‘Thiruvannaa’ park in Chennai is famous for its beauty and tranquility. In the extreme heat of the day, it is a relief to stay some time here. In breeze, trees will wave its branches. A lot of people come here to take rest from the hectic activities of the day and also to enjoy the greenery of the nature. When I live in Chennai, the nostalgic feelings will come to my mind. Even if, I stay in a far away place, I am extremely happy, because I got a job as a teacher as I wished. It is a common sight to see children running and competing each other to buy ice- cream. My mind become very cool when I see this park and the flowers.
One day I got a thing from this park. The thing, if nobody sees, most of the people like to take and discard after use. If I am quoting the words of ( the famous Malayalam Writer) Vaikom Muhammed Bashir, ‘ A Prostitute of poor people’.
Almost all days, I have seen her near the Champa tree which stands in the south side of the park. She faces the world by chewing her difficulties and pains in the Champanga*(*fruit of Champa tree). Once she begged money and in a sudden action, she took my purse like a magician. I cried and made noise like a child. So she threw the purse to my face and scolded me in Tamil. Later I understood, she is a Malayali*(*people of Kerala). I don’t think she has more than twenty five years of age. I have seen her in many places of the city. When she comes with her wild hair, I will think about Uraub’s* Rachiyamma**. (*One of the famous Malayalam writer, ** his one character’s name). She has enough beauty and glamour, then why she begs, and engages in prostitution? Why does not she go for any other job? There is no fault with her. Born in street and thrown to street, more than that no fault, I could see on her. They are innocent souls coming to this world when gentlemen of the day searching ‘some comfort’ at night. They are destined to born, live and die on street. They are also citizens of this country, then why are the authorities closing their eyes towards them? They have no right to vote. Is it the reason?
When I learnt, she is a Malayali, a good teacher in me wished to advise her to change her life. For that purpose, I talked to her and understood her background. She was not an orphan as I thought. She was a poor girl, somebody brought her to Chennai by offering a job in a cashew nut factory and discarded to street after use. When she called me ‘Mashe’*(* a name used to call male teachers in a respectable way by Malayalies), I felt, it is my responsibility to correct her. That thought haunted me. But society created many obstacles in my path. Whatever it may be, I sensed the depth of my relation with her.
Once I was taking ‘Masala Dhosa’* (*a traditional food of Malayalies) from a ‘Thattukada’* (*street restaurant). The sweet and nice smell of Porotta and Beef, watered the mouth of many passengers. I frightened and wondered when she came to the shop, by expecting that I will offer something. But the presence of my colleagues and others prompted me to turn my face against her. When the shop keeper shouted at her, she looked at my face and went away from there. She came for a bit of food. Her face tortured my mind. Again and again it tortured. Has she taken any food? My mind was heavy with thoughts. Where do I search her in this night ? If it (night) finished fast, I wished. I felt, the night has the length of a century. On the next day, early morning itself, I went in search of her, but I could not see her anywhere. Likewise many days passed by.
One day, I went to Sambath’s barber shop for shaving. By asking many friendly questions, he started his job on my beard. After sometime, I heard a noise outside. With other people, I also went to the crowd. I didn’t expect such a sight there. Three strong, strange men are beating her (Maya). One among them was an auto rickshaw driver. I was unable to see that for a long time. So I came forward.
‘What’ ‘what is the problem?’ I asked.
“Sir, you don’t interfere in this issue. We can manage her”, They told me with all the respect to a teacher.
“Don’t beat her again, she may die”, I again told them.
“What is the matter, please tell me” I requested them.
“Sir, she tried to steal the stereo from my Auto rickshaw”, in a complaining tone they told me.
Finally some old women saved her from that situation. After completing the rest of the shaving, I started to search her. Some Kilometres away, I saw her sitting in front of a closed shop. After parking my bike in the roadside, I sat with her.
“Maya, are you pained?”
Her face was full of marks of beating, so , I myself felt my question is an ironical one. But she didn’t give me any answer to my question. “Why did you try to take their stereo?” I asked her.
“Do you think, I will do like that” she asked me.
“Maya, have had anything”?
Up to that moment she tried to hide her pain, but before that question, she cried. From that beautiful, big eyes tears dropped down.
It was the time of sunset. I called her, “Maya come, come with me”.
When I forced, she wiped her eyes and came to my room. I prepared some Ayurvedic medicines and applied on her cheeks and arms.
“Maya can I take some rice for you”? “No curry, with a chilly, can you”?
She showed her hand to express ‘No’.
“Why are you loving me so much”?
I have no answer for that question. This is the same question, I asked many times to myself, after seeing Maya.
During this time, neighbours assembled in front of my room and like mad persons, they started shouting and beating on my door. Finally I opened the door.
“sir, we didn’t think , you are a dirty person. What is going on inside? We never allow you to do this immoral traffic here”. Some shouted at me, some spit on my face. “mashe, I don’t like to bring a disgrace to you, let me go” with tears, she went down and vanished in to the darkness of the night.
My emotion had no boundaries, I cried and planned many things on that night. But society like a demon, created many hindrances in my path.
On the next day, I was not in a good mood to go to school and to take class. But due to examination duty, I went to school and returned by noon. I went in search of her in the market and other places of the city. When I came to the park, she was lying on a bench. When she saw me, she suddenly tried to stand. I asked her to sit and I sat near to her. What will I say to her? She also has nothing to ask me. A dead silence shrouded us.
“Maya, why aren’t you trying for another job ?”
“Who will give me a job? I have no money, no education, all want only my flesh”, she cried.
Maya, many times I tried to avoid you from my life. But I failed. I don’t know why I feel so.
“Maya, if I say one thing, could you obey me ? I will give you some money. With this money you buy a nice sari*(*Name of a dress, used by women in India), and rest of the money you can use to buy Jasmine. You start to sell Jasmine, you can achieve a good life, Maya”.
“Do, like that, please. Once again I requested” She bought the money and left the place.
One day after school, I went to the park. Up to night, I spent there. After that I was walking through the ‘Anthichantha*’ (*evening market) for buying some things. I entered many shop what a price! what a rush! In the light of Petrol Max, traders are doing a good business. Whatever things, vegetables, home appliances, more than that the noise made by the Thattukada* people (*it is the name of food stall in the road side. This term is used by People of Kerala). They compete each other to catch customers. I was walking, by seeing all these things, then somebody called me from the backside.
I turned, but at the first sight I could not understand her. I wondered.
“Maya, Did you change so much?” New Sari, new chapel, combed hair well and flowers on it, arms full of bangles. “Are you a nymph? So beautiful, so nice,” I said.
When I said about her beauty, a shyness came to her face.
‘Mashe, your hand is a blessed one. The money you have given me is multiplied. See, now I have a lot of money. Take this, she returned the same amount that I had given her.
“No, no need, keep it with you”, I said. With extreme happiness, I told her again “now you are rich, what treat will you give me?”
“May I offer you, a tea? She ordered a tea for me. I understood the value of the money that earned by hardworking, in her words. By fighting with houseflies, she offered an Ullivada* too. (*name of a snacks).
“Maya this Ullivada is not enough. What will you give me?”, I asked again.
To you …….you are bad, she gave me a hit and run away from there, by saying, “ I have a thing for you……………”.
“Dear….., please pay the tea and go”.
“That you pay by yourself. She laughed nicely and vanished in to the crowd.
This is the first time, I saw her so happy. She found out her life. Her happiness filled my mind. I returned to my room by saying thanks to god. On that night, I had many dreams.
Next day, with a great happiness, I prepared to go to school. When I come to the bus stop, I saw a crowd near the railway track.
“Sir, what is the problem there”, I enquired one man.
“Someone committed suicide in the railway track’, he said.
First, I thought, no need to go and see it. But later, I just went there and looked. A thunder bolt passed through my heart.
“Maya………….who, run away from me with a smile, yesterday”
Train turned her in to many pieces. A darkness entered in to my eyes. I felt my body is shivering with fear. In that deadly moment, I heard the Police writing their records.
“Age: approximately 24-25 years”
“Dress: Sari, No inner wears”
“Position of the dead body: Across the ……….”
When the police recorded evidence like this, a slum dog that came from somewhere took a piece of (her) flesh that scattered around the track, and run away to the bushes.