“Ouch!! My knee hurts. I can’t walk anymore,” granny grumbled panting for breath.
“Are you feeling good?” I asked in a worried tone.
“Don’t worry I’ll be alright with some rest. Just get me water to drink.”
I had barely walked across the platform when I realized that I had left my purse with granny. I retraced my steps only to find granny walking towards the other direction leaving the luggage behind. I was petrified seeing her walk away without informing me. It caught my attention just in time. I grabbed the luggage and my purse in hand and tried catching up to her.
“A while back she complains about knee pain and now she is walking as if in a marathon,” I wondered within.
The clock displayed 9:00 AM. Exactly one hour for our train to arrive.
I kept following my granny trying to push myself through the crowd and dragged the luggage. I didn’t know whether to run or to just walk in the same pace.
I shouted several times but she didn’t hear. It looked as if she was following someone. I was tensed thinking she might have gone searching for me. I asked few of the fellow people walking around to try stopping her but she was 20 steps away from me.
The crowded platform made things worse for me. My legs hurt but I kept following her and was nearing her. I was quite close. With all my might I put complete pressure on my calf muscles, ran towards her and nudged her only to give her a shock.
“Where are you going without telling me?” I asked in an angry tone.
She looked pale. Her heartbeat had already increased. The hearing aid was dangling around her neck.
“What do you want granny?” I asked putting her hearing aid back.
She pointed towards a man who was ten steps ahead of us.
“Who’s that? Do you know him? Did he steal something?”I asked jolting her elbow.
She refused to speak but pointed at that man saying, “Take me there.”
I put my arms around her shoulder and held her close to me. With one hand to support her and the other hand dragging my suitcase I walked faster.
I was close to him. His hair looked dirty from behind as if he had not bathed over years. His slippers looked torn. I shouted across the platform only to make everyone turn towards me.
He looked back . Seeing me rush towards him he stood still wondering why a normal passenger would call for a beggar with eagerness until one had something to give him. I didn’t have time to guess why granny was following a beggar.
No sooner had we reached him than granny grabbed the over coat he had in his hand. He was totally taken aback by this gesture and I was shocked seeing granny’s behaviour.
“What are you doing granny? You can take some rag picker’s coat like this.” I shouted at her.
It was embarrassing to face this situation. The rag picker was stinking and I couldn’t stand this anymore.
“This is mine,” granny said with confidence, pushing me away. I really wondered from where she got that strength.
She explained to the rag picker in the local language that it was her coat. She turned the coat back and showed us the embroidery.
“This is my work. I had done this. This is your grandpa’s coat. This is your grandpa’s coat,” saying this she almost burst into tears.
The beggar seemed to be reluctant to even part with the only proper clothing he had. After understanding my granny’s intention he tugged the coat towards him.
“Calm down granny. It must be some mistake,” I said trying to take control.
“No it isn’t. It is your grandpa’s coat,” saying this she started rambling through the pockets and took out a small handkerchief from it to show us the evidence.
The beggar looked blank and I was confused.
“I told your mother not to give it to anyone but she still managed to give it to some rag picker. I want this coat back,” granny said with fury.
I was in a difficult situation and almost ten passerby had surrounded us. I tried to take the situation under control. I tried explaining to her but she refused and neither did the rag picker agree. Both were adamant.
He looked diseased and one more moment near him wound make me puke. I didn’t even feel like touching that over coat. It looked dirty. I had to do something. Many asked me but I dispersed the crowd trying to get hold of the situation.
I took granny aside and tried to explain. “There might be many coats like this granny and you might be just imagining about this embroidery. The coat must be at home,” I told her.
She didn’t agree. She was so sure that it was the same overcoat.
“I searched for it yesterday while I was packing. It wasn’t there,” she said with confidence. “I always warn people not to meddle with my personal things. Your mother will never listen,” she said with disgust.
I wanted to laugh imagining the amount of fuss she would create after going home but I had other important role to play.
I was informed by the rag picker that he got it from a washer man. There was no time but to convince the rag picker.
I requested him to give me the over coat in simple words but he didn’t agree. I thought for a while and realized that for a rag picker like him who barely had proper clothing to wear, parting with an over coat would be too much a price to pay.
Finally, I bargained with him to sell me the overcoat for almost 500 rupees. He grinned widely looking at the crisp 500 rupee note. I cursed my fate for this loss and thought how foolish we were to buy some old rag for such a high price.
This feeling was momentary though. I barely could hold the coat near to me but my granny seemed the happiest. She grabbed the over coat from me and wrapped it inside a cover.
“It’s the first coat I ever got for your grandpa and made this embroidery myself. It is very precious to me,” granny said with a relieved look on her face.
I took granny aside while the train slowly parked itself on the platform.
Mom burst into laughter when she heard about the incident.
“Tell your granny that I had not sold the over coat but I had given it for a wash to the washer man. He must have misplaced it and given it to the rag picker,” mom said this and the hung up.