My Mother Is A Phenomenal Woman!

Millie realized that the woman that was fighting was in fact her mother, trying desperately to stop the man from running away.

The Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, or CST as it is commonly known, was overcrowded with passengers waiting for local and express trains. Millee was waiting on the platforms to receive her mother, who was arriving from Nagpur to visit her.

Waiting patiently on the overly crowded platform was a difficult task for Millee. The crowd on the platform was slowly getting dense with people who were majorly office goers and having a one-point agenda to get onto the local train as soon as it entered the station.

A few passengers were seen carrying bags and other luggage items, and they must be waiting to board express trains that were passing through the city.

Suddenly she heard a lot of people shouting, screaming and running towards the exit of the platform. A passing coolie informed that a thief had picked up someone’s wallet and had disappeared in the crowd before anybody could catch him.

An incident from the past

All that commotion suddenly took Millee back to a similar incident she had witnessed. It was something that happened almost forty years back, here on the streets of Mumbai, and it involved her mother.

She remembered it was a late Sunday afternoon. The sun that moved towards the horizon was mild that day. The cool sea breeze was giving tough competition to the usual sultry weather of Mumbai. She, her mother, with her aunt and her daughters were walking on the streets near the Gateway of India. It was the first time she was visiting Mumbai.

The fivesome had gone to visit the Gateway of India that day. Her aunt had planned the day in advance. After having lunch at a nice restaurant, they had taken the ferry ride across the sea. And on their way back they wanted to spend some time doing street shopping.

A woman was running after a man

The group soon got divided into two. She and her cousins halted near the roadside book stalls. While the two ladies checked the stalls selling clothes just nearby. Just then, the loud noises behind them caught their attention.

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“Chor….Chor… Chor…. Pakado… Pakado”

“Don’t you try to run away? I am not letting you go till you give it back to me”

The commotion and loud noises made her stop and turn around. She saw a woman grappling with a man. She was pulling the man with his t-shirt that was loosely hung on his body. Within seconds, Millie realized that the woman that was fighting was in fact her mother, trying desperately to stop the man from running away. The sight shocked her beyond belief!

“Mumma.” Those were the only words that came out of her mouth at that moment.

The man her mother was fighting with looked like a scarecrow covered in dirty clothes. He had a frail body and short stature, but enough strength to fight her mother. From his unkempt beard, tanned skin and sunken eyes, he looked like a street beggar. Being barefoot was an advantage for him in this situation.

With all the force, his t-shirt soon tore off, but her mother chased him and grabbed his pyjamas.

Don’t fight Maa!

Watching all that struggle and fight scared her. Everything had happened so suddenly that she did not know how to react to the situation. She remembered her only concern then must be to see her mother safe. She wanted to scream and say:

“Please don’t fight Maa, let him go. Somebody, anybody, please help her”

But the words wouldn’t come out of her mouth. They had frozen. All she could manage to do was cry. The whole situation had scared her cousins too. And they, too, began to cry.

She remembered that her aunt was trying her best to calm them down. But the panic in her voice was not helping to pacify her or her cousins. “Stop, stop crying immediately. And if you don’t, I am not taking you, girls, home” she remembered her aunt shouting at them.

Just then she saw a young man step forward, “Ma’am, what happened?”

“This man snatched my gold chain”

He slapped the suspect right across his face, “*********, what did you do with this lady’s gold chain? Where have you hidden it?”

“Ma’am, how did he snatch your gold chain”

Maa then quickly narrated everything that happened there.

She was standing at the clothes stall with her sister. The man came from behind. Snatched her gold chain. Tried to run away. She ran after him. Caught hold of his t-shirt. The T-shirt tore off. She ran and grabbed his pyjamas.

The thief was silent, he did not speak a word. But the fear was visible in his eyes.

Soon the crowd gathered

Soon enough, the crowd surrounded them. Mostly, onlookers gathered to watch the tamasha that was happening there. Some more people did come forward to help. They took hold of the thief, slapped him several times and questioned him about his accomplices.

The thief remained silent. He took all the abuse and beating from the crowd. He did not have the guts to run away from them. With folded hands, he pleaded to the crowd to let him go, and his eyes showed pain, but not a word came out of his mouth.

The people checked his clothes for the stolen jewellery but found nothing in his possession.

“Ma’am, are you sure you caught the right man? These people are very swift. They know how to escape within seconds”

Maa looked confused, but she replied confidently, “Yes, I am 100 percent sure he is the thief.”

The crowd started beating the thief again with more force now. After receiving a few blows to his abdomen, the thief spat something out. It looked like a metallic ball, wet and covered in saliva. The crowd stopped for a while; Maa then bent down to check. It looked like some gold item on close inspection.

She squatted down, poured some water over it, and using her handkerchief, picked it up. It was her gold chain. It was hidden in his mouth all this time. He had chewed it into a small ball and was holding it in between his teeth when the crowd was beating him.

“That’s why he was not speaking,” said somebody from the crowd as they began to disperse.

“I don’t have enough words to thank you all.” Maa had tears of joy in her eyes. She was relieved to have found her stolen chain.

Somebody from the crowd suggested that we must take the thief to the police station, but Maa refused,  he had already received enough beating and asked them to let him go.

Same woman, different personality

That day, she had seen mother in a very different avatar. She could not believe that her mother could fight someone. Her mother, who she believed was a gentle, loving and dependent person.

But in the past four decades, she had seen her mother taking charge of difficult situations at various times. The realization of the courage and confidence shown by her mother always made her feel proud.

The arrival of her mother’s train brought Millee back to the present. She hugged her mother as soon as she got down and after taking charge of her bags lead her gently towards the exit of the station.

“Maa, do you remember that Gateway of India wala incident? Millee asked while manoeuvring the car through the crowded streets of Mumbai.

Her mother smiled; her eyes became moist thinking of that event. She took some time to respond, and it seemed as if she got lost for a while in those memories.

“Millie, when I was young, I was taught to never give up in life. My values would never have allowed me to stand, do nothing and let any kind of injustice happen. In those days I was energetic and brave. But I was also young and foolish.”

“Foolish, what are you saying Maa! You were brave”

“To tell you the truth, your Baba had cautioned me about the petty thefts that happen on the streets of Mumbai. He had warned me to keep the valuables at home whenever we went out in Mumbai. But I was foolish and overconfident.”

“I did not listen to his advice. And when the thief snatched my chain, I feared your Baba would scold me for not listening to him. I did not think of the consequences of that moment. My only thoughts were to get back my gold chain.”

“So what would you do if someone snatched your chain again today,” Millee asked mischievously

“Today, I don’t have the strength to fight back, dear. What is needed is to remain alert and cautious of our surroundings at all times. If you follow this Millee, you will never face any adverse situation ever in life. I got this knowledge with age. So today I can advise you to follow and practice the same Millee”

And all that Millee could think then was, “I am a strong and independent woman because I was raised by this strong woman.”

Image source: VikramRhaguvanshi, via Getty Images, free and edited on CanvaPro

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