Last night, we drove down to Bodinayakanur from Coimbatore. Today, we were up quite early and were looking forward to meeting Mari’s family. We were determined to spend some time with all of them as soon as we were back. So, we rushed to their house since we didn’t want them to get late for work because of us.
We were scheduled to meet at 8 am but we reached there a little ahead of time. We walked towards the bright green house that stood apart from all the other structures around. When we reached the door, we saw a young boy sleeping outside the house on a plastic sheet. We wondered aloud if it was Mari. He looked different and we were quite convinced that it wasn’t him.
There wasn’t a soul in sight and the frenzied gust of wind howled all around the town. We tried to keep an eye out for Mari’s mother or grandmother. No sooner than later, a woman clad in a scarlet red saree walk towards us. Her hands were soiled with soap and water. With a polite smile, she explained, “I was doing the dishes. I didn’t hear you guys come at all.”
We pointed at the young boy who was sound asleep on the makeshift porch outside and asked her if he was Mari. She giggled and confirmed that it was indeed her son. We had gotten quite used to seeing Mari in clothes soaked in grease and oil that we couldn’t recognise him in normal attire.
His mother tried to wake him up. But he was in deep slumber, perhaps dreaming of a life where he had a normal carefree childhood, where he had friends to play with; perhaps wishing that his mother didn’t have to work so hard. He refused to budge. His mother kept poking and prodding at him till he snapped angrily at her. In a half-asleep state, he woke up only to find us staring at him.
He greeted us with a smile. We were used to seeing Mari as a mature and sincere adult who was taking care of the household just like any other man of the house was supposed to. Yet again, it slipped our minds that he was just a 14-year-old boy whose life and dreams revolved around his family.
Mari was wide awake now and he looked into the sun. Staring intently at the skies, he was jolted back to his senses. Reality had kicked in as the morning sun peeped through the clouds. And, as customary, he had to leave in an hour to spend endless hours toiling away in the garage.
There was barely any place inside the house for all of us to sit and talk. So, we decided to make ourselves comfortable outside. There was a hint of smile on Mari’s face as he walked towards a baby goat and brought him to us. We asked him if he was going to eat it once it grew up. His expression turned sour at once. “No. He is my friend. I wouldn’t do that to him. I bought him because I like goats,” said Mari. We told him that it was very noble of him to bond with an animal and treat it with kindness.
He didn’t react any differently for in his eyes they were all equal. He wouldn’t view anyone with cruelty regardless of what species they belonged to.
In about ten mins or so, his grandmother walked to the porch and welcomed us with a big smile. We asked her to join us to which she gladly obliged. She spoke very fondly of Mari and hoped that he makes them proud one day. When Mari’s father left them, they were forced to move into his mother’s parents’ house. And, they have been living together ever since.
His grandmother also told us that she had a son who worked in Hyderabad. “He would visit us once a year and give us money sometimes. However, for the last six years, I have neither seen him nor heard from him,” she said in an aggrieved tone. We asked her if he had gone missing. To that she replied, “His phone still rings but he never responds. It’s the same pattern for the past six years. My heart races every time I think he might answer my call. But all I’m met with is silence. And, sometimes, that’s the loudest sound in my head. The sound of silence…”
And, soon the realisation had dawned upon us that this was a family that was abandoned by their men time and again; a family that relied on the women to grow stronger every day. For these women, every moment was a victory for they hadn’t succumbed to hopelessness, just yet…
(to be continued…)
Project ‘Rest of My family‘ is an attempt to connect back, re-discover our relationship with and understand our responsibility towards the larger family that we are a part of — the rest of our human family. Hence, it is titled Rest Of My Family.
Through #RestofMyFamily, we will focus on highlighting social issues and human interest stories, documenting the triumphs of the ordinary man despite all the hardships they face constantly, and help these stories reach a larger audience and wherever necessary extend support to the individuals and communities that we write about. We hope to make a direct impact to the lives of those people we meet and find suffering due to various social issues; to connect the ones who need help to the ones who can help….
Find more about the campaign here: http://igg.me/at/restofmyfamily/x/539502