Standing at the intersection Delhi’s busiest streets, they waited impatiently for a bus that took forever to come. The 4:00 PM bus was already ten minutes late and the hoard of people at the bus continued to grow like the clappers. Waiting for the impatient feels like you’re stranded and stuck in the middle of a conversation that doesn’t interest you and oddly enough, irks you.
The monsoons had arrived in Delhi. At least, that’s what the weatherman in the news said a couple of days back that made this time of the day hot and terribly humid with negligible rain. The thing about humidity is you feel the heaviness all around and within you. A simple act of stretching the arms while they waited for the bus caused the sweat pores to go on a rampage.
“Most people you meet tell you that you have beautiful eyes, don’t they?” said the old lady that carried a bag in each of her hands.
The girl in her twenties noticed her admirer and wondered what did the old woman carry in her bags that were monstrous in size – too huge for her to carry alone. Someone else’s discarded trash? Clothes? Books? Smaller Bags? The outlandishness of her bags kept aside, her eyes were dreary yet warm and genuinely kind.
The young girl flicked the ash from the cigarette and said, “They do. Why?”
Most people in Delhi had a habit of addressing strangers whenever they wanted something. They either wanted to know the time, wanted money or wanted ears so that they could bitch about the government, the traffic, the population and everything else.
“However, they fail to see the sadness that resides,” smiled the Huge Bags.
The old lady didn’t know she had become quite adept in suffering alone and concealing her sorrow. A person breaks the queue in front of a food counter, you don’t say anything. A person can’t keep his mouth shut in a movie theatre, you don’t utter a word. A person jumps the red light and almost collides with your car, you don’t speak. We all suffer alone, though the suffering is the same.
The young girl said, “I think I don’t want them to.”
The hoard of people huddled together in an attempt to catch the bus and in a blink of the eye, the entire bus was stuffed with clammy bodies. The two women were lucky enough to find the seats reserved for women to be empty. They sat beside each other. The young girl, engrossed in her thoughts watched emptily outside the window, at nothing in particular.
The Crazy Bags patted her on the shoulder, “What happened?”
Irritated by the constant intrusion, she lashed out, “Why do you care? Let me be.”
The old woman smiled, gestured at her bags and said, “You know what is inside these bags you have been wondering about since you laid eyes on them?”
“I don’t know and I don’t care.”
“I was exactly like you when I was your age. Forty years ago, my husband passed away in a car crash. The only man I had ever loved left me in a single moment without even saying goodbye. I was stripped of all my reasons to be alive. I existed for the sake of existing without any purpose or reason. I became a recluse and found refuge in alcohol. People tried to reach out and help me but it was never enough. Eventually, they too stopped knocking. I lived in seclusion for more than twenty years, wishing each day that I die.
The bags that I am carrying have candles that I distribute to the people living in the slums that still don’t have access to electricity. It is my way to light a candle for the weary and for myself. It allows me to pray and heal.”
The young woman continued to look at her in wonderment. She wanted to say something but every time she opened her mouth nothing but thin air came out. She congregated all her courage and finally said, her voice barely audible, “Thank You for showing me the light.”
We bereaved are not alone. We belong to the largest company in the world – the company of those who have known suffering.