The title of this post will make many wonder what it exactly means, but, the two words have a very sad tinge of tale attached to it. One of my friend who is around with me and who has witnessed the entire story can testify the tale i guess. Somehow, all the events that occurred some good 20 years ago when i was just a kid are still as fresh as if they have taken place some days ago. These incidents must have faded away from my friends memory, may be because i was a bit too sensitive to these things, may be those days of unhindered joy was the best phase of my life, the phase which i still yearn to relive, once again..
So this lady, Fatima, was a muslim lady, she introduced herself a in rather unexpected manner, we had just shifted to naval quarters in bhandup and we were newbies there. One fine morning at around 8.30 am i heard a lady talking to in herself, her talk was interlaced with spurt of tears and anger. As i opened the door and entered the verandah, i saw this lady, and i was scared to my hairs, she was about 45 years old, shoddily dressed, some worn out saree, with a big cloth bag containing her belongings, her hairs were all but neat and clean, all in all she put a very scary picture, as we met eye contacts she gave a wry smile, may be she too noticed that we were new there. This introductory smile of her did not receive the same response from the other end though, for i was very scared. I told my mother and she too came to see and then she went inside and said she was a ‘mad’ women.
After inquiring with neighbors after some days we came to know her name, she was Fatima, she roamed all around that colony, spent nights in the verandahs of people, eat whatever people gave, sometimes did some errands, weared whatever people offered her. She in a sense had become the part of the extended family of that colony. However, she was a fringe member, who everybody preferred to ignore at times. Whenever people had excess food with them, they would remember her, search for her and offer her food but nobody ever bothered to call her and offer fresh food. Nobody ever cared whether she was hungry, whether she was ill, or where she was during heavy rains.
We as children were bit scared of her, at times we would play pranks with her, for she would get foul mouthed at times, we would hide behind the trees and pelt stones at her and she would get irritated and run behind us. She was a subject of timepass for us.
Fatima was very very scared of knives, youths and men would scare her by showing her their combs, and she would think it was a knife and run for her life shouting that they were trying to kill her. This story though had a very sad past attached to it, which nobody ever cared to bother, just to get momentary joy people would harrass this poor soul. Actually, Fatima, like other women in the colony was a housewife, she had a horrid time with her husband and in-laws though, she was thrown out by her in-laws for her ‘inability’ to give birth to a boy. She became homeless and that turned her ‘mad’. May be her husband and her in-laws tried to get rid of her with the knife, which was the reason why she felt so scared seeing a knife.
The Fatima that we saw during our stay in that colony was abusive, at times, but she never hurt anybody sometimes she used to talk like a wise women and would mingle in women folks advising them. She was a Muslim Lady from Ratnagiri, Konkan. Living at the pity of the residents of that colony. She never knew our names but she knew where we stayed and at times would help our mothers locate us by telling where exactly in the colony we were playing.
When we left the colony after my dad’s retirement, my dad happened to meet this Fatima in the the colony and this lady inquired about my mom, my sister and about me. My dad was really shocked that she knew everything about our family. He gave her some money and left.
After that i could not get any news of hers, she must have died a death unwept by now. But this lady, was the household name, for each one knew her as Fatima Chaku (Knife).
Sadly enough Chaku, the weapon she feared so much, had become her surname…