the main-door of house to ward off evil eye and spirits.
As aunt Jeny slapped the book and placed it over the brass vessel, she softened red color sindhur on the top of portrait by her ring finger. Then she slipped into her chappals and waddled round the tree. After few more prayers, she began her way back to home. The calmness on her face again seemed to sink in dejection. The pallor lines again began to glint on her face. As she came near by me, I bowed to greet her. She didn’t respond. I watched her till she entered her house.
The only words which left in my mind were of Quran, Surah 3 AL ‘IMRAN:
Kullu nafsin zaiktul maut
Every soul has to taste the death.