© Kartikey Sharma 2018

  • Kartikey Sharma

She would call to check if i had lunch...

It was the year 2014, I was hired to paint a wall in a new establishment near Sinhagad fort. I rode from Wakhad to Sinhagad fort everyday. Well i could go to Mars to paint if i had to so that wasn't really a big deal. Rather i used to sing while riding my bike as if the engine would stop if i stopped singing. One of those days i happened to have met Mr Palash Sen at an event and told him about how i was singing his song 'Maery' while riding to sinhagad that day. Later at night we sang the song together for the audience. That was a beautiful night.

Those days i used to stop at sinhagad just before starting the climb towards the fort to have chai(my breakfast back then) and used to speak to Salunke Ajji. Salunke Ajji is an old lady who sells tea and smokes for a living. I wondered why would she be working at this age. I couldn't resist and asked her the question. She told me how her son wont take care of her. How she had to manage her own finances to go by the day and her son wont buy her food. "kam toh karna padega" she said. She, being an old lady couldn't sit at the uncomfortable stool of the tapri for more than a couple of hours so she would take turns with her husband who was not as polite and would get even more agitated when asked about his son. One day Salunke Ajji took my number and she would call me at lunch time when i would be painting at the site to check if i had my lunch. Once i said there is no lunch at the site so (in a very sad voice) she said she would have fed me if i had told her in the morning. I am always lucky to find mothers to take care of me. Well the sinhagad site got over and after a few days even Ajji stopped calling me and eventually i lost her number.

Year 2016. I was diagnosed with last stage cancer. When i started to realise that i might not survive, along with thinking about my close family and friends, i thought of Salunke Ajji. I called my friends and made a request to find Salunke Ajji by providing the location and description of the tapri. They found her. They told her about me and connected me on the phone with her. I didn't speak to her for long. I just wanted to know whether she still had to work the same hours. She did. She was still selling tea and smokes taking turns with her husband. As directed by me, my friend gave her an envelop before leaving. I told her on the phone that she could take a break now. I wanted her to be able to take a couple of days off and i didn't want to delay doing that for later because i really wasn't sure whether ill be able to go back and see her one day. Its 2018 and i still haven't seen her. Ajji calls me sometimes but I don't have much to say to her over the phone. Her marathi and my hindi needs some real eye contact to understand each other. But i am always glad to see her name on the phone screen. One day i will go back to that tapri in hope that it be closed and she be taking rest on a real bed because she deserves it.

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