Breaking one’s legs gets one into strange situations: for one, you can’t walk away from a bore who comes to visit you in the hospital. This is an unfair situation since the minute the patient starts boring, the visitors—nurses, relatives, doctors—can happily walk off.
So it is a delight when you come across a visitor like Rani. Dressed in a drab uniform mop in hand, she came to my hospital room every morning, swept and mopped, cleaned the bathroom, and left with a smile. Since the hospital did not encourage the staff to get close to the patients, we just a exchanged a few pleasantries and then she would be off.
“How many children do you have, Rani? ” I asked her one day.
“He’s just stopped drinking. Otherwise, most days he drinks and fights with me or the children. And keeps losing his job.”
On day, I asked her if she would like to take some books for her children. She selected a few from the Pratham Books pile that I had in the cupboard.
When she came in the next day, she was beaming. “Ma’am, I’ll come back after I go off duty and spend some time with you,” she said, her eyes going all round.
And that afternoon, Rani told me this:
“Ma’am, the minute I took the books home, my little one grabbed them. My elder daughter pulled out a Tamil book out and started reading from it. My husband asked her to stop and instead asked me to read, he says my Tamil is good and I can narrate stories well. So, we spent over an hour reading all the books. And it was so nice to have all of us together in our one room house in the slum, without fighting! We were all laughing and making additions to the stories and behaving like kids! Thank you so much!”
Then Rani continued:
“My English is not so good. But I read one English book. Shall I tell you the story? And then you can tell me if I understood the story right.”
Rani told me the story of “A Feather that Fell Off’, and I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed the story as much as I did that day as Rani spoke with her hands and eyes. Truly a story to show that most things can be mended—a broken feather, a broken leg, a broken relationship, a broken home.