Rambling on….

about anything under the Sun!

Remembering Shankuntala

You know how we all have certain images that made their way into our brains for whatever reason, perched themselves in some remote corner, and never really go away? People…places…objects…events…you name it, and they are all there. Quite often, there isn’t a great deal of significance attached to these, but yet, they have become quite the permanent fixture and one struggles to understand why. And its not like they surface every other day – on the contrary, they rarely come up for air. And even when they do, its usually tied to some train of thought that eventually triggered pertinent memories. I’ve always had the urge to write about some of those lasting impressions in my life, and as is the norm with this blog, for no real reason of any value but write I shall! What better excuse than NaBbloWriMo to make that happen?

So yeah, I am going to make it a point to write about these images every now and then, and here is the first one – its about a lady who answers to the name Shakuntala. Absolutely no connection to Hindu mythology, this is someone that was very human, very alive and very active, at least until a few years ago when I used to know her. She was the maid at our neighbor’s – a strong, determined lady on the wrong side of 60, she would come into work every single day and religiously go about her chores. Worn down by age, fatigue and years of hard work, her face wrinkled beyond reason. She wasn’t exactly pleasant looking and had a fairly rude disposition, so one didn’t really venture into any normal conversations with her. But work hard she did, and that image is so fresh in my mind, even though its been almost 20 years since I last saw her. She would be there every morning, carrying two pots of water, one nestled in her left arm and rested on her hips, and the other hand clenching the second, making the long walk from the water pump to my neighbor’s house, with her typical hunched walk. Back in those days, Chennai was reeling under a perpetual scarcity of water and every morning involved a few trips for Shakuntala to store up water for the entire day’s usage. It was like clockwork, I could tell time simply by tracking her schedule. And it wasn’t easy work, she would make at least a dozen trips back and forth, and at her age, that spirit was inspiring, to say the least – or should have been inspiring, in any case.

Reality however, was different. The kids in the neighborhood were scared of her and back then, it was funny to watch them get in her way and promptly be at the receiving end of a fine lecture, with the choicest of words and expressions thrown in for good measure. We, the slightly older boys, always found ways to make fun of her, mock her and generally play a lot of practical pranks on her. No, I am most certainly not proud of those actions now, but back then, as an adolescent that was looking for some random entertainment, and she was an easy target. We would simply justify our gross insensitivity by reassuring ourselves that she was rude, and so probably deserved some payback! The poor thing would endure it all and scream out every now and then, but she knew it was all falling on deaf ears, so at some point I guess she just gave up. I don’t quite know why she has etched herself so firmly in my brain, its probably because there is some guilt laced with remorse there. Looking back, I feel bad…and I feel sad. Given her age, I doubt that she’s still around. But if she was, I’d want to go apologize to her – for all the things we did, for all the sad tricks we played and for just being plain old jerks. Sorry Shakuntala, you deserved better!

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2 responses to “Remembering Shankuntala

  1. Aleta October 4, 2010 at 7:45 pm

    NaBloWriMo is such a wonderful thing, brings me to new blogs I might never have visited. I enjoyed your walk down memory lane. Before getting to the end, I thought, “Sounds like guilt might play a part in the memory maker of this..” Children can be cruel and it takes time to understand the cruelty, maybe that’s why life dishes it out so much, to teach us a lesson and eventually we learn. Hopefully not at the expense of others, but it does happy, sadly.

  2. kabini October 5, 2010 at 5:26 pm

    Indeed it is! Thank you for reading, and for your kind words! And yes, I agree, of course! :)

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