A Piece Of Raw Ginger (Con)

Continued from: A Piece Of Raw Ginger (III)

“Why aren’t you wearing a bindi?” she asked, changing tracks.

I touched my forehead and found it sans bindi, as I knew I would. I don’t wear a bindi when I am travelling.

“I don’t wear one when I’m traveling”, I confessed hesitantly. “It always falls off.” Was anything ever so lame?

She glared at me in an exasperated way, pursed up her lips at my naughtiness and turned to her large cloth bag. For a few minutes she rummaged about until she found what she was looking for. Taking hold of my right hand imperiously, she turned it palm up and placed two objects on it. One was a small, thin prayer book. The other was a brass kumkum holder.

“You keep these with you”, she commanded.

Before I could ask her why she said, “See, this is Guruji”s prayer book. You will have good luck and good health if you read it every day. And this is for kumkum. When you leave home, put a dab of kumkum on your forehead. Even if your bindi comes off, this will remain. Your forehead looks bare (meaning devastated). It should not look like this, am I not right?”

Tears prickling my lids, I took the prayer book from her hand.

“But this is in Marathi!” I wailed. “I can’t read this!”

“Wait”, she said soothingly. “I’ll read it out to you.”

Yeah, like that would help! I muttered mutinously.

But off she went, reading her little prayer book with devotion and reverence. Page after page she read; page after page of words I made neither head nor tail of. All I understood was this woman’s devotion and faith. I listened, enthralled. She read on, in her sing-song voice.

It’s funny how, in this journey of life, even though we may begin at different times and places, our paths cross with others so that we may share our love, compassion, observations, and hope. This is a design of God that I appreciate and cherish.

~ Steve Maraboli

When she finished, she closed the little booklet and handed it to me. The little brass kumkum holder was sparkling clean. The way she had held it before she gave it to me, showed that it was precious to her. I returned both items to her and said, “You pray for me and my family. That will be much better, won’t it?”

She nodded thankfully. I suppose she knew I wasn’t the praying type.

While keeping the objects back in her bag, she rummaged about at the bottom of the bag again. This time her hand emerged clutching a handful of green and red berries. Silently, she offered them to me.

“I can’t eat berries, I have a cough”, I said.

“Yes, yes. You do have a cough, must not eat berries. They’ll worsen the cough. Wait!” And she dived into the bag once more.

This time she came up with a large, multi-pronged piece of raw ginger. She broke off a two inch piece from it and gave it to me as she broke off a smaller piece and popped it into her own mouth.

“Bite a piece of this. It will soothe your throat. If I have nothing else, I always have a piece of raw ginger in my bag. It helps to soothe the throat, quell nausea, is an anti-inflammatory and also has analgesic properties. You must keep a piece with you when you are traveling. “

I bit a piece of that ginger. Within minutes, it began to soothe my throat. Magic, I thought to myself. There fell a companionable silence between us.

She seemed less agitated; less anxious and scared; more at peace somehow. Something within her seemed restored and healed. I don’t know why I got that feeling, but I did. I have no idea what caused the healing for her. Maybe it was simply telling me her story, maybe it was because of the way we had laughed together. Whatever was the beginning of the process, I knew it was completed by her giving me this piece of ginger.

She needed to give me something- not as payment- but to exchange as an equal. It was as if she was saying, “You gave me what you had, now let me give you what I have. I know you too need what I have to give.” And there she was absolutely right. I did need it- and not just because my throat was sore. I too needed that circle closed. I didn’t want her to go carrying a burden. It freed us both; made us two people sharing equally. What a gift! I was so grateful to her for having done this. How wise of her! I muttered to myself admiringly.

“I’ll go back to Akola today”, she said, out of the blue.

“Really!?” exclaimed I. “That would be good! But what about finding work?”

“I think I will find work in Akola itself. After talking to you, I remembered someone who had promised me work if ever I needed it. I don’t know why I didn’t think of her before. Maybe I was too upset to think clearly”, she said smiling.“Why do I need to wander about like this? My son will worry about me needlessly. It is not right. I should go back. Don’t you think so?”

I nodded happily. “If you don’t find work in Akola, you can always start your own specialty catering service. I am sure many people would give you orders for home-made kaju-katli and shakkar-pare.”

“If I don’t find work, if nothing works out, I know I have a back-up. I can call you and you can tell me how to get to Jabalpur. Then I will pay you a visit. But something tells me I will find a way out soon.”

I have come to accept the feeling of not knowing where I am going. And I have trained myself to love it. Because it is only when we are suspended in mid-air with no landing in sight, that we force our wings to unravel and alas begin our flight. And as we fly, we still may not know where we are going to. But the miracle is in the unfolding of the wings. You may not know where you’re going, but you know that so long as you spread your wings, the winds will carry you.

~ C. JoyBell C.

I nodded, smiling. Hurriedly, she got up.

“This train”, she pointed to a train which had been standing on the platform for the past half an hour, “goes to Akola. I had better get on to it now that I have decided to go back. But I will say something first.

“The way you hugged me, I will always remember. You made me feel like I was in my mother’s arms. But you are also my younger sister. You are an only child and so am I. You have given me courage today. One day I too will give you courage, I am sure of that.

“When my son’s wedding is fixed, I will call you. You must come; you will, won’t you? I might only give you bhakri and you might have to sit on the floor and eat, but still, you will come?”

Eyes glistening, she stood before me. I held her gaze so that she would know I meant what I was saying.

“Yes”, said I. “I will surely come. I want to eat the bhakri you make.”

I pulled out my wallet, opened it and half pulled out two hundreds. “Shall I give you some money?”

She saw me willing to part with two hundred rupees. She held my gaze for a few seconds, then smiled. Shaking her head she said, “Just give me 10-20 rupees. I’ll have a cup of tea. Seven rupees for a cup of tea, imagine! Thieves!!” She laughed happily, mock outraged.

I handed over twenty rupees to her. We hugged once again. With that, she was gone without looking back even once. I sat on that stone bench and watched her disappear into the milling throng. I don’t know which bogey she boarded.

I wrapped the left over piece of raw ginger in a fresh paper napkin and tucked it away in my bag, trying to make sense of the past four hours. I’d have tried to convince myself that I had been dreaming. But I know it was no dream. It was as real as the rising sun.

I had a Piece of Raw Ginger as evidence.

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A Piece Of Raw Ginger (Con)

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27 thoughts on “A Piece Of Raw Ginger (Con)”

  1. Hmm. I hope she found her calling, and is doing well 🙂 If not, she always has you to come cook for. But I think she would have. She seems determined, and even more so after meeting you at the station. 😀 When you go to eat bhakri, share the pics with us 😉

  2. Sigh! Glad she met you. And in those fleeting moments, both of you discovered the inherent goodness of human soul. A heartwarming story. Her face shall haunt many of your readers.

    1. I am glad I met her. I will never forget her. I will never be able to look at a piece of ginger and not think of her. Such simplicity of soul! I feel so enriched!

      Thank you Alka!

  3. Brilliant ! Sometimes you meet people unexpectedly and they end up touching your soul and inadvertently help you find the answers you are looking for. Has happened to me !

  4. You have turned a casual meeting into a classic tale. No, I should say that both of you did the magic together. I loved the part about things coming a full circle. It is very appropriate since otherwise it might have left a lingering disappointment in the one who had been the receiver. I am also glad that she went back to Akola. I will remember her whenever I touch or even look at a piece of ginger.

    1. It was indeed very wise of her. But then, for women of the earth- like her- wisdom of that kind is automatic and intuitive. In my part of the country… in the villages… when people do favors for each other, they don’t say ‘thank you’ or ‘dhanyawad’. They just fold their hands and say, “Achha babu, Ram-Ram!” And that is enough. For both know the favor was paid off in full.

  5. Ah, so that is how she went back. I hope she is doing well. Look at the impact she made on you and you on her. Your tale reminded me of so many chance encounters with people you’ve only met once in your lifetime but they bring back a smile every time you think of them. What a tale!

    1. She has certainly made an indelible impact on me. One of the most memorable chance meetings of my life. The other was in 2008… 🙂

  6. A lovely encounter – though I do think you missed out on some scrumptious dishes 🙂 You have her son’s wedding to look forward to, though. And, hopefully, he too has become a better person than he seems to have been till that day.

    1. Suresh, Your disapproval of the son remains undiluted I see. 🙂 That’s what I like about you. You are so consistent!
      I am looking forward to his wedding though.
      As for food… she might yet come over, who knows? 🙂

  7. What an incident…what a story…something to remember for a lifetime. I like her grit and determination to succeed…to be independent…her warmth, her compassion…..to give you something as a token from whatever scrapes she had…makes me feel good about people 🙂 She did show you a path and you did to all of us too.

    1. She certainly showed me a path Prudvi. More than anything else, she showed me that we’re all in this together. You can always give someone a leg up. Because… lets face it… we all need it at some time or the other.

  8. Every morn we have ginger tea, and will remind me of your wonderful story and the brave lady that you met on the station. Your meeting with the lady have inadvertently enriched my life . Now I will again read all the three parts at one go.

    1. I am delighted this story has enriched your life as it has enriched mine. Thank you for your involvement with the series. I am very happy!! <3

  9. Aah…so this is how the circle completes itself! What an encounter. No, it seems it was a meeting destined to happen. Because it was in a way meant to create something special. Something intangible that manifests when two people connect in this unadulterated and most natural way. Loved the way you told this whole story. Kusum tai will always be remembered by all your readers.

    1. Yes Beloo. This is how the circle was completed. She left me incredibly rich.

      I agree with you. This meeting was destined to happen. One doesn’t connect thus to someone one hasn’t ‘recognized’. Kusum Tai, may she be blessed! <3

  10. WOW! Not only did you find her but you shared ‘her’ with all of us. This casual and unexpected meeting of the two of you has a profound effect on all of us. We actually dismiss rural and illiterate woman but the real strength and courage comes from them. You are blessed. Now ginger will not be just an ingredient that I will add to the food I cook…every time I see it, I will see you both.

    1. Thank you Janaki! I am so happy you’ve connected with this story so well. I too will think of her whenever I see ginger. 🙂

  11. I think when you hugged her and listened to her story, you made her feel human! And, that gave her a lot of comfort. This is indeed a story of true compassion!

  12. Thank You Dagny for sharing Kusum Tai with us, though I read the last two parts while wiping away tears. Everyone needs hope sometimes and this gave me hope today, hope, inspiration and strength. It is moments like these that define us, and my admiration for you has gone up along with the respect developed for Kusum Tai.

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