One Pearl – Muthumani

Most of my train journeys have always given me some theme for my story or some characters that I will never forget.

Though I am tiny, I have always wondered why people open up so much to me when I start talking to them. It is always nice to talk with women in the train about the rising prices of vegetables, the donations in schools or almost anything under the sun without even knowing who she is.

The women coupé in the suburban trains will be empty after 10pm.There will be hardly two or three women other than me by the time the train reaches Tambaram. On that day I was returning home after a late night meeting. There were three women other than me in the coupé. One woman was in her early 40s and the other two were in their early 20s.They looked like Mom and two daughters coming after a function as all the three were wearing so much jewelery.But it was obvious in the first sight that the jewels they were wearing are not gold.Also,it was easy to read their family background from their faces. That’s one thing I have always noticed, how much ever people try to dress up with jewels and expensive clothes, it is very easy to make out  about their financial situation in a second.

The mother was sitting next to me and the other two girls were sitting opposite me. As I was too tired and sleepy after the day’s work I didn’t bother to have a chat with them.Also, they didn’t seem to be the ones who are interested in talking with me. I took out a book from my bag but I was too weary to read it. I leaned on the window bars and the cold rush of wind made me sleepier.

W: “Are you tired??Do you want water?”

Me: “No, thank you. I am alright”. (Trying to smile)

W: “Huh!!After all you people will never take anything from us.”

Me:??? (Confused) (Smiled. I don’t know why)

I was not in a mood to respond or to bother about the meaning of her dialouges.So I again leaned on the window bars and the cold rush of wind put me to sleep.

Suddenly I woke up and looked at the woman. She was staring at me, I didn’t know for how long. I tried to recollect the pick pockets’ photos stuck in the railway station to see whether she was one among them. But since my memory doesn’t work at the right time, I cursed myself. I gave her an irritating look and again leaned on the window bars.

W: “Why are you travelling this late at night?”

Me: (I stared at her. I didn’t want to answer her as I was frightened whether the conversation will continue between us)

W: “It is not safe to travel late.”

Me: “Yeah, I know. But my work got over late today.” (I ended it in a heavy tone expecting that she don’t reply me.)

W: “Today when I saw you, I remembered my first day in Chennai.”

Me: “Oh!!!Why?”

W: “I was young, lean and short like you then.”

Me: “So?????” (I was irritated hearing her words.)

W: “I am from Kancheepuram.I was born and brought up there.”

Me: “Huh!!Okay” (I understood that she was not talking nonsense. I became wide awake.) “So how did you come to Chennai?”

W: “I belong to a very poor family. My house was near the road side.No, it was not house itself; a place covered with some asbestos sheets. One of the men who came for road repair told my parents that he would like to marry me, that too without dowry. Since there were three younger sisters for me, my parents got me married to him that month. He brought me here in Chennai. I was excited to see the Madras city which I have only heard and seen in radio news and Tamil movies . One day my husband didn’t come back from work. I knew nobody in the city except the house owner. He was an old man staying with his wife and some distant relative girl. I informed the house owner when my husband didn’t return for three continuous days. After two days, the house owner told me to pay the rent and vacate the house. He told me that if I don’t have cash, it is alright if I pay him in “any” way that I could. I decided to run away from there. I searched the house to collect some 20 bucks. My mom had given me the phone number of one of my relatives who was there in Chennai.”

Her phone rang.

W: “Hello, we are on the way. Just left Guindy.”

I looked at her daughters sitting opposite to me. They were not bothered about their mother’s story. They were immersed in some serious talks about a guy they saw some minutes back at the Nungambakkam railway station.

W: “So where did I stop?”

Me: “..relative..”

W: “Ah!!The phone number which was there with me was his contractor’s as he was working for daily wages. He talked with his contractor and arranged to get me a job of house maid at the contractor’s house. After a month or so, my relative told me that he would like to marry me and he is not worried about my earlier marriage. I felt happy. I made him write a letter to my parents. Later he told me by showing a piece of paper that my parents were fine with the marriage. I thought this is my chance to show him gratitude. After all he did so much for me. But after the wedding, I came to know that he was already married and has two kids. The intention of being nice to me was for something else. I tried running away from there but before I could even attempt, he had trapped me. I was blindfolded and taken somewhere. When I opened my eyes, I could see so many other women who didn’t know Tamil. I tried shouting but a huge blow behind my neck made me unconscious for hours. By the time I was up, I knew that I was not going to get out of this place, ever!!.”

Girl 1: “Mom, When will we reach?”

W: “In sometime”.

Me: “So, are they your daughters? I am sorry…I am just curious”

W: “Ha Ha Ha Ha”

I felt dejected.

W: “How can a prostitute have kids? Ha Ha Ha”.

Me: “So…You…I mean…They are  …”

W: “The people who take us will make sure that we don’t get pregnant at all. These two are my friend’s sister’s daughters. When my friend’s sister died, her husband threw them to my friend’s hand. That man always suspected his wife and told my friend that these two were not his kids. We are vulnerable to a lot of diseases and when my friend passed away, I took in charge of them.”

Me: “Oh…so they are was just asking are you going now?”

She smiled.

W: “Our lives change in a matter of seconds. These girls’ father is now happily married and living without any botherance.But for us it is not that way. It may take a lifetime to change our life and most of the times it won’t change at all. I don’t want them to end their lives in that hell.”

I blinked and sat there without understanding anything. Those words seemed too high-sounding for me to understand.

W: “We are getting down at Chromepet.They lost their childhood sleeping with strangers. Now I am also counting my days on earth, before that I have to put them somewhere safe. I came to know that there is a juvenile home here. I hope they adopt these kids. All what I saved by being a prey is for them. At least let them have a good life.”

Girl 1: “Mom, now how many stations more?”

W: “One more.”

Only then I realised, that we almost reached Chromepet.

W: “May be you are the last person in my life to have a friendly chat with me.”

Me: “Why me? I mean, why did you tell all these matters to me?”

W: “I told you that I remembered my first day in Chennai after watching you. Then you had a friendly smile on your face.Usually,when people come to know that we are bad women, they always avoid talking to us or even change their seats. But you were kind enough to listen to me. Do tell your friends to be careful in their lives. We never know how tragedies come in life. We never know.”

She sighed.

Me: “May I know your name?”

The woman wept badly, very badly.

W: “Nobody has ever asked my name. They have always asked me for something else. I have thought about my name because for women like me name is never an adorning matter.My name is Muthumani.”

I offered a handshake.

W: “Why should you get spoiled by my touch? But I am happy that you asked my name because nobody has asked for my name for years…for years…”

Train stopped.

She and those two girls got out of the train. I expected her to look at me to say good-bye.

The train started moving. I went till the foot board to see her, but I couldn’t find her.

Two days after this incident, I saw her photo in the newspaper under the heading “Anonymous woman found dead”.

I went numb.

But what could I do? Like every shameless Indian I prayed for Muthumani’s departed soul to rest in peace. 😦


This post was made into a theater play by Stray Factory.

Any help???

I love Chennai..i think it should be this way..I like to stay in Chennai because of my own weird reasons..

People are warm..the crowd don’t care at all about other’s matters..and after all im a stranger in this city 😉

But there are times when we truly wish if there was somebody to give a helping hand..

Once after Byju’s classes,I was waiting at Nungambakkam station for my train to tambaram..Suddenly two girls came out of the station master’s room weeping very badly..One female was cursing the other one for some strange reason..the other one was weeping over the phone calling names..

Usually I don’t used to bother much about these things..but this time I bothered..And there is a reason for it..

Lets go back in the time machine..

When I was in my 3rd year of the college,I was travelling with one of my friends from Chennai to Trichy..

We were in a hurry that day and for our bad luck,my friend lost her train ticket..Train is at 1030pm..We literally did a security check in our luggage to find out..but NO!!!

The mess was made more spicy when she told that the ticket is actually not in her name but in her cousin sister’s name;as she was suppose to travel that day..phew!!!

We checked the name list stuck on the name is there and of course her cousin sister’s name is also there..But still we got inside..we sat in the respective seats..

There come the villain of the movie..TTE..Huge build..face full of the scars of measles or chicken pox..altogether a mix of Amresh Puri and Om Puri to look like a yuck puri..with the essence of both him and his over-coat not seeing water for months..or may be years.. 😛

We both tried convincing him a lot..we told him a lot of family stories like a TV soap..nothing worked..

In the end he told us to pay Rs 500 as fine and take a new ticket worth Rs178.Haaaa..we started mining our Rs535..But that was not going to help us..He was shouting at top of his irritating voice.. 😡

We told him our PATHETIC condition..tried doing drama with tears..

Grrr..I think his heart is made of diamond(strong..strong.. 😉 )He told my friend to get out of the train and get inside the general compartment..that too at 11pm 😦

We were watched by the whole compartment as if some movie is going on..they comment each other..some idiots laughed at us..the crowd was having fun..But i noticed a lady who was sitting on the upper berth staring at us..

She looked like the brand ambassador of Pantaloons or Fab India as she was dressed in such an elegant manner but with so much make-up..She must be in her early fifties..Out of blue,she called me and gave me Rs 500 and told to get things settled..

OMG..OMG..we thought God himself came down to help us..We didnt even try to ask who she is or the reason for her to help..we bothered about nothing..we were so happy that somebody helped us to make the “villain”s mouth shut..

We thanked her..1001 times may be..we were nearly in tears(no drama..original one)..We came to know that even she had this same situation and was helped by a stranger..but she couldn’t repay she was just completing that debt through us..we promised her to pay her back once we reach college..Slept within seconds as we did so much of verbal and emotional hard work 😛

We had planned to take her address in the morning..but for our surprise,she had vanished by the time we woke up..

Now coming back to our current seeing those girls weeping without money,i was able to empathize them..i enquired the matter..

There were four girls travelling..two had to get down at Nungambakkam and two at Beach station..the tickets were with the other two..I didnt bother to check whether the story is true or not..i paid them Rs 400 and gave business card to contact me later..

when the train came I got inside without waiting for them to come back after settling the issue..But i was satisfied and happy that I was able to pay back a debt..

But still after some weeks,they paid me back..So what do you think???I accepted it or …..????