“Did you pick the posters from the printing shop?” asked Rajni.
“Yes I did Bua.” Responded preoccupied Arun. (Bua – aunt)
“Keep all the things intact in the bag, look there, the water bottles are still kept aside.” concerned Rajni, guided her nephew.
“Yes Bua, don’t worry. I am a grown up now.” cajoled Arun.
“Only 20 years do not make a grown up. Now, rush up, you have to catch your train.” Rajni.
“I am on time. All set.” Arun while buckling up his shoes.
Limping Phurki in an almost tattered Kurta roamed aimlessly across the lane in Rambada. Found unconscious during the natural calamity, no one could trace Phurki’s identity. Lands and rocks, all came falling together. People ran for their lives. So did Phurki may be with her kin.
People claim, she was found well dressed and looked poised at that point of time. Many say, she is an educated woman. She was lost in a jiffy. A 40 something Phurki was named so after she couldn’t recollect her real name. Nearby people said, she was in better health earlier but with the passage of time, she was becoming a bag of bones. A few biscuits and a cup of tea from local shopkeepers were keeping her alive. It was even heard, she was molested by goons in the local area and her gold ornaments were also taken away. Deep and unhealed wounds on her wrist were clearly visible from distance.
Eight months after the behemoth disaster, when the town was steadily recovering at its own pace, Phurki’s identity remained a question mark. She was mostly seen talking to trees, making gestures in the air and sometimes asking any passerby, “Train aagai kya?” (Has the train arrived?).
“Pity this woman! Whatever happened to her folks?” a passerby spoke to Dayalji, 87 years old shopkeeper who sometimes gave food to Phurki.
“I tried to search for her people. But at my age, I could do whatever I could.” Dayalji.
“Didn’t police help?” The passerby
“Haha! What are you even saying? They rather wanted to mint their own profits.” Responded Dayalji.
“She will die this way!” Added Dayalji.
“Feels sad to see people with no guilt meeting such fate.” the passerby.
Arun got down at the Dehradun station with all his baggage and made his way to catch his bus towards Rambada.
“Hello Bua! I have reached. Do not worry, I will be back soon as soon as I get information. Please inform Papa.” Arun informed his aunt about his arrival.
“Please take care of yourself, we will be concerned. Take your food on time. Had your mother been there, she would have scolded me to send you.” Rajni
“Oh don’t be. I am good, I have become more responsible now. Take care” Arun hung up the phone.
He walked along the road which took him to the local police station. There was a conspicuous crowd in front of the station, probably of the people who were on a look out for their relatives just like Arun. He knew, he will have to wait or may be wait for ages. But, Arun knew his quest.
After nearly waiting for half of the day, as the evening grew darker and few shops in the vicinity were deciding to shut their shops, Arun gazed his eyes on the head constable. Just once, if he could speak to the person.
Arun spoke to himself, “Look at those people, they all are in search. Searching for their sister, daughter, father, or mother….I am one of them.”
After some more hours of wearisome waiting, Arun managed to get a chance.
“Tell me how can I help you?” Inquired the head constable.
“Sir, I have previously come to your police station if you remember?” answered Arun.
“Oh! Well, do you know the count of people I meet every day here?” an irritated head constable replied.
“Sir, with due respect, I understand your situation. I am in deep trouble myself. I know the situation, sir. I wouldn’t have troubled you but then I am very helpless.” An exasperated Arun continued.
“Kya kaam hai?” An annoyed head constable. (What do you want?)
“I had reported about my missing mother during the floods. I came to you few months ago. Meanwhile, I called your office too but got no response. So, I came again to know, if you found any details?”
“Look at you young man! Look around! Lakhs of people died. Thousands lost. You know the statistics.” Replied the head constable.
“I know, sir I know! I can very well understand. I had given all the details of her, sir along with pictures. So, if you got any trace. Even a small hint will do. I have got some more posters this time.” Arun pursued as he hurriedly put the posters in front of him.
“Been so many months young man! We have found many dead bodies in the meantime.” The head constable responded.
“SIR!!!!!!!” Arun banged on the table and his voice choked right away.
“Peace son peace!” The head constable.
Arun collected his documents and posters and left the station.
“Hello Bua!” Arun’s yelping voice required no extra recognition.
“What happened? What happened? Are you ok?” A concerned Rajni verified.
“The officials aren’t helpful. I am so distraught.” Arun.
“You have to be determined Arun. I am there for you. You cannot breakdown. Remember what your mother used to call you? Collect yourself. Just don’t worry.” an upset Rajni asked.
“Yes, she called me a tiger. I am a tiger bua, I am a tiger. Tigers don’t get defeated.” Teary eyed Arun somehow collected his strength.
“I know, you will come back with good news.” Rajni.
“I will, I will.” Arun replied.
“I know, you haven’t put a grain of rice in your stomach. Do tigers fight like that? If your mother comes to know what will happen then? Eat without fail ok?” Rajni.
“My mother will see me in pink of my health. I will eat.” Arun.
“Arun, take care of yourself. Remember, your father is waiting. I might be leaving for my home next week, your cousins are calling me back. Goodnight.” Rajni.
“Ok Bua. I will come soon. Goodnight.” Arun.
After having his meal, Arun managed a place in a nearby lodge which he shared with another person. The night went all sleepless for him as he kept on planning for the next day. This time, he was determined that he will not take any help from the officials but rather, search on his own.
With breaking of the dawn, Arun carried his backpack with a map in hand. He spoke to all people and noted down all the densely spots in the region of Rambada. There began his poster campaign – pasting the posters on the walls, speaking to people, showing the pictures – doing every activity to find the lost mother.
“Uncle, shall I paste few posters at your shop. A lot of people come to yours I see.” Arun requested Dayalji.
“Of course. In some way, if this activity can help you.” Dayalji.
“Thank you so much!” Arun gestured his courtesy.
“Sigh! So many people come every day here to either search for someone or collect the dead bodies. Whom have you come for?” Dayalji.
“My mother sir. Just look at the picture. May be you have seen her somewhere.” Arun’s doomed smile spoke a lot in his answer.
“Oh I see! I am too old son. These days I can’t see properly. But, I will definitely check once.” Dayalji.
Arun’s hopeful eyes glued to the picture. Dayalji walked with his stick towards the poster, adjusted his spectacles and looked at the picture.
Phurki passed by the shop while Arun was busy pasting the posters. She continued to walk through the nearby partially maintained paddocks.