The Writer

This is a Blogadda.com WoW Contest Top Post




This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda


Write Over the Weekend theme for Feb 15, 2013 -
What is writing like? Write a post that includes this phrase, “Writing to me is…”

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Mayura caressed the paper between her fingers, as though absorbing the words written on it through her pores. Lovingly and with much care, she slipped the rubber band back across the small, much-thumbed annual diary. The kind that had a page for every date. Her mind went back to what she had just read.

 Jan 1, 1970
My name is Meera. I can write.

Two short, simple sentences that every child in Class 1 could write. And yet, Meera had written this at the age of sixty-two. Mayura blinked back her tears. Tears of pride and awe and wonder. Tears that knew the pain, the backbreaking hard work and the countless hours of toil behind those seven words.

Mar 31, 1970
Madam gave me five rupees today. I feel rich. But that is nothing compared to the feeling I get when I hold a pen. I can write. 

Mayura recalled her great-grandmother's face, one that she had only seen in a sepia-coloured photograph, sitting on a plain wooden chair with her toddler daughter in her arms. She was eighteen then, married at the age of twelve, pregnant and widowed at fifteen, with a new-born baby girl at sixteen. Her in-laws had thrown her out of her husband's house a week after her daughter was born. No son to carry on their son's name. No reason for her to be part of the family any longer.

Apr 10, 1970
My birthday. I turn sixty-three today. I know, because the English lady in whose house I was born when my mother collapsed with pain, insisted on writing it down on a piece of paper. I have always carried that paper. It is my identity, the only proof that I was born when I was born. But I read it for the first time only a few months ago.
I told Madam. She told me to put this in my book. I have the best birthday gift this year. I can write.
Sixteen years old, with a baby in her arms and no roof over her head, Meera took a bold decision. She boarded a train, the only train that stopped at the dusty station, 20 km from her village. She spent three days sitting on the floor, eating only what kind co-passengers would give and drinking out of mud pots at the stations that came along the way. When the train finally reached its final destination, Meera stepped out of the train, and stepped into Bombay.

Bombay was monstrous in its size and bustle. People rushed to and fro. Everyone had a purpose. Meera looked about herself, awestruck. She felt tiny and insignificant. What was she to do now?

May 8, 1970
The cancer took Sushila yesterday. I cried till I could cry no more. I feel hollow inside. Who can fill the hole she has left inside me, with love and strength and friendship of a lifetime? My grief can be understood only by me. I would go insane if I didn't have one thing - I can write.

"Oye, girl, who are you waiting for?" Meera shrank back with fright. A hefty girl in a sari stood towering above her, her hands on her hips, demanding an answer. "No one. I am alone", stammered Meera.

"Come with me. Your baby needs food. And so do you."

Meera followed the girl as though in a trance. Her mind was blank, her legs moved of their own accord, her arms automatically rocked her listless, exhausted baby.

"I'm Sushila. I was in the same coach as you. I've been seeing you these past few days. I thought you could use some help. My husband left me for another girl. More dowry, he said. I said, go to the devil.
Now, I have a job as a maid in an English memsahib's house. My uncle fixed it up. He says the job pays well, and memsahib treats her servants right. You can stay with me till you find a job. If your stars hold, you may end up working with me. I don't have much money, but we'll manage. What is your baby's name?", the girl spoke fast and seemingly without pausing for breath.

"Uh. um... I haven't named her yet" said Meera, still blank and out of sorts.

"Oh. I know. Let's call her Rani. We'll make sure she grows up like a queen, not like us. Rani. Do you like it?". Sushila was flushed with excitement and extremely pleased with herself.

Meera looked into her clear, earnest eyes, eyes that held no malice or cunning plans, eyes that were brimming with camaraderie and kindness. She burst into tears, loud, piteous sobs that racked her thin, emaciated body and threatened to rip her lungs. She cried for her lost childhood, for her baby's poor beginnings, for the indifference of her family. The warm glow of pure humanity was washing the dirt away.

Sushila looked visibly dismayed. "We can change the name if you don't like it. No need to cry."

Meera stopped wailing immediately. In fits and starts, she started to giggle, and then laugh full-throated. "Rani she is, and Rani she will be. Oh Sushila, I have only just met you, and you have already done more for me than my parents, my husband and his family combined have ever done for me. I am eternally in your debt."

" 'Eternally in your debt' is a very long name. What can I call you for short?" said Sushila, with a grin.

"I am Meera."

"Meera. I can already sense this is the beginning of a long and beautiful friendship."

May 21, 1970
Thirteen days since Sushila left me. Her soul is at rest by now. Mine is not, but only because her absence will never let me be at rest. It is like I've lost a part of my body. I can still feel its presence, but it is no longer there. Without thinking, I turn to share a thought or a word with her, but where she used to stand, there is now emptiness. 
I recall our first job together at memsahib's bungalow. Sweeping and swabbing, scrubbing and shining. Days turned to night, but the work was ever present. Rani would lie peacefully, swinging in the cradle made of cloth hung from a nail outside the kitchen. Even as a baby, Rani did not trouble me much. Or maybe because of Sushila, I never felt troubled. Rani was so blessed. She had not one, but two mothers.
Memsahib was God's blessing to us. She was gentle and did not raise her voice. She paid us well. She allowed us to bring Rani to work every day. She even agreed to give Rani a job as a maid for her own children when Rani turned seven. And she fed her and clothed her and Rani played with the English children.  
But Rani could not study with the English children. And she wanted to. Just like I wanted to. But couldn't.
It took me more than fifty years. But I can write. 
Meera, Sushila and Rani worked for twenty-four years in Memsahib's house, right up till the last days of British occupation, when Memsahib packed all her belongings and returned to England. In those twenty-four years, they moved from a hut they shared with five other girls, to a room of their very own. They found a suitable groom for Rani, an orphan from their neighbourhood, a decent, upstanding young man who had loved Rani all his life. And Rani had given birth to a beautiful baby girl that they named Bharati.

With Memsahib's glowing recommendations on their resumes, Meera and Sushila soon found jobs as caretakers in a convent school for girls, run by British Catholic nuns.

Jun 5, 1970
Loretta Convent School. I can spell the words now. But back then, they were just symbols, drawings on a board for me. 
Ever since I was a child, I wanted to know what was written on that precious piece of paper that declared I was born. But there was no school in my village, and even if there had been one, I wouldn't have been allowed to study, being a girl. I did not tell anyone, not even Sushila, about my desire to read and write.
I once applied for the post of an aayah for the lower classes. The tiniest tots, those who were just starting to read, would be my teachers. But the lower classes had their own set of trained aayahs. Mother Mary said I didn't have the right qualifications for the job. Sushila said I was over-qualified for it. 
I was too ashamed to tell them both that I wanted to learn how to write from four and five year old children. So I didn't try again. It appeared that my dream would remain a dream.
But I did all I could to make sure Bharati got the best education she deserved. Day after day, year after year, I watched her grow up into an intelligent, well-educated youngster, fresh-faced and raring to go out into the world.  
The day that she told me she was training to be a teacher was the happiest day of my life. To think that my granddaughter would give the gift of letters to others. 
 That was the day I decided to ask for help. I wanted to write.

Mayura's eyes went misty. She remembered her mother's voice, "Meera Nani crept up to my room in the middle of the night. She woke me up gently and asked if I could teach her how to read and write. She was shaking, fear and shame and embarrassment making it difficult for her to speak. Even with her limited means, she had always insisted on paying my school fees, bought books for me, given me a pen for my birthday every year."

Bharati decided to start her grandmother's tutions immediately. "It was mid-1967 when we first started our lessons. Nani would call me Madam. She was the best student I have had in all these years of teaching. She was sincere and diligent. She wasn't very sharp, but she worked hard, as she had done all her life. And slowly, but surely, she started writing. By mid-1969, she could write anything she wanted to."

Meera had the proudest moment of her life when she signed her name in the staff attendance register at school. Where earlier there was an 'X' in the attendance column, there was now a name. Her name. She could write.

For a long time, Meera did not take out her birth certificate from the plastic covering she kept it wrapped in. It was only on Bharati's twenty-second birthday in 1969 that she decided to read it out aloud, as a present to her teacher. Tears poured down her face as she read the words on the document she had treasured her whole life - "This girl was born on the Tenth Day of April, in the Year of the Lord Nineteen Hundred and Seven".

It didn't even have her name on it. But Meera wept for joy.
 November 8, 1970
 I haven't been able to go to work for two days now. The pain in my chest has become uncomfortable. I don't want to scare Rani, but I think this might be the end for me. If I were to die now, I won't be sad. My daughter has a good life. I have been blessed with joy more times than I can count. And I have what I have always longed for. I can write.
Writing, to me, is my identity. My name. My thoughts. My words. Me.
I am ready to go now. To be with Sushila again. To watch over my children. To write... for all eternity.

Meera died a week later. Mayura never got to meet her incredible great-grandmother, the woman who started life with nothing, and left it with everything worth having.

Meera's diary stood testament to her life. She could write.


Images sourced from Google. All images used here copyright to their owners.

21 comments:

  1. Nice post Mixi:).
    My blog: stillettomaniac.blogspot.in
    do visit some time:)

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    1. Thanks Bushra. I did visit your blog. Loved your rainy poem :)

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  2. wow!!!
    that was just soo beautiful....moved me inside!
    amazing!!

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    1. Thanks Shikha and welcome to my blog :)

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  3. One of post which rose a sensation in mind...loved it and perhaps one of the best post which i read this month at least if not this year...!!!

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    1. Thank you so much Anjan. This is high praise indeed!

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  4. this was a treat! amazing writing!! loved the way you depicted human emotions. i am sure, my silly comment is degrading the essence of this post but it didn't look right to leave a post like this without a comment.

    p.s. - loved your 55 fiction post as well.

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    1. Your valuable comment is much appreciated DJ :)

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  5. hope my comment got published. don't know where i clicked.

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  6. That was an extremely moving story, Mixi! So, you can write brilliantly even when you are not writing 55ers? :)

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    1. Thank you so much Sir :) Appreciation coming from you means a lot!

      55ers are a recent genre I discovered and have been trying out for fun.. I usually write short stories and poems.

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  7. Sometimes you feel short of words and thats what I'm feeling right now. The way you portrayed what writing means to an old woman is simply WOW.

    http://surbhibafna.blogspot.in
    Silly Smiles.. Take you Miles :)

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    1. Thank you so much Surbhi!

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  8. Wow Mixi, the post is amazing. You have beautifully depicted the emotions of a mother. Very touching!!

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  9. This is such an amazing blog and you turn out such wonderful stories, not just in terms of content but also in terms of writing style. Enthralled!

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    1. Wow! Thanks for your kind words Subroto!

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  10. Wow..Very good and touching story, the imagination and the unique way of putting it across. But then you are a class apart, Mixi. Kudos girl!

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    1. Thank you so much Ma'am... your words give me a lot of encouragement :)

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  11. Loved it. Its beautifully crafted and brings out the essence of writing in each one of our lives... On the top, human emotions have been captured so well.

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Thank you for sharing your thoughts with me!

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