My diary: Flashback to 1995
I don't know her name. I don't even know her story. But all my classmates used to have a special bond with her. We used to call her Paatti (Tamil for granny).
She was so poor and she would sit outside my school gate. All she would have is a plastic sheet spread in front of her. Some mangoes, gooseberries and jamun would be kept in that plastic sheet.
During lunch time (12:30 pm to 1:15 pm) we would rush out our classrooms and go near the gate and stretch our hands through the gate. For 50 paisa, she would give a few pieces of mango sprinkled with chilly powder, a few gooseberries and some jamun to each one of us.
Some times when we did not have money, she would still give a piece of mango to us. She would have probably made a profit of Rs 10/- everyday. What made us respect her is the fact that at her age, she still chose to make a living through hard work.
She knew all my classmates by our names. During PT period, when the ball goes out of the compound wall, she would pick the ball from the road and throw it back inside. I have never seen her getting angry at all.
" Makkaley" ( Dear)
That's how she used to call us all. When I was in class 10, the school management thought that she was a menace to the school because some parents had complained that their children were getting sick because of eating the unhygienic fruits from Paati.
At first the headmaster, warned us to not buy anything from her. But when we did not listen to his warning, the management decided to chase her away. I never saw her again.
In the year 2010, when I was in Singapore, I met a guy called Thirunavukarasu. He was also from my hometown. During one of our conversations, he opened up about how his folks struggled hard to educate him. He was particularly grateful for his late granny.
When he told that she used to sell some fruits near my school, I had a strong doubt that it could be her. And when I asked him if she used to sell mangoes, gooseberries and jamuns, he said "Yes". My eyes had already welled up. I did not ask her name.