Kajri - contd
by Richa J
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A few days later I stopped by at Kajri’s with a packet of sweets and toys for the kids. She accepted with a smile; both of us took her children to the beach. I started dropping by once in a while. “Bibiji, you shouldn’t come to my house”, she says, “people talk. ..But I would like you to take Aastha out once in a while if you don’t mind.”
Thus started a strange routine: Every first Sunday of the month she met me at the Mahim park with Aastha. I would spend an afternoon with Aastha at the beach, the zoo, the park, or the ice cream parlour. I think these Sundays were most important for me among the three of us.
Months later on a weekday I got a call from Kajri at my office. Could I come over, she asked. I took the day off early and reached Mahim. My steps quickened as I walked towards the red curtain. What had made that independent woman call me? As I stepped in, the vacant look in her beautiful eyes turned my blood cold. What had driven away the life from those beautiful eyes? My eyes went to the empty crib in the corner. “He is gone, my baby is gone,” Kajri could barely speak coherently. It was four days back. She pulled out papers and passed them to me: hospital reports, blood test reports- my eyes froze on the words HIV +VE. The television, newspapers screech these words every day, but never did it hit me like this. Kajri was naturally in a high risk group, yet one could not imagine a lively woman like her falling prey to a deathly disease. The baby had just had a cold, and he didn’t even last three days. The lady social worker had been in and tried to explain it to her.
Aastha had tested negative. “Didi, I can fight the world but there is no fight against this. My girl.. what will happen to her.. she will go into the life I have led without me to fend for her.”
“Aastha will never have to go through that, Kajri, we will never let Aastha go through it”, I promised her.
A tiny spark of life returned to her eyes.
When I dropped in a couple of days later, there was a very different look of determination in her eyes. Asha , the social worker was sitting with her. “Didi, (she had started calling me sister since our Sundays together) I have decided I am not going down without a fight. I am going to try to help people like me to fight AIDS.”
And Kajri did in a year what many seasoned social work organizations couldn’t hope to achieve in a decade. She started with the girls in her street, their customers and took it straight through the suburb to the homes of the people. Kajri’s drive was infectious. The most pessimistic critic yielded to her sincerity. For all my good intentions, I was no social worker, but Kajri managed to make me contribute to the cause in my own way.
When her end came, it was quiet and as uncomplaining as her life.
Aastha is now ten. Kajri’s eyes look up to me every time I turn to Aastha. I have Kajri to thank for giving me back 'aastha' (faith) in humanity. *** Author’s Note
- The story started in my mind as I travelled the Churchgate- Bandra local like all regular commuters some years ago, playing in front of my eyes like a short film, till I put it down on paper. I didn’t replace some of the Hindi dialogues, maybe the Indian reader can connect better. The places mentioned are fictional and not a description of any specific locality.