The very first day I started visiting the Kalka temple every morning at 7am, my attention was drawn to a woman many would called a beggar as that is how she supports herself. But I was drawn to her as to me she seemed regal and beautiful in a haunting way. On days when I did not see her,I would look for her and if I did not find her, I would leave a tad disappointed. Each time I saw her, sitting and sipping tea, talking to someone or just standing I would wish her with a loud: Jai Mai Ki! I was sort of mesmerised by her. She was always impeccably dressed in the brightest of colours, squeaky clean - not and easy task in this environment - and smiling. Sometimes I would slip her a few rupees which she accepted with extreme dignity, making me feel grateful. As days went by we used to exchange a few pleasantries. I must confess I looked forward to these small trysts. I was dying to hear her story but never asked anything for fear of offending her.
A few days back she stopped me. She wanted to 'introduce' me to her niece. She told me the little girl was orphaned and was being badly treated by the relatives she was living with. Bhavna is nine and a lovely child. She asked me if I could give the child some clothes as she only had the one she was wearing. She also told me that the child would be leaving soon. The nest day I gave her some money to buy the girl some clothes. I also asked her what her name was and how come she had landed in the temple. She did not tell me much but told me her name: Rani. Rani means queen in hindi, what else could she have been named.
Two days ago she told me she had decided not send Bhavna back but to keep her with her as she wanted her to get an educations. She asked me to help her do so. While we were talking a few of the regular beggars gathered around supporting her decision to 'adopt' Bhavna and offering to help in every way they could.
I could barely hold my tears. Of course we would help this child. But what moved me was how the very people we reject and sneer at, the ones that live on her so called 'charity' had a heart far larger than those who live behind gates or in impregnable mansions.
It was the biggest lesson in compassion I have received. Bless Rani to have allowed me to tiptoe into their world. I am humbled.
PS: this is not the best picture of my friend Rani. Will get a better one some day!