15 year old Maitri Singh pens a lovely story about humanity and compassion, tracing the travails of a Korean girl in the unfamiliar land of India.
“It was right here,” Lima muttered. Her eyes wandered everywhere. Scanning the whole place with her intelligent eyes.
“Where could the bus go? I surely didn’t lose my way,” she thought, almost in tears now. Lima felt helpless. How would she find her way now? She didn’t even know the local language. Frustated she kept her bag down with a thud and sat on it with her head buried in her hands.
Lima was in her twenties. She was a college student studying in Korea. She had come to India to make a project report on the culture and heritage of the Himalayan people. She was a beautiful girl. She had green eyes that were wide like open windows. One could see the innocence in those big eyes which were sharp and they noticed everything.
She was tall and thin and had an athletic figure. Her skin was pale and her pitch black hair always fell on the right places on her face making her look more beautiful. She had something unusual about her face, something almost magical. One could not resist seeing her face again and again. Anyone would like her instantly.
She sat there, motionless. Suddenly someone tapped on her shoulder startling her. She got up hastily and stared at the stranger who stood there staring at her in return. He was a lean fellow, with shabby hair and clothes that were on the verge of coming apart at the slightest pull. “He is definitely very, very poor,” she thought. But somehow she didn’t like him. He looked so crooked.
“Didi, app yahan kaise?” the boy asked, smirking.
“Uh?” said Lima, confused.
“You lost?” asked the boy and grinned ear-to-ear that he had managed some English.
Lima nodded and bit her lip in nervousness. Then she grinned back at the infectious smile in front of her, happy that he knew some English.
“I am Lima.”
“Want help? I help you.” He said, proudly.
Lima giggled and then said, “Yes, that is very kind of you.”
“Where you want to go?”
“Do you know Hotel Transcript?” Lima asked, crossing her fingers.
He nodded vigorously and then said, “You follow.”
Lima nodded and followed him obediently.
While they were conversing an old lady had been watching them. Her face was alarmed. When she saw them starting to walk away, she panicked and hurriedly went over to Lima shouting something in her local language.
Lima stopped amid and watched the old woman as she approached them. Her reaction confused her.
“Didi, she mad. Follow me,” said the boy, twitching his hands in nervousness.
But the woman didn’t look mad to Lima. She seemed so kind. Something was so sincere about her. There was a motherly feel about her that made Lima to not want to go away but rather help the woman with whatever was troubling her. She looked at the woman sympathetically.
The old lady now stood near them. Panting at the exertion of the sudden run she had made, she said something very harshly to the boy.
“She is scolding Ramesh perhaps,” thought Lima. She stood there listening to them argue. Her curiosity was growing with every passing second but their talk continued for quite a long time.
Lima couldn’t keep patience any longer. She said, “Any problem Ramesh?”
“No no,” said the boy, hastily. “She mad.”
But Lima’s gut instinct did not buy his ‘she mad’ excuse. Lima and the old woman stared at each other for a long time. There was silence, complete silence. But the silence conveyed so many things! At last the woman nodded at Lima once and then gripped her hand and took her with her. Lima didn’t protest, she seemed to trust her, blindly.
She just followed her like a dog follows his master without any questions. The boy was shouting something in the background. But nothing mattered to Lima. Eventually everything drained out as the distance increased. It was just Lima and the old woman walking hand in hand, perhaps going to her house.
It was an old and small house, almost in ruins. Lima’s sharp eyes examined the house from top to bottom. The interiors of the house were shabby and it looked like the old woman barely eked out a living. The house had only the minimum required for survival. “Poor her!” Lima thought. The house was poorly lighted and it was dark inside.
The woman looked at Lima and smiled. Lima smiled back. The woman gestured to Lima if she was hungry. Lima nodded at once. The woman again gesture Lima to sit on the bed near the stove and started preparing food for her at once. Lima sat down and gazed at the woman as she worked. After sometime her eyes became heavy and in a matter of time Lima was in a deep slumber.
When Lima woke it was already dark. Night had fallen and there was another person in the house. It was a girl, younger than Lima.
“Your daughter?” asked Lima, curiously.
The woman looked at her confused.
“No. She my grandmother,” said the small girl. “No parents. They died.” She paused as if to absorb the pain inflicted by that sentence and then continued, “Grandmother no English. But I know. I go school.”
‘Oh’ was the best reply that Lima could come up with. Lima kept quiet for some time and then explained, “I am lost.
I missed my bus. Do you know Hotel Transcript?”
The girl moved her head in denial and both the girl and the grandmother conversed for some time, apparently deciding something.
“Me Reshma. The boy in the day time was bad. Grandmother fight with him to save you. He robs people.” She explained earnestly.
Lima smiled in gratitude and said, “Thank you so much. But can you help me in any way?”
The girl thought for some time and then said, “We don’t know the way. But bus comes every day. We leave you there, and then you can go.”
Lima smiled relieved that she would reach the hotel after all.
The rest of the evening was spent in eating food and conversing with each other. Language was a problem but that didn’t stop them from understanding each other’s concerns.
It was a sunny day next morning. Reshma had gone to school. It was just Lima and the grandmother. Lima sat in silence observing the old lady weave her way in and out of a basket that she was making. At noon the woman finally got up from her work and gestured Lima to get ready to go. Lima took her bags and stood outside the house while the old lady locked the house. She again nodded at Lima and took her hand and led her to the bus stop just like before. While Lima followed the old woman she felt a sudden rush of emotions build inside her.
“That boy could have done anything to me and it wouldn’t have mattered to this lady in the least bit. After all who was she to her – NO ONE! But still she had chosen to stand by her and even argue with the boy just for her. No one would have done that… not even her friends. But this lady had gone out of the way. She had given her shelter without expecting anything in return. She had given her food when she could barely manage to fill her and her granddaughter’s stomach. She and her granddaughter had slept on the ground so that she could sleep comfortably. Who does that for a stranger?” Lima asked herself almost in tears. “This old lady has treated me as her own. She gave me love that no stranger would ever give. Even though they could not talk, even though language was a barrier… this old lady had conveyed so much through her actions and eyes. Words wouldn’t have done justice to what silence had done.”
Truly a universal language did exist and love was that language. Love didn’t need words to be expressed. It’s something which everyone understands. In 24 hours Lima and the old lady had built a bond deeper than any other.
They had reached the bus stand and there the bus stood waiting for Lima. But her legs refused to leave this place, to leave this woman who had loved her so much… Lima could feel her eyes swimming in moisture. She swallowed the lump that had occurred in her throat. Reshma’s grandmother frowned in disapproval and then hugged Lima.
“Thank you. I love you, Ma,” whispered Lima.
The old woman smiled and this time her smile was brighter even than the sun. They both seemed to understand each other, especially this one time.
“India wasn’t that bad after all,” muttered Lima as she sat on her seat and waved to her new found family with a grin on her face. There were no tears anymore. There was a sweet happiness to find a home away from home.
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