As I am writing this, I am still unhappy. Deep down in my soul an uncanny feeling of sadness is still lingering. I went shopping today and took an auto rickshaw to return to my home. There were total four passengers including me. Normally the auto rickshaw driver starts the journey with six passengers. But as it was late afternoon and he had already a return trip booked, we got lucky and he started with only four of us. Midway, an old woman, about my grandma’s age stopped the rickshaw and told she wanted to go to Abantipur (where my home is). She was very old and she could barely walk. I offered her the backset that was occupied by me and shifted to the blank frontseat. She smiled and mumbled something, maybe a word of blessing.The other passengers on backseat helped her to be seated safely.
Soon after that she began to ask the driver “Do you know where the village panchayat office is?”
“No” the driver replied.
She turned to the other passengers and asked the same thing. Nobody knew that.
I told her that Abantipur is under municipality right now and there is no village panchayat office there. As far as I know, it was under village panchayat even before my birth and I am already twenty five now.
She looked surprised but did not believe me.
“Every body knows where the village panchayat office is then why don’t you know?” she tried again.
Other passengers also expressed their inability to identify such office.
“Where do you want to go, grandma?” I enquired. “Do you know any address, any name?”
She did not reply. She only murmured, “there was a big market and beside that market the office used to be.”
She believed it was still there. As the last stoppage came we all got down but the old woman was still searching for that office that does not exist anymore. The auto driver showed lack of empathy for this elderly, helpless woman and asked her to get down and pay the fare. She seemed confused and helpless. She said it was not the right place and she had no extra money to pay the fair to go back. I too stood there helplessly as I did not know where to send this helpless woman. The auto driver got impatient, so I intervened and paid him the fair and asked him to wait a minute.
“Will you be able to go home if the auto driver drops you to the same place from where you boarded the auto?” I asked.
She nodded feebly but she looked sad. I handed another ten rupee note to the auto driver and requested him to drop her at the same place. The auto driver seemed irritated but I tried to make him understand that it was not her fault. The family members should never have allowed her to travel alone. The driver agreed and started the engine.
I agian turned to the woman and said, “go back to your home, grandma; and never travel alone” and waved at her.”
She smiled faintly and said, “but I came here in search of my home” and waved back at me.
The auto already started running along the dusty road as I stood there with a bunch of sadness and a lump in my throat. The auto disappered after taking a left turn. I also turned back and started for my home with a heavy heart.
Who she was, where she lives, where she wanted to go and where her family members are will always remain a mystery . Her last words will always haunt me for the rest of my life. “But I came here in search of my home.”
It’s very sad to see an elderly woman in a helpless condition like this. But this is no rare event. Incidents like this happen often. We all should remember the hardships our parents endured to give us a better future. Children are never burden for parents then why parents become burdens for children? If we treat our parents like this then what message are we giving to our children? We need to seriously rethink about that.