“My mother was from Andhra, and my father was from Varanasi. They got married in Mumbai,” he starts.

I giggle and ask, “Was it a love marriage?

He quickly replies, ” I don’t know”.

I grin, a bit more this time, and chirpily tease him. “Aapne kabhi poocha nahi? (Did you never ask?)

“Ammi died when I was 9 months old, got no chance to ask,” he completes.

 

Sensing unease in his voice, I think of withdrawing the conversation. However, Mohd Hussain doesn’t stop here.

 

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Conversations with Mohd Hussain (Photograph with permission)

 

He looks at me through the front mirror; and pretends to smile with watery eyes.

“When I was 8, my father died. So from childhood I’ve been earning and eating on my own,” he continues.

“Biwi thi, biwi ka bhi death ho gaya,” (I had a wife, she too has died)

I silently shriek by the thought of it.

What happened to your wife? I meekly ask, not sure if I should take this ahead.

“That’s something God must be knowing, Madam” he drops a tear.

I was in foreign that time I used to drive a taxi in Saudi Arabia. We treated her for 9 long years, we couldn’t save her.

From my wife, my younger daughter too caught the disease – her kidneys had dried, they said. Doctors had asked us to give up hopes for our daughter, however, this stress took away my wife’s life. I saved our daughter but lost all the money that I had earned.

When I was eight, I remember walking about half a kilometre to fetch two buckets of water every day. I would fill 400 litres and only then would get food to eat.

About clothes?

Maybe once a year if someone gave at all. I didn’t know of anything except underwear. Didn’t even know what a t-shirt was.

On the footpath itself, taxi drivers would come. I became friends with them and learnt driving.”

I ask him if he ever felt that only if his mother was around, all would be fine?

He looks at me and says, “Ye toh abhi bhi lagta hai. (I feel this even now)”.

 

 

 

 

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