October 3rd, 2005
Renu looked anxiously towards the guest room as she served breakfast. Her eyes were tired from the last journey. More than the journey, it was what she had brought along bearing personal responsibility. Renu did not think about the consequences. She had to act then and there. That was all that mattered. And now, things looked far more difficult than what she had imagined them to be.
“Did she eat?” Suresh asked her, with an inquiring look on his face. Renu shook her head. Suresh never bothered to exert strict control over his wife or family. He counted himself among the cooler section of guys who gave and took space in relationships. This had worked particularly well for their marriage. Both of them minded their business, focussed on their jobs and hosted house parties for friends. The best part about Renu was that she is an independent woman with clarity towards life. But now, Suresh worried about her than ever before. Renu took a huge brunt of responsibility and brought it home.
“I called the women’s cell” Renu said, sitting down on the chair facing Suresh. “They said that they will do their best. I’m going to take off and sort this out as soon as possible”
“I know you have good intentions” Suresh replied, without putting too much pressure on her head. But just like most men, he took over to do the slow reprimanding. Something that Renu was super familiar with.
“Bring it on” she said, with a smile on her face, looking down at her plate filled with Upma and Chutney.
“Exactly! You know what’s coming. I mean, come on Renu. What were you even thinking? This is not about some lost stray dog on the train. We are talking about a full grown woman who is not giving out any information.”
“I know, and I’m dealing with it” Renu jumped in, trying to cut him off. Suresh ignored her.
“See, I don’t want you in trouble. Please understand where I’m coming from”
“I will be fine, Suresh” Renu replied, with a slightly irked tinge in her voice “I’m going to deal with this. Now please, let me eat so I have the energy to do so”
Suresh raised both of his hands, conveying his non-involvement in the matter.
“I’m going to leave this to you for another day. After that, I’m going to step in deal with it myself”
“She’s not an animal, you know” Renu said, giving him a sharp gaze.
“And she’s not a child either” Suresh retorted, “I’m off now, you take care. Love you”
Renu nodded. She watched as Suresh took his laptop gear and stepped out, pointing the remote to his Corolla. She sighed and looked around the large house filled with emptiness. Both of them blissfully married and successful at their jobs. Having children was not in the agenda, as both of them knew what they had exactly wanted from their lives.
Renu then looked towards the guest room again. She wondered if the woman inside knew life at all. She looked like a person from the low class community. God forgive her, Renu thought, to have segregated another human being into a section of society. But the woman was very beautiful. A beautiful Banjara with no information about her past or the present. Renu found her in the Godavari Express yesterday, alone and abandoned. Renu had to take the sleeper because of the tight traffic volume that poured in on weekends. The woman sat near the toilet, scared and shattered. Renu tried asking her questions but the woman did not answer. Then, a group of urchins got into the compartment and started staring at her like hungry dogs. Renu had to act fast. She asked the woman to come and sleep near her berth. The woman looked at her, then at the loafers. She nodded and complied with Renu’s orders. Right until the point when Renu had to get her home because there was nobody to take her. The woman was dirty and tired. Renu gave her clothes and asked her to wash up. The Banjara then slept off fitfully in their guest room.
Renu quickly finished her breakfast. She then poured some orange juice into the glass, filled another plate with Upma and threw in the spoon. She then went towards the guest room and knocked. The door was opened slowly.
The woman looked at her with scared eyes. She went into a corner and sat.
“Do you feel better now?” Renu asked her. The woman nodded her head.
“See, have your breakfast” Renu pointed her finger towards the plate and glass that she put on the small table in the room. The woman gratefully came forward and ate. Renu sat on a chair and watched her. She looked too beautiful to be a Banjara woman. She had magnificent eyes, sharp features and striking looks. Renu wondered who she was. The woman finished her food and washed hands. She came back and sat down on the floor near Renu’s chair. She then started pressing Renu’s legs. Renu jumped.
“What are you doing” No No” The woman nodded and said something in another language. Renu didn’t understand.
“Don’t you know Telugu…or Hindi?” asked Renu. The woman kept on talking in a language that seemed like Banjara. Or Lambadi. Renu wasn’t sure of the differences among gypsy’s tribes. She decided to use hand gestures as much as she could. At that point, nothing seemed to work at all to communicate with the woman.
Renu decided to forget the worry that harangued her. She asked the woman to follow her to the kitchen. The Banjara gladly obliged. She then made her cut some vegetables. It was better to keep the woman occupied till she figured something out, Renu thought.
It was afternoon, and the woman was already helping her with several chores. Renu was impressed with her speed and efficiency with everything. The two women exchanged glances and smiles in between. A strange language of silence traversed between them. Renu then heard the doorbell ring. She went to open the door. Two women and one man, dressed in police uniforms were standing at the door.
“You said there was a woman who needed to be identified?’ said the older woman bluntly.
Renu stared at them with a blank expression on her face. Then, harsh reality took over. She had a job to do. Hand over the lost Banjara to her family. Renu asked the cops to come in.
The woman looked at all of them in fear as Renu gave them the information. Where she found her, what state she was in – everything that mattered in a police investigation. The senior lady cop took all the notes in a typically detailed fashion.
“We need to take her to the police station. Keep her there till someone comes and identifies her. We will do our best to advertise so that her people will come forward” she said.
For some reason, Renu didn’t like the sound of what she heard. Keep her in the PS? God knows how they would treat her, she thought.
“Is there any other way? I mean, cant she stay here till you find out what’s going on?” Renu inquired. Just then, the woman fainted on the floor. She looked weak and dehydrated. Renu rushed to her along with the women.
“She needs a doctor. I’m taking her” Renu said
“We will come with you” said the police women. Renu rushed the Banjara to the nearby hospital. The cops followed them behind in their rusty jeep. Renu admitted her in the hospital. She knew one of the doctors there.
The Banjara was taken into the emergency as Renu watched. The duty doctor, along with the team of nurses, checked on the woman. Then the doctor asked the team to administer her IV fluids.
“What’s going on?” Renu asked the doctor.
“She’s pregnant” he said, “possibly entering into the second trimester but we need to check that out. The foetus seems to be fine” he said.
Renu felt tremors entering her body. On one side, she felt good about rescuing an abandoned pregnant woman. On the other, there were repercussions to be dealt with. Suresh, for one, will fly with rage upon hearing this. There is no information about her family. Renu felt the situation slipping from her hands.
Just then, she heard one of the nurses talking on the phone in a different language. The diction that sounded similar to that of the Banjara’s. Renu practically flew at the nurse. She was willing to take any kind of chance.
“What was that language you just spoke” Renu asked the nurse. The young woman gave her a defensive look and replied “Gor Boli, a Lambadi language. Is that a problem?”
Renu sighed with delight. She caught the nurse by her hand “You are a God sent. Please come with me. Fast”
Everything transpired in under a minute later. The nurse started communicating with the woman seamlessly. She listened to the woman speak and complete her story. Renu waited patiently. Then the nurse came to her, with a serious expression on her face.
“What’s she saying? Renu asked. Cops watched them with an equal measure of curiosity.
“She says her name is Renuka. They come from a small community in Rajasthan. Her husband works as a factory labour at Hyderabad” The nurse struggled for details as Renu waited. “Yeah, she says the couple have been having problems in marriage. She is pregnant and that her husband did not like that. He feared the baby to be a girl. So, he left her on the train, making an excuse to take her to Simhachalam. Now, she is abandoned with no money or meansto go back to her parents and brothers in Rajasthan”
Renu slowly digested the information that suddenly showered all over like a blessing. She thanked the nurse and went to sit by the woman.
“We will leave now” said the cops, who were waiting to find a solution impatiently. Renu took a deep breath. She turned and looked at them.
“Thank you. I will take care of her”
She took Renuka’s hand in her’s and looked at her endearingly. Renuka smiled at her and tried to join her palms in gratitude. Renu stopped her. She pointed at herself “Renu” she said, then pointed at her and said “Renuka”. “We are sisters” Renu said, with firmness and responsibility in her tone “I will send you home”
Tears rolled down the cheeks of the Banjara.
Pic Credits – Saritha Kota as ‘Banjara’