The old eyes watched the expanse of waste land that one could usually see while returning back from the MMTS local train in Hyderabad. The piles of garbage, the motley of dirty, filthy houses, rags covering the thatched roofs everything might have been so much home to the old lady sitting in front of me, with a huge bag of her entire world, her tired, dry hands clutching to the bag, had a story of hard work and suffering. The train crawled on to a much filthier space ahead, a serpentine drain, with the city’s bourgeoisie dump, had the stench I or anybody my age generally associate with utter poverty and grime. With all the fellow faces contorting from the rotten smell, I saw the old woman remained with the same expression, placid and calm. Her eyes had this still, sad look that had seen so much filth that, this present muck made no difference to her. These eyes seemed so withdrawn from the whole world, ready to face anything that life could possibly bring with it. I engrossed in the life around me, could not understand the depth these old soul had experienced. I with my urban, affluent experiences of life could perhaps never understand that life meant living for her, food meant survival for her, and home meant the world for her.
I did not know how she lived her life, how did her hands become so rough that she could no more caress the little child her daughter might have given birth to. I did not know how her feet had become so parched that it hurt to continue walking or perhaps the blood seeping out of the cracks did not bother her of the marks it left on her torn, fragile sari. It did not bother her that people in the compartment preferred standing than sitting next to her. But it bothered me with my urban, educated mentality, seeing her sitting alone, aloof from the whole world. But my presence added nothing to her comfort, perhaps she was used to such pitiful, friendly gestures, which only made her feel more degraded. I realized that her eyes did not complain of the life she had lived. Perhaps I had got it all wrong, I perceived her to be sad, and perhaps she wasn’t all that sad after all. Her eyes did not have sad tales to narrate for her grandchildren; they will be stories of the king who lived a long, lavish life, of the princess who fell in love with a young, poor guy. My station was arriving and I looked more intently at her trying to decipher more of her life and suddenly the train stopped with a jolt, the cannonading sound stopped and a small packet fell out from the old woman’s tattered sari. A cheap green, transparent polythene packet, with a small new plastic elephant in it. Perhaps for the new born grand daughter, she picked it up and wiped the little dirt that had collected on one side of the packet, from one end of her sari. Nestling it safely to where it was, she for once looked up at me and smiled meanwhile the train had reached where I had to get down. Walking back to my hostel room, I no more gave a look of pity to the people living in the slums just opposite the huge gate of my institute.