Foreword : After eleven days, I’m writing something just for myself apart from VOICES FOR DAMINI. As I settle in my bed all prepared for this winter’s coldest night, my mind drifts away to those outside – the homeless. This is about them.
The cold, biting winds chased her around. She had shifted base thice from evening, trying to find herself a warmer place to spend the night.
Just that morning, the police babu’s had evicted her and the other beggars from the shed near the Railway Station.
Nothing much. Such cat and mouse games were routine. But perhaps, this time it was ill-timed. Winter was at it’s harshest worst that night.
The fourth ‘shelter’ was under a tree and near some bushes, that provided natural warmth. But, it was right on the side of the road and vehicles that plied through the nights made sleep very uncomfortable.
But, beggars can’t be choosers. Literally and figuratively, too. She laid the cardboard cartons on the ground – a foundation for her bed.
Then the plastic sheets that she had collected all through summer – so long-sighted she was!
Then, looking around carefully to make sure that there was no one watching, she took out the warm blanket that she had carefully packed with plastic sheets.
She had stolen the blanket from her neighbour beggar just two months back. Survival was of paramount importance. Didn’t matter how.
Carefully, she made her bed, and settled in. Her body shivered momentarily at the touch of the cold blanket. Few minutes later, she felt warmer and began to drift away in sleep.
She dreamt of garbage bins full with leftover food. The dream made her warmer.
Soon, the procession of inter state trucks started. With the crossing of each truck, there blew a wind that shook her to the bone.
Add to that, the noise of their machinery and honks. She was up again. Uncomfortable and cold, she tried her best to wrap the plastic sheets around her tightly.
Insulation was scant and the mercury rose with the night’s progress. Past midnight, it was really tough and she thought she won’t last. Like Birju and Maina who left last year, she, too, would pass away in sleep.
Suddenly, she felt some soft warmth at her back and shivered. She rose her head to find that two street dogs had cuddled up to her, without much formalities.
In the darkness, she couldn’t see well enough to note their colours. But strangely enough, she felt better at the unexpected warmth.
She was not alone in this cold night.
That night, three creatures lay in one breathing, warm bundle and somehow survived the night. An unexpected, need-based friendship. But, somehow, still very beautiful.