It happened at Koria Pul – one of the oldest bridge connecting Kashmiri Gate and Chandni Chowk; the two glittering chapters of Moughal history, the two sides of a railway divide. Night had suddenly grown colder and I was feeling alone in this heartless city. I was an unemployed bachelor, adrift, caught in the currents of mysteries of life. I had to walk down from Panja Shareef to Ballimaran as last pennies of my pockets stopped ringing. Someone had promised me to meet and a job could have been a possible outcome of that pregnant encounter. Nothing materialized and the next reality was the procurement of the evening meals that has to materialize from somewhere if I had to survive.
From that side of Kasmhiri Gate every step at the access of the bridge was heavier than the previous one. In this frightening loneliness I was trying to lose my thoughts in howling whistles of passing trains. I still had my muffler and darned over- all to protecte me from cold winds. As most of the doors which had any possibility of any opening or hope for the job had already been knocked and banged. Nothing succeeds like and success and nothing flops like a failed life. “I was the unluckiest and unwanted creature and there seemed to be no great reason to vouchsafe this world with my existence. This problems-infested world could have done better without me.” Those were the thoughts that haunted me as I minced my steps and looked up at the cloudless sky seeking some answers from one who was letting me cross that foggy night through this Koria Pul, hungry and helpless. Every dark night has a dawn and darker the clouds brighter the silver-lining – Optimism is the last refuge of a hapless soul.
There were scant any passenger across the bridge and I was the Knight of the Bridge at the moment. Then, from nowhere a tattered lady approached in a circuitous move and pulled the corner of my dress.
“Babu Ji, I’m hungry. Give me some money to eat. I shall pray for you and my baby will pray for you.” Irony of fate. A beggar was checking a destitute. I tried to look the other way. I didn’t know who wanted to laugh at my miseries at this juncture. Some times the sense of humor sparks at worst of the moments.
“I have a hundred rupee note. Do you have the change ?” I thought my howler would make her disappear.
“No, I don’t have. Please babu help me.” She replied and persisted.
“Why do you beg and why can’t you find some work for you instead of roaming the streets in this cold winter ?” I tried to reason with her without realizing that there was a mirror put in front of my face by this bedraggled unkempt mother.
“The kid is too small. If I go for work who would take care of her ?”
That was her problem but a logical man can’t accept begging as a worth while occupation to survive upon this planet which was so full of bubbling opportunities.
The child lay quiet, without moan as the mother began to unfold her thin torn shawl by gentle degree, looking down with anxious solitude at that concealed object – a miniature of suffering humanity.
The baby stretched her punny hand and feebly caressed he protectress.
Looking at me with imploring pity she again accosted , this time with more assurance and boldness.
“De na babu Allah tera bhala karega.”(Give babu, God will help you.)
“Sure, but I don’t know when Allah will help me.” I don’t remember if I said or not but she listened.
I saw her walking ahead of me with a kind of poise which if difficult to define in words. After a few steps, she stopped and looked back, waited for me.
“Down the bridge you can get the change. I come with you. Give me something babu I have to feed the baby.” I was annoyed and petrified at the script of the scene written for this strange situation by no one but who knows everything.
Under the light of lamp post I could see the exposed face of the baby. It was infinitely more touching than ever I saw – a beauty in the pathos of sleep.
Now I could see the shivering woman with her exposed body from the chinks of torn dress. We had already reached thedescending side abutting Chandni Chowk. For the whole world it was Chandni Chowk (The Brightened Square) but probably for three human beings, at the moment, it was the darkest side of a brightest square.
I remove my muffler with a flick and throw it at her.
“Bibi, I was lying. I have had nothing – no hundred rupee note, not even one rupee note. Take my muffler and protect yourself from the blistering cold weather and let me go.”