Story of Tasneem :

Flashback :

It was early morning that day ( a couple of years ago ) and I had a train to catch at 7.30 am. I had to travel all the way, from the suburbs to the Central station. Add to that, I had two huge luggages with me containing cartons of CDs, which I was carrying to distribute in the north-east, where I was headed. Dragging them I rushed, till I found an auto-rickshaw who agreed to take me all the way. I had assumed, the journey would take me an hour atleast, considering the distance, but surprisingly the auto managed in half the time, thanks to the morning traffic-free highway. As I rushed to the platform, I saw some lazy coolies who’d normally rush to carry luggages. They were quite relaxed, and hardly paid any attention to me. I soon found out why, as I called one of them.

“Madam, the train is 4hours late. You should’ve checked by phone.”

I felt like kicking myself for this ignorance on my part. If I had called up the enquiry number, I might have known earlier about the delay and could’ve avoided the mad rush. Well, I couldn’t go back, as I didn’t want to make more such rushed journeys.
“Madam, you can go and wait in the ladies waiting room, it has AC,” that same coolie said, when he saw me standing undecided.

Sure, thank you, I thought to myself giving the coolie a silly smile. He didn’t go away; instead, he lurked a while and asked if I wanted him to carry the luggage to the waiting room. I almost agreed, until I heard the amount he wanted in return for that. Thank you very much, but my luggage has wheels in them, so I can drag them myself to the waiting room instead of paying such a ridiculous amount, I nearly sneered at him. Seeing the changed expression on my face, the coolie vanished.

A few queries here and there got me the direction to the waiting room, which was at a far corner of the station. Pulling, dragging and pushing both my luggages, I somehow managed to reach.

As I pushed open the door, I heard a lady’s voice shrill from inside, “Tasneem! No!”
As I opened it further, I saw a hijab clad lady holding a child, looking at me in horror. The waiting room door opened inwards, hence, if someone was standing right behind, he/she would get hit if the door was pushed open from outside. Apparently that happened, as this little child the woman held, might have been standing near the door, and as soon as it was pushed open by me, she flung out to move the child from impact of the opening door.

“Oh, sorry,” I said, worried. “Is she okay?”
“She is alright. I could pull her away before the door could hit her,” the woman replied, now looking somewhat relaxed.

“Oh! Thank God.” I said, relieved that nothing untoward happened. I certainly didn’t want any more mishaps.

The child peeked at me from her mother’s side, half hidden. She looked around 10-11 yrs old, wearing a green frilly frock. I gave a big smile at her trying to be friendly, thinking I had scared her. But instead she turned her head and hid further in the layers of her mother’s clothes.

“Beta, it’s okay. Say ‘hello’ to Didi.” Her mother tried explaining to her. But she refused to look at me, instead tried to pull her mother away, her face still hidden.
I had two chocolate biscuit packets with me, so I took out a few and offered to her.

“See Tasneem beta. Didi is giving you biscuits, take one.” The mother said, as I sat on a chair, still holding out the biscuits.

The girl slowly looked at me, curious, and then up at her mother who smiled nodding at her to take. She hesitantly held out her hand, still unsure and took one. One thing I immediately noticed was her facial features, and realized instantly that she was a special needs child.

“Is your train late too?” I asked the lady, who also sat on a chair near me. I noticed there was no other luggage in the waiting room, except mine.

“No, I work in the station.”
Seeing my raised eyebrows, she hurriedly explained further. “We have a little magazine shop here. Since Tasneem’s father died few years ago, I have been running it. Tasneem’s daddy was a train driver, so after he expired, we got little space to run the shop.”

“Oh! I See.” I said, “Is it closed today?”
“Oh! No. You see, Tasneem has some medical problems, she needs the toilet often. So, I brought her to the waiting room. Ali, my nephew sometimes comes to help, so right now he is at the shop. He’ll go once I return.”

I looked at Tasneem who was now little comfortable and muttering to herself. She gave a smile and accepted another biscuit, looking longingly at the whole packet. I gave it to her.

“Say thank you to Didi, Tasneem.” Her mother said.
Tasneem had opened up now. I was no more a frightful stranger for her. She came up to me and touched my hand. I took hers and gave a little handshake.

“Hello Tasneem, you don’t have school today?” I asked.
“No, she is not in school yet,” her mother quickly said. “I had taken her to the municipality school near our home, but the principal said that she cannot be admitted with students of her own age, as her thinking and behavior is that of a four year old, though she’ll be twelve next month.” Tasneem’s mother had a sad look on her face, “I’m planning to take her to a special kid’s school, but she is too afraid of separating from me. She sticks to me all the time.”

That I noticed, as Tasneem was now again clinging to her mother’s garment.
“So, how do you manage? It must be difficult for you, all alone!”
“Yes, it’s little difficult, but Allah chose this way for us to survive. I’m very worried about her when she grows up. Who will marry her? Who will look after her, if I die? We have the shop here, business is not so bad and we get along. Atleast, I could pay off whatever I borrowed for it.”

I was trying to imagine her situation. A muslim widow, all by herself with a special needs child, running a little magazine shop on her own at the railway station. It’s not a sight, I often got to see.
“What about Tasneem’s other relatives? Do you live with them?”

“No, we have a small room in a chawl behind the station, but it’s a bit disputed. If I earn some more, I can get a better place. Several people have their eye on that room as well. They want to take it. But I won’t give it up so easily, I’ll fight them,” she paused a while before continuing, “It is the only nishani of my late husband, who toiled day and night to get that place for us. Every other day, they send their goons to threaten and bully us, thinking that I’m all alone and will get frightened easily. But, Allah has made me a very strong woman, I’m not scared. I go to the police and report them, every time they try to disturb me. Now, they are the ones who have to be careful about messing with me. The only thing I’m worried about in this world is my daughter.”

I could see the courage in her face. Even struck with misfortunes early in life, she was a determined lady. She got up and left after a while to attend to her shop, with Tasneem by her side.
That view made me smile triumphantly at fate. It’s indeed a pleasure to come across such brave and determined people.

Present Day :

It has been 3-4 years now since I’m taking that rail route again. Infact, all these while I’ve been preferring air-travel, but recently when I was in my hometown, on a whim I decided to travel back to Bombay via rail, and experience the nostalgia of a jhuk-jhuk train journey. The journey, traversing the vast expanse of our country ( across 6 states ), took almost 3 days, and I was tired as hell when the train finally approached the Central Station. I was glad to be back in my favorite city, and wanted to rush back to the coziness I called ‘home’.
I remembered Tasneem, and decided to go over and have a look at their shop. It was just near the booking office, and I spotted Tasneem’s mother immediately. The shop looked decent with an added coffee counter, and the lady was attending to the customers. She looked at me curiously, but didn’t recognize.
I was glad she was doing fine, and walked home with a smile.


Copyright 2013 © Nandini Deka

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...


  1. Nandini what a wonderful story and very heartwarming. Its quite a wonderful read. I think the concept is bang on target for the theme. If its alright can you drop your email address either on indimail or on my blog. I wanted to mail you something, if its alright.



This Blog Appreciates Precious Comments from all except Copycats!