Candles melt when aglow THERE are two ways of looking at people, outward and from within – yes, I had seen this woman both ways. Every morning, rain or shine, on the dot at 7.30, she shouts tarkariamma…( vegetables amma) ’, her mouth red and full with betel leaf, big red bindi on the forehead, her whole face a light shade of red due to the weight on her head or due to the weight of life, I wonder… “Happiness is a smile of comfort to the sorrowful”; I smile at her everyday and I joyfully receive one back. On one particular day, her smile seemed more like a storm, hitting me with a force. Sadness is as old as the human race, but some lives are so inherently laced with sadness they seem more like blunders in creator’s handiwork. “Amma… I feel tired , exhausted and helpless. I want to die, but the call doesn’t come…”, putting the wicker basket down, she sighed. I know about her old, drunkard husband, who had had a paralytic stroke recently and is bed-ridden, who needs (demands) her attention and care every living minute, whose speech faculty is gone, but who can show his anger in many ways. She bore three sons, who are wayward, useless and terrible mishaps, exact replicas of the father, who beat her up regularly for her small savings. The only legitimate daughter-in-law (other two sons managed to ‘keep’ women) doused herself with kerosene and torched herself in front of the house – an extreme act, which left her girl baby motherless and forced this ajji ( grandmother) to don the role of a mother. Vegetable vendor, dutiful wife, helpless, threatened mother, caring grandmother – the roles are unending and 24 hours inadequate for all the demands. “Last night my old man had severe diarrhoea, all the four bed-sheets I have are soiled, I washed all of them in the morning…amma can you spare one old bed-sheet?”, her eyes shone with tears of pain. “Yes… I can, ajji” (oh, how I wish I had one magic sheet which can protect you from life’s onslaught, which can wrap you in peace and calm). I always thought I am caught in her sentiment of only me doing “boni” ( the first buy for the day) for her, no, I am caught in the jolts of her life’s roller-coaster ride, holding her hand whenever I can as I always remember “whatever peace you bring to the earth must begin at that little piece of earth on which you stand” and I notice on that little piece of earth, there are many deserving people, who deserve love and peace. Accepting the bed-sheet I’d given, she opened the small knot at the end of her saree pallu and offered me bright red kumkam. “I had gone to Karimariamman temple yesterday and I prayed for you also, amma…!” She knows the chaos my gallstone can create as so many mornings she had seen my face creased with pain and discomfort. She herself is caught in a great vortex, yet finds time to think about me. My eyes started filling, the moment was so fulfilling. She thanked me for the bed-sheet; I thanked her for much more……..