Parvathi, as she introduced herself to me, must have been in her early 70’s. Her wrinkles defining her age more than her voice or spirit, she was cheerful and too relaxed for her age. I was wondering and waiting for a hot woman to occupy the vacant seat next to mine and that is when she walked in. The sorrow of having to spend the next 4 hours with a woman who has been on this earth, too many in numbers, thrice your age in years must have been evident on my face coz she asked me “Are you expecting someone else, my child?”. I was ashamed and smiled with a nodding head in negative and uncertainty across my face. I pulled myself up from my relaxed posture and helped her with her seat and when I was done with her bags; she put her hands on my head and like most of the Indian grandmothers wished for my wellbeing. I smiled and more because I enjoy every bit of affection I get from strangers, typical of being me.
She pulled out ginger candy and offered some to me, I wasn’t sure but I took couple of them from her small, unsteady and wrinkled palm. She informed me that they were home made and appreciated her daughter in law for being kind to her, I smiled again.
She “So you don’t listen to music like most youngsters these days”
Me “Yes, at times. Not when I am travelling” I lied.
She “I don’t enjoy music these days, honestly I never did” and she gave me the most beautiful childlike smile a 70 year old woman can. I smiled and looked out of the window with the smile still across my lips. I wasn’t sure if it was her smile or the realization that, in a 70 year old woman, I found someone who doesn’t enjoy music just like me.
She enquired about what I do and where I am travelling to; my answers were short and were followed by her own detailed description about her journey along with the purpose. I was listening to her and in between would look at her earlobes and the diamond stuck in the earrings. The wrinkles on her face couldn’t be ignored and to me, it seemed as if, one line leads to the other and then the other. I was listening to her story of growing up, her childhood and how days were different then, her college, her love for the English language, days in England, marrying an air force guy, divorce, teaching at a famous college in Chennai and now living with her elder son in Kerala; every word of what she spoke was interesting and a life lived.
She “So, aren’t you bored yet?”
Me “You are doing good to keep me entertained and I have a beautiful woman for company with a beautiful story. I am entertained Amma.” I smiled.
She “You know how to speak to a woman, don’t you?” and she patted me on my shoulder.
Blushed like every time and a smile that just confirmed my shyness. She drank some water and offered me some, for which I pulled out the bottled lemon drink. She smiled and asked me to pull out a small pillow from her luggage, which I did. She rested the pillow between her back and seat, also asked me to pull back her seat, which I did. She closed her eyes but kept talking, she told me about her recent fight with the back ache, how she was preparing herself and her family for her death and most importantly completing her book of poems she started as a teenager.
I am not sure when her words faded away taking her into a beautiful silence of the slumber, I watched out of the window as moments of thoughtfulness in my head made way for some poignant eagerness to reach home. Am not sure if I will ever meet this old woman again, I am not even sure if I want to, but the thoughts of those four hours will be etched in my memory for some unknown reason.