By the streets of a suburban Kolkata, used to sit a lady. Her face was wrinkled, her back crooked, and her body? It was barely anything more than a skeleton. Needless to say she was old. She came to India, with a group of refugees from Bangladesh. When she came, she had her husband with her. One day, when sacks of flour were sent to the refugees by the government of India, there was some quarrel between her husband and one other refugee over a sack of flour. In the heat of the tension, the other man stabbed her husband, and since then Badi Ma, as she was called by the people passing by, wandered like a nomad, ate like an animal and sat by the street.
Badi ma missed her village a lot. Her village in Bangladesh was her little paradise. She was born there, she got married there….she belonged to that place. All the day she sat by the street with an old, rusted metal bowl, which at times could be seen kept beside her or at times she raised it begging for coins.
Badi ma knew two things for sure. One that there is a God up there. Two, he didn’t make her a creature one may love. Love, yes that was the thing she had in the minutest of quantity. Even less than money. She thought that all she wanted was a little love, just that. Neither had she wanted more nor did she deserve, she thought.
Sitting by the roadside of residential areas was none the less trouble. She had to deal with all sorts of people all day long. Ignorant, abusive, dumb (a thought of such people made her wrinkled face break into a smile). but there were children. Children were great. In fact they were the ones who gave her the name Badi ma, or elder mother. She enjoyed their company too. She waved to them, as they went to school. At times mischievously hid their balls under one end of her old, torn saree when they played cricket on the streets. Sometimes, they circled around her and she told them stories of her childhood in a Bangladeshi neighborhood. The children enjoyed the stories.
But since most of the children were of five to eight years of age group, their parents successfully managed to make them believe that the old lady by the street was a witch. That was the end of her friendship with the children.
But there was that one girl, Foonti.
Foonti was six years old, and she had a home. Her home in plain and simple words could be called ‘street’. No father. No mother. But the little one managed to live life to the fullest. She used to beg, as did Badi ma; the only difference was she didn’t sit. At times, she did tricks with her precious marbles, at times she danced. She sang latest Bollywood songs which she learned by listening to the radio at the nearby saloon.
Badi ma watched Foonti all the day. She watched herself in fact. This was Badi ma, as a girl. She didn’t belong to a wealthy family, but she had a real sparkling childhood. Her spirits were curbed when she was married, and to suppress her further, her first child was born still. That’s how the violence began that she suffered until the stabbing finally killed her husband.
It was a winter night, and Badi ma spotted Foonti shivering. She called her, then she didn’t know her name so she just made some noises. Foonti came to her and smiled. That was the first time she saw her glittering face and the last time she let her shiver.
Since then Badi ma’s life knew no rain. Only rainbows. She danced with Foonti and laughed, sang, played and laughed again. They begged together, ate together, slept together. Badi ma now had a listener to listen to her stories. Badi ma now had a child of her own.
One day when Badi ma was telling stories to Foonti, a man came and stood by the street. Badi ma looked at the man and so did Foonti. The man wore a turban over his head with a moon in the middle. A charming cloak adorned his body. He had an imperial moustache and a hanging goatee.
“I am a magician,” said the man. “I have come here to show you magic.”
“Oh I love magic,” clapped Foonti. Badi ma’s wrinkled face glittered too.
The magician smiled broadly as he chanted his spell. The world around changed.
The magician danced and Badi ma and Foonti followed, dancing. The magician clapped and colors sprinkled. The magician sang, Foonti sang and Badi ma sang too. Then the magician asked.
“Do you want to see a rainbow?”
“Yes, we do,” Said Foonti.
The magician smiled and spread his arms and rainbows came out.
We all accept the love we think we deserve, but the love between an old woman and a little girl was so true that God felt that this love needs to be preserved. So he came as a magician and took them beyond the rains, beyond the clouds to a place where rainbows were. Love is not about people, not about the body, gender, age or even heart. Love is all about the soul.