In March-2013, I met an old lady at Kashid Beach, on my bicycle trip to Harihareshwar from Mumbai. Kashid comes as very pleasant place for cyclists to spent some good time after cycling up the small hill just before the beach. I stopped at Kashid & went close to the beach with my cycle to find out a place where I could relax for some time.
I decided to go to a shop which I had been to once with my friends. I tied my bicycle with a tree close to the shop & immediately jumped on one of the hammocks.
I saw the old lady (whom I had met on my previous trip with my friends) & smiled to her. She didn’t smile back but started saying something in Marathi to me which I didn’t understand. I realized by her gestures that she was asking if I need anything. I said, Yes, “A coconut water”.
I started looking around the beach, the people, the horses, white sand. After a moment, I noticed the old lady carrying 2 water buckets & filling up the large buckets placed near the shop. Those buckets were being used by the people coming back from the sea to wash themselves. She carried the small water buckets 4-5 times till all large buckets were filled. Then she took a small broom from inside the shop & started cleaning up the surroundings.
Once she finished cleaning, I asked her about my coconut water – She said, Yes & raised a finger saying one moment. She took a coconut & started cutting it with a big sharp knife. I asked her if I may cut the coconut. She smiled & gave me the knife & the coconut. It was way difficult to cut the coconut then it seemed. Finally, I managed to make a hole to put the straw. I drank the coconut water & fell asleep on the hammock.
After a while, I heard a gentleman asking me where do I come from. I said, Mumbai.
I asked him, where does he come from? He said, he is the son of the old lady & he lives in nearby place close to the beach. We greeted each other & started talking –
Gentleman – Where are you going? I said, Harihareshwar.
Gentleman – On bicycle? I said, yes.
Me – What do you do? He said, I work at a farmhouse owned by a Parsi family from Mumbai.
Me – Who does run this shop? He said, “My Mother”.
Me – I noticed here, generally people buy things from the shop & when they try to pay, most of the times your mother doesn’t know how much they owe to her. People may be cheating her occasionally.
Gentleman – I know. She is very old now & she is not good in counting. It depends on the people whatever they pay she keeps it. We started this shop around 20-25 years ago. She has been managing it since then. I asked her many a times that you should take rest now. But she always says –
“Son, if you want something good for me, then let me do what I do”.
Now, when I see her at this age managing everything by herself as she did 20 years ago, I agree with her. She comes to the shop around 8-9 am & stays here till 4-5 pm. She has her way of managing this place. Me & my son come here time to time just to be around & help her the way she wants.
Me – How old is she?
Gentleman – 95+ years.
Me – I am here for last 2-3 hours. Your mother has been standing since then. I did not see her sit for a moment.
Gentleman – She does not like to sit except when she is having her meal. When there is nothing to do, she starts to arrange things inside the shop. He laughed and said, she is – a “स्थायी स्त्री”
“A Standing Woman”