Gift of Bibi Asha
Bibi Asha had forgotten how to smile.
Her frail body could not support her body weight any more. She stooped almost to a right angle. While walking, after every 7-8 steps, she had to stop for few seconds to straighten up her body.
She was blessed with many children, grand children and great grand children. But
all her children had abandoned her. She had not heard from or seen some of them for years. Only those who still needed her help, kept on visiting her.
When her daughter Mwanahawa, her 4th born child, came after disappearing for 4 years, with a new born baby seeking her help, Bibi Asha was rather happy to stay with a young child. Mwanahawa got the baby by mistake, unplanned. She was not yet ready to raise a child. Bibi Asha did not object. She had experience of raising babies, her own babies. A grand child was not a stranger, still a part of her own flesh. She was only in her early fourties, still energetic and full of vigor. Her husband, the bread earner was still alive also.
The following year, another grand child arrived from her son’s side. The mother of the baby ran away. And her son could not raise the baby by himself alone.
After few years, her husband succumbed to untimely death leaving her with a bunch of children-their own children and 2 grand children, whose parents were continuing their lives, somewhere.
Her husband was a peasant; he used to cultivate staple food and fruits in their own fields and collected enough stock for the whole year.
After his death, Asha could not manage to take care of the farms and children at the same time. She sold part of their farm. The little money she got, helped her to feed the family for few months.
As her children grew up, one by one they left her. She had to continue living with the grand children.
Slowly, the number of grand children grew from 2 to 6 and she was ageing fast.
Soon her 2 daughters came back with severe illnesses. They needed Asha to take care of them. She had to sell more land to buy medicines for her daughters.
Within one year, she buried the two daughters and lost one grand son.
No energy, no money, no food but plenty of innocent, hungry grand children.
One of her grand children, 9 years old was reported to be in custody at the police station for trying to steal a loaf of bread from a lady’s shopping bag. Bibi Asha released a sigh of relief “At least the authority will not allow the child to die of hunger.”
She had tried to request her children-the parents of the children, to come and collect their children. Once in a while, they visited her with generous gifts-1 tin of 3 litre cooking oil, few cakes of soap, 1 kilo of sugar, 3-4 kilos of rice and maize flour-1 years ration for 6 hungry mouths.
The memories of her past glorious days were masked by the gloomy days ahead.
The roof of their house was giving up. On bright moonlight days, her grand children enjoyed the scenario of the moon light beams filtered through their roof; on the rainy days, they collected enough drinking water in the rooms, without necessarily going far.
Their innocent laughters coming from the empty stomachs were sounding like muffled, strangulated voices. The saggy tummies of the malnourished children were bulging like sandbags, always overeaten appearances. Their ribs could be counted from 50 meters distance.
No part of the land was left to be sold. She had sold even a part of her corridor to the neighbour.
Several NGO volunteers had suggested her to send the children to the orphanage. She was not ready to stamp the children as “Orphans.” She considered it bad omen even to think. Their parents were alive. She still hoped that one day the parents might come to collect them.
Every time she looked at the children’s faces she wondered whether she was blessed or cursed:-she had given birth to many children, raised them and she had all those grand children without parents- the gifts of God.
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