I got introduced to her through a doctor as part of my social studies.
I still remember my first meeting with her.
In an old maroon saree, hair tied back, with strands of grey falling on her face, she would easily be around 60-65. But my factsheet said 45. She looked haggard and weak. But again my factsheet said she was medically fit.
What I found to be the oddest thing was that she just sat and looked ahead blankly. She didn’t even seem aware of my presence. Her hands were wrinkled, nails matted black, her veins looked hardened with time, her eyes a shade of steelish grey. Very cold.
The doc had mentioned to me that her case was most unusual. She was well but aged beyond her years. She was normal but she wouldn’t speak. She simply wouldn’t acknowledge the presence of another person in the room. She was depressed but she wouldn’t let her depression show. She did not really seek company. In fact she seeked nothing. She would stay at her hut most of the day.
I felt sorry for her. Medically fit, I smirked. We end up classifying terms so easily. There are so many dimensions to being that a doctor simply fails to explore.
Coming back to Mira.
So well, it was the cot, the table, the chair, the almirah, a few vessels, a stove and she. One small family of things.
From hearsay and local conversations, I gathered she had no kith or kin. And it was not likely to change again during her lifetime. It looked like she had given up everything for her family and now, stranded to stagnate.
No one really knew much about her. I immediately detested all those who knew her once and now safely preferred to stay cocooned in their world of existence.
For Mira, as I saw it, it was only a matter of passing her days, nights, years, the remaining life until death. Some old people turn to religion. But she wasn’t one of them. Some depend excessively on social contacts. But not Mira. She had nearly forgotten how to speak. It would take nothing short of a miracle to bring her out of her shell.
It was learnt that Mira had vehemently refused to participate in any group activity organized by NGOs or stay at the quarters provided. Despite that NGO members tried to send her monthly provisions so that she did not have to resort to begging or starving. However after a couple of times they gave up.
The provisions used to remaining lying around in her hut.
No one really knew what kept her going. And since the NGO was busy catering to the many at their doorstep they could not persist.
And here I was. Desperately seeking meaning to life. I saw Mira as my next goal. I decided to give her silence a shot. Beyond all the social good I wanted to do, I really wanted to make a difference at a personal level. So Mira it had to be. If only she could lead a better life, of whatever was left of it, I would feel more satisfied. I was somehow haunted by the question – how did she manage to survive? She never touched the provisions. No one had seen her eat. What kept her going?
That was not all. Her hut was precariously located at the foothills of a thick and hideous jungle. No ordinary human being could survive without harm in such a potentially dangerous environment. But Mira was different. There was something miraculous about her being. Sometimes you really don’t need food / water.
And it looked like Mira had somehow reached a state of superior existence where worldly needs and threats were beyond her.
I had to know more about this. If not for Mira, then for me.
There was definitely a selfish motive in knowing more about a ‘different’ being.
I started visiting her dilapidated hut every other day. It was always open. It was hard for me to start speaking to her at first. I introduced myself as this M.A. student who needed to serve a term with an NGO. Just like you try and get into the comfort zone of a child, I started appearing in front of her more often. I am not sure if she really saw me. She obviously did not see me. At least not the way I wished her to. I spoke about random stuff – the weather, the news, the outside world, my NGO’s work, etc. At times, I read to her verses from sacred books. She used to look at me blankly as though I was just another thing. Sometimes I feigned discomfort at sitting on the floor or of feeling thirsty but she wasn’t willing to budge.
There she sat, in her old saree, staring into the emptiness. And I often looked into her translucent eyes for seeking some sign of recognition. I wondered at the sad turns her life may have taken to come to this.
Slowly I started increasing the time that I spent with her. Starting at first with 1 hour a day, it went upto nearly half a day. But I found it utmost uncomfortable to eat in front of her. She would just maintain a straight face but I would feel guilty. So I used to leave by afternoon or come during the second half of the day. Mira used to sit in the usual manner and I used to find her there exactly the next day.
This is one such late evening….
Due to heavy rains, I stay back at her hut. There is no way for me to get back to the quarters so I look over to her for permission to stay. She continues to stare and I realize there is no point in asking. This time I am actually hungry. But again I don’t want to go through her vessels or stove. It doesn’t seem right to intrude so. I make myself as inconspicuous as possible.
I wonder if she will sleep. The thunder is getting louder so I decide to as well stay over for the night. I have a small haversack that I carry around so I use it as a makeshift bed. It isn’t comfortable at all. The hut is nearly rocking with the wind and storm. I wonder if it will collapse today.
Somehow I manage to doze off. I turn around once to still see her sitting the way she always does. Eyes looking ahead blankly. I find it uncomfortable just looking at her.
So I shut my eyes and hope for morning to come soon. But it doesn’t come soon enough.
All of a sudden, I sense a weight over me. A very heavy body. Someone is trying to choke me. I open my eyes and to my horror, with blazing eyes—there is Mira. She is extremely furious and looks deathly pale. She is making some guttural sounds that sounds animal-like. Her hair is left open and she seems elsewhere, very unreal. I can’t scream or shout. I only feel fear. Of losing myself. The strength in her wrists is keeping me pinned. She is clawing me strangely. Thankfully another lightning loosens her grip slightly and I push her with all my might to dash out.
I know that running upto the quarters is going to be really very difficult. Behind the hut though is a small clearing. And beyond that the forest. I run across the clearing and straight into the deep woods. No sane person would do something like this in this part of the jungle. It was a deep zone and was known for wild animal attacks. I don’t care though. My first instinct is towards survival. I can hear footsteps closing in behind me. Mira running? This is all so unbelievable. I have way too many questions passing through my head. I am wet from head to toe and when I look down, it is unbelievable. She has wrung and clawed me so bad that there is blood dripping down my collar and onto my shoulders.
With a thumping heart, I run as fast as I can further into the forest. It somehow seems safer. The rain has stopped. I can’t see Mira or hear her fury. But I keep on running.
I don’t realize as night turns to dawn. I look ahead and I can barely see the outline of Mira’s hut. It seems like I have been running around in circles. I can’t’t believe what has happened. A bad dream? But I can feel the stiffness in my neck. And the clots of blood. I shudder at the thought.
What is she trying to do? Where is she now?
The sun has barely risen but there is enough light to see. I slowly sit upon a wooden log. Around me are stacks of bones and half eaten flesh.
I feel extremely cold.