By Tushar Malica:
I was at a railway station last week and as usual, the train was late. They always are. As I stood at the platform waiting, I heard an elderly woman, maybe in her late seventies, talking to a sage. They are a bountiful in India, considering that India is one of the leading countries in deity-Â worshiping, rituals, astrology, superstitions and what not. You can never tell the genuine ones (if there are any) from the fakes; they all have their typical saffron cloth draped with big tilaks on their foreheads.
I wasn’t even paying attention to them until there was an announcement that the train was late by an hour and so, I sat down on a bench nearby. With nothing to do, I did not have much to do and hearing them speak seemed a good option. Few minutes later this is what I had gathered — the adorable woman who would perfectly fit into a dadis role had incidentally separated from her son’s family on the station four days ago. Uneducated and traveling by the train for the first time, she had been surviving, god knows how in this bad monsoon weather, alone, without money and help for four complete days and this was the first time during all of this that the sage (out of intentions that still appears suspicious to me) had paid attention to her. For the past four days all she had been doing was sit on that very bench, waiting for her son to find her and take her back home. This really froze me to the spine. Though, I really appreciated that she had such a strong faith on her son but, somewhere deep down I had a feeling what had happened with her wasn’t an unintentional happening. And now she had nowhere to go. This was a typical case of what we read in the newspaper and see in the news. Though I always sympathized, reading or hearing about it, I didn’t shirk to change channel or flip the page for the “more important news” ever, only because I knew that my grandparents were with me safe, as would be my parents in the future. Now that it was happening right in front of me I realized why journalists felt the need to highlight the issue now and then.
The unhygienic, dirty and ever bustling platform had transformed greatly during that hour. For the old woman it was a platform to meet her son again, for people who heard her story and soon as their train came walked away, it was just an event that they could discuss with their friends and office mates at tea. For rouges, who now knew that here was a helpless, old lady without money or someone who would bother him/herself about her it was an open invitation to an armless prey. For once I felt grandmas and grandpas back in old age homes were so lucky, partially unwanted by their off springs but at least safe and not delusional.
While all of this was rushing through my mind, the sage had been a bit more compassionate with her and offered to take her back at his ashram. Though, it may be a genuine gesture but going with the times, for me it was a simple case of kidnapping in the broad daylight which could be avoided of course. The very next moment I found my eyes searching through the platform for a police official. And I could not find a single cop that day, and it was getting dark. My train arrived and it wasn’t morally right to leave an old lady in that highly unsafe environment; so I informed the ticket checker about it and got myself seated leaving what happened next a riddle for me.
This little incident may sound trite but does highlight our present state. Couples not interested to keep their aged parents with them and their subsequent abandonment. Our railways, one of the world’s largest commercial employers, are also one of the largest ignorant and mismanaged networks. So mishandled, that if somebody ever loses way on a small station, neither the person would know where to go nor the officials feel the need to know; even when that’s their job. Not to forget the delicious food they cater and their punctuality. And then there are our cops who – like in a Hindi movie – will come at the crime scene after the crime has been committed, scene tampered and the guilty standing innocently in the crowd enjoying their drill.
Finally, why blame the system when out of around thirty citizens of India who knew about the plight of the old lady only one cared to inform the officials about it.