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Her name is Asma Kauser but she’s called Reshma

***Note: It was in 2001 I think when my GrandDad got suddenly ill and Mom and I rushed to Pune in the unreserved compartment of an Indian Railways train. I have always said the best people travel in this section and some of the most moving stories come from here. Well, it’s always been so for me. I’ve met some of the most interesting and amazing people in the unreserved section. Here’s one such encounter that I wrote about after I returned from that journey.***

Her name is Asma Kauser but she’s called Reshma. Barely 20, she’s a wife and a mother. If u were to look at her and guess her age, you wouldn’t quote a number above 18. But she has a son who’s about 2 years old.

I met Asma on the train as I was coming back to Bangalore from Pune. When she came up to speak to me, coz maybe she felt I was her kinda age, even I thought that it would be a nice trip with someone of my age there also.

As the trip progressed I got to know her better. The fact that someone so bubbly, so talkative, so childish and so restless could actually be a mother was stunning; she didn’t look like a mother from any angle. At nite sleep just didn’t seem to come so we sat at the door and talked. Some of the things she told me were really touching, some hilarious and some filled me with anger.

She told me about how after finishing school her parents got her married and almost immediately shifted to Pune. She was all alone here now. I asked her age but she wasn’t sure about her or anyone else’s age. To her age was “around somuch”, she didn’t know her hubby’s or son’s age. She told me about how her husband was a butcher and how both of them sold meat. About the beatings she had suffered and didn’t know how to stop, at times she even got suicidal. Her husband’s possessiveness about her son, he would leave him for even a minute. Her problems seemed so big for so small a girl, yeah girl for afterall that was all she was.

We got talking about stars and she had so many questions about them. What was a shooting star? Why can’t we see the stars in the day? Where did the sky end? I tried my best to answer some of her questions in broken Hindi but soon realized that she had such fixed ideas that there was no way to change her thinking. Told her about how stars fall and hide themselves in the day. She didn’t seem to know that we had already landed on the moon and wanted to know how that was done. Told her that you got to travel in a ‘rocket’, didn’t know the Hindi equivalent of rocket, but the first question she had to that was, that by rocket did I mean the rockets we light in diwali?

We then moved on to life after death and how much ever I tried to tell her that no one has ever returned to tell us if there is really a heaven and hell she was fixed to the idea that there is a hell and there is a heaven. She said that after dying we went up to God and according to our deeds we got heaven or hell. In hell according to her we were alternately put in the fire and a collection of insects and bugs. When I asked her what she meant by insects she only seemed to know about scorpions. Nothing could change her fixed notions, no amount of logic and scientific reasoning.

She seemed so smart, she remembered almost all movies and songs. Learnt fast, had seen so much of life at such a small age. Had wanted to study but she hadn’t been allowed. What made me feel so close to her and sympathize with her was the fact that what she was today could have easily been me. I felt so lucky to be where I was today.

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