She stands on the Tiranga chowk wearing a whistle, a yellow cap and a jacket that says ‘Save Pune’. I would see her everyday there on my way to practice and training. She stands there guiding vehicles, trying desperately to get their attention and make them stop on her blowing whistle. People hardly listen to her but she keeps the whistle blowing. She should be in her seventies, she’s not taller than me and has her cut short. She isn’t a traffic police woman, she voluntarily stands there to help out.
I noticed her for a week. Earlier I too wouldn’t really bother to her whistling as it’s not really a very busy chowk. But then I really felt sorry for her, so whenever she wanted me to stop, I stopped until she again blew the whistle. Slowly we recognised each other , so we would smile at each other as I passed by.
Some days passed and I still saw her there everyday, trying in vain to make people follow her whistle. One day I stopped my kinetic and went to her. I asked her if she would want a cup of tea. She looked at me as if I was from mars. When she asked me why?, I told her I just wanted to have a chat. She seemed a little sceptical but finally agreed.
I took her to the tapri on the opposite side of the road, and ordered for two teas.
There was an awkward silence till the tea came. I was wondering what exactly was I supposed to do. Then I suddenly asked her, “why are you doing this?” She kept the tea cup down and said, ” I have taken permission to do this from the local police, I can show you the papers if you want.” ( i was surprised at her fluent english) I of course didn’t mean to ask her this, I said, ” Sorry, mam! I just was asking you generally. Why are you doing this? I mean nobody listens to you and you still stand there in this scorching sun.” she took a while before she answered. In the meanwhile I realised I was too direct may be she’s annoyed. She said, ” Have you seen the traffic in pune? People have no sense whatsoever about traffic rules. How is one supposed to cross this road? Tell me? I don’t know what’s wrong with your generation. You people want to either be heroes or zeros. Not every one can be a Gandhi you know. Everyone one has to do just their share of work for the society. This is my share, trying to help in any small way I can. People don’t understand to start a revolution we have start with doing small things well. Just like to stop when elderly people want to cross the road.” I sure expected a answer, but it certainly wasnt supposed to be this deep and this long. I didnt say much , we finished our teas. I thanked her for coming along, she finally gave me a smile and said bye. Before I said bye, I asked her name,she replied saying ” I am Mary Desouza.”
After this we kept seeing each other everyday. Once a while I would take her to the tapri and have tea. Suddenly one day she told me to stop along the road. She came close and said ,” would you like to have some real tea with me at my house?”, I was a tad surprised though I couldn’t say no I took down the address and went to her place on a Sunday afternoon.
I was expecting an old building. Not exactly a very clean or a very modern house. A small flat, one bedroom and a kitchen for her and her hubby. But when I saw the building I kind of was taken aback. It was a really posh building, houses with big terraces and all. I rang the bell of 204 and a maid welcomed me saying ,” come on in darling!, she will be right here with you.” as I entered the flat I almost swallowed a litre of spit inside. The house was beautiful. It was a huge 3 bedroom apartment, with antique vases and paintings all around. There wasnt a speck of dust. When suddenly Mary came in and told me to sit down. As I sat I said ,” it’s a damn cool flat, Mary.” she replied saying, ” ya, I just switched on the AC,that’s why.” , I laughed and told her what exactly I meant. She put her hand on her forehead and cursed the young generation a little more.
There were a lot of photos all around the place. I casually picked up one next to me and recognised the younger Mary in it. I complimented her on how beautiful she was, she took the picture in her hand and smiled and then said, ” the girl beside me is kaira. We were ” chaddi friends” in your terms. We spent such great times together. You remember the first day you asked me why I do this? In reality I do it for her.” I gave her a puzzled look. ” kaira died a year back at 70 years of age, while she was crossing the road. A young fellow on the bike came charging at her breaking a red signal. I stand there in the scorching sun hoping I could save someone’s Kaira.” Small drops of water started accumulating in her eyes. She quickly wiped them off. ” Enough of my stories, I don’t know much about you come on tell me some of your stories.” I tried to make her laugh and thankfully she did.
After an hour or so it was time for me to leave. As I came to the door, she suddenly said, ” I will see you soon tomorrow! It was nice having you here, Aditi.” I turned around with my mouth open. ( in then ten times I have met her, she never had got my name right. She blamed it on her old age.) She laughed, looking at me.
” See I am not that old after all. I remembered your name, this should be ‘COOL’ right” I smiled. I looked at her and said, ” ya this qualifies as cool. You Mrs. Mary Desouza are VERY COOL!” She smiled and kissed me good bye.
That day I realised that being rich is not only about nice cars, nice houses and parties. It is also about missing a friend and standing on the road hoping she might be looking and smiling at you. We generally have a thing in our mind that rich are not really bothered about things happening around them as they know it’s not going to make life any different for them. But Mary has changed that notion for me. Being a good friend is not really dependant on how much bank balance you have but how BIG a heart do you own.