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Friday, 7 December 2012

45. THE WAILING WOMAN AND A TREE

It was traffic as usual on Nelson Mandela Road
The morning before yesterday, I was in the kitchen fixing up the breakfast. As I emptied the milk packets and placed the vessel on the stove for boiling it, I thought I heard a scream. Initially paying no heed to this strange sound amid the myriad sounds of the morning traffic on the main road, sales pitches of various vendors and hawkers and unfamiliar chirping of migratory birds on the big Neem tree outside my flat, I continued with my chores.


But the squeals would not stop and their pitch kept increasing with every successive one. What was that, I was forced to wonder? It sounded like a siren but it was definitely not a siren, I could decipher that from the multiplicity of ear-splitting decibels and notes. Oh my God, it suddenly dawned, was it a woman … wailing perhaps in extreme anguish.


The auto was parked exactly at the place where this auto is located
I tried to look at the road from the window of my kitchen to ascertain the cause, but I could see only heavy morning traffic and vehicles zipping past. People were rushing off to their work-place. The only thing that I could figure out was that an auto-rickshaw continued to be parked there right in the middle of the T-junction under the red-light. Why was the auto parked neither this side nor on that side of the road but in the middle? Why was it not moving even when the light turned green? Was some woman being kidnapped and she decided to raise an alarm at the traffic light? Or was it that she was in labour and could not tolerate the pains? Was the auto driver seated or had deserted the auto and run away? The possibilities were innumerable and I was not able to stand in the kitchen anymore. I decided to check up and went inside to pick up the phone to first call the Security at the gate.
“What is this sound about?” I asked the watchman.
“I don’t know. It is some woman crying in the auto on the road,” the watchman on the duty replied nonchalantly.

I could not restrain myself anymore. A woman is definitely in acute distress and needs help. So I hurriedly put on my chappals and picked up the mobile phone before rushing out. Maybe I’ll have to call the police, I thought.

By the time, I reached the gate, there were no sounds and it was traffic as usual. Two of our Safai karamcharis were coming back from across the road. They shared, “It was a woman who was taking her ailing husband to the hospital and the man died on the way in the auto-rickshaw itself. So we told the auto driver to take her back. No point taking the dead body to the hospital.” And they moved on to resume their duty of collecting garbage from the flats. 
The watchman added defensively, “Madam, we are not supposed to leave our guard-post especially for an issue outside the gate. So I continued to stay put here.” He was right in his own way, I agreed.

But there were countless vehicles of all sizes and shapes which stopped at the red light, gazed curiously at the hapless woman holding the dead body of her husband and wailing uncontrollably, and had moved on. Nobody had time for anyone.

Wondering whether the milk of human kindness had dried up in today’s world, I returned to my kitchen only to notice that the milk had flowed over the flames and had extinguished it.  Did it symbolise anything? May be, I am being too imaginative.

Out of the three absolutely healthy trees, this one fell down out of the blue
trapping a car and blocking the busy Nelson Mandela Road.
And yesterday, exactly after 24 hours, by some quirk of fate, the tree under which the auto with the wailing woman had remained parked for about ten minutes suddenly fell down trapping underneath a bright red car. Nothing abnormal had happened, no earthquake, no thunder, no lightning and no accident. How the otherwise healthy tree fell down is an absolute mystery challenging my rational mind.

They say trees too have life (Prana) and can feel. Was this tree not been able to endure the pain of that woman’s uncontrolled heart-rending wails? Or maybe it was a mere coincidence. Who knows!!!

-    A real incident

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