‘I couldn’t help but feel shattered about how cruel life is for some’

Illustration: Mayanglambam Dinesh
Illustration: Mayanglambam Dinesh

After a hectic day of training, I rushed into the Metro train and grabbed a non-reserved seat next to a middle-aged woman. My mind was filled with ‘my training days’ and I was simply counting the ones that remained.

Due to lack of energy, I was not always generous enough to vacate my seat for those who ‘deserved’ it more than I did. So, while I was selfishly enjoying my two-hour journey home, I witnessed a woman commuter who was altruistic enough to vacate her seat. Though I faced some embarrassment from my fellow commuters, I artfully resorted to napping.

Suddenly, the lady next to me, wearing thick-rimmed spectacles, broke the silence and shot this question my way, “Do you believe in God?” Unsure of the person she was addressing, I ignored the voice and returned to my business of napping.

Then she repeated the question. I was in a strange situation, as I was facing an unusual inquiry from a stranger. Some-how, I hesitatingly uttered, “I do”. Then there was silence and I asked her the same question, “Do you believe in God?”

“Yes, I believe in and worship God,” she said.

I got curious about her and asked what her profession was. “I worked with the district power corporation,” she said. “Worked?” I wanted to know. “Yes. I am on medication and hence, have been ‘exempted’ from my responsibilities for the past two years.” I further asked, “What happened to you?” She replied, “I suffer from a mental disorder because of which I am considered unfit to take decisions in my office even while being part of the managerial portfolio.” Perplexed, I said, “But you look fine. You are conversing like any other ‘normal’ person. If anything, you sound more intellectual through your articulate expression.”

She went on to say, with a faraway look in her eyes, “But my colleagues were resentful of me for occupying a senior designation without any role. Often, I overheard them desiring my death, so that they could escalate a level above.”

These words tore my heart apart and l felt extremely sorry for the woman, who, though completely shattered and broken from her life experiences, was speaking about it all with impossible rationality. It was as if she had made her peace with the state of affairs and was happy despite all her difficulties.

As these thoughts went through my mind, I asked her again about her present status. “I do go to office on time but keep sitting idle all day long,” she said.

Again, I could not help but feel shattered about how cruel life is for some people. I made my every attempt to alleviate her distress by narrating some ‘miracles’ my parents had shared with me while I was young. I said, “If you trust in God, then you should not worry. Count your blessings and be grateful for the fact that you draw the salary and incentives equivalent to the officers in your grade. And above all, do not worry about anything at all.”

At this moment, the staccato voice over the intercom in the Metro informed about the impending arrival of my destination station. ‘Rajiv Chowk. Doors will open on the left. Please mind the gap.’ I got up from my seat, where only a short while ago, I had been pretending to be asleep but was woken up to the beauty and blessing of life by a resilient woman commuter. I stepped out from the train and onto the concrete platform.

Now, many days have passed since the incident but unlike the past, whenever I take the Metro again, I send out a blessing to that anonymous woman whose life has served as an unlikely inspiration to me. I tell all my friends about her, and also speak of her to my family. Life in the Metro can sometimes, completely, wholly, unexpectedly, be life-altering!



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