two unlikely friends…




talking about varanasi, i happened to meet this lady nestled in one of the abandoned prayer rooms near manikarnika ghat. she seemed least bothered about my presence as she vigorously started rubbing oil on her shoulders and sagging breasts…i stood some distance away, till she looked up and gave me an angry stare.

“why are you behaving like my son? will i eat you up? come sit here, next to me. fool of a boy” 

so that was my introduction to bado ma (elder mother in bengali)…a bengali widow abandoned by her son to live the rest of her life on the streets of the holy city. we talked about a lot of things. she told me about bengal…about how it was before the country split in two…about her childhood and banana trees and silver ponds…about the partition and the madness that followed…about how her husband had single-handedly managed to save a coach full of people from slaughter…about her days begging in the streets…about foreigners who’d give her money and take photographs and behave kindly with her…about the priests and their nagging ways with her…about the money she was trying to collect…to manage enough wood for her funeral pyre…

“where do you stay bado ma?”

another icy glare.

“foolish boy. you are sitting in my home. what kind of a question is that?”

so a broken room…10 by 10 maybe…with an open roof…and a maggot infested dog for company…that’s home…she seemed angry and bitter and all that you’d expect from a woman her place…but there seemed to be this spark in her eyes that kept me rivetted. like a child’s eyes.

this is the only photograph i have of her…and maybe my most treasured possession from varanasi…





choti was just jumping around from one pole to the next, getting frisky with hanging langotis and wondering how to steal bananas from the local priest’s fruit basket. the first time i met her was when i felt soft hands scratching my ears…looked around to see a monkey peeking right at me. needless to say i freaked out and stumbled down a couple of stairs. she ran atop an electricity pole and started throwing peanut shells at me. a man rushed to pick me up and told me she was the local darling…orphaned at brith when her mum had fallen off a high temple wall…the priests had adopted her…

so every morning i’d trace the same path and  bump into her. needless to say, our meetings became friendlier and we spent quite a few hours together, just sitting by the ghats and looking at the boats cutting lazily past us on the river. it’s funny when you have a simian for company. everytime i said something (yes, i realise i was talking to a monkey) she would just look up and me and scratch her head…every time without fail…quite amusing actually…

she tried to make sense of it all…very few people are good listeners…but i found one in this one…


~ by mentalsyrup on January 29, 2009.

5 Responses to “two unlikely friends…”

  1. “foolish boy. you are sitting in my home. what kind of a question is that?”..aahan…atleast she had not bitten you ..heheh..

    everytime i said something, she would just look up and me and scratch her head….lol 🙂
    btw choti is cute 😉

  2. now this reminds me of Ray’s Aparajito!

  3. amrita: yes the monkey was quite something to go by…!

    harry: think i might be a disgrace to my bengali race…haven’t seen aparajito 🙂

  4. ohh myyy. this post of urs touched my heart! I oo had a chance to visit mathura vrindavan, there I as shocked at the deplorable condition and heartless exploitation of poor and old widows. it literally brought tears in our eyes. life can show one any thing,any condition but the confidence this lady has shown is commendable ! I too from now have started respecting her..

  5. this post of urs touched my heart.. the confidence of the lady is commdable 🙂

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