Group of good samaritans help out 78-yr-old pauper they found at Kalyan station, who was once a matriarch of a prosperous household in Kalbadevi.
At the Mumbai railway stations, the last thing you would stop to notice is a frail destitute woman bent with age, gingerly trudging the platforms. There are so many paupers that one more hurts nobody's eyes.
So when a 78-year-old schoolteacher, once a resident of Kalbadevi, had made the platforms at Kalyan station her home for the last 10 months, it was easy to dismiss her as just another homeless beggar.
Against all odds: Tara Tulsidas Palicha underwent a second surgery at
Sridevi Hospital in Thane yesterday
Except that one day, Narendra Goyal, a daily commuter to Matunga, spotted her. She was surrounded by plastic bags and junk, and was reading a Gujarati newspaper, which caught his eye. Curious, he decided to talk to her and find out more about her. But she said she was absolutely fine and didn't have any problem. So Narendra offered her some money. When she refused it and asked instead if he could get her a cup of tea, Narendra was surprised.
Tara Tulsidas Palicha was preyed upon by calamities that left her in dire straits, both financially and emotionally. Once a proud matriarch with three children and a flourishing household to take care of, kismet had turned her into a lonely waif drifting on tracks and platforms, skywalks and stations, picking at garbage bins. She depended on a local dosa walla to sustain her during the day.
But that was until the pre-Diwali glitter brought a sparkle in her life, in the form of a group of do-gooders, who started taking care of her.
After Narendra reached out to her that first day, he saw her many times over the next few days -- doing the routine or being asked by the railway police to leave -- but he decided to keep to himself. On October 22, however, as he was returning home from work around 11.30 pm, he saw her lying next to a garbage bin, her face near the ear completely swollen.
Narendra called up his friend Bhavesh Mehta and told him of this woman. The two decided to meet the old lady the next day. Said Mehta, a Kalyan-based pathologist, "When we met her, we asked her if she wanted to be taken to a doctor for medication, but she refused. Then I asked her if she wanted to take a bath. I could see her face glow as she heard my words, and nodded a yes."
So the two, along with a couple of other friends, took her to Mehta's house. "Her ear had swollen to the size of a tennis ball and we knew that she had to be treated," Mehta said. Once she had reposed and had freshened up, she put on new clothes.
But there were scars and bruises over her body; there were dog bites on her ear; they made her look terrible. Around a month ago, she had been attacked by a group of druggies, she explained to Mehta. His friends and family then decided to convince her to see a doctor.
As they were heading for the doctor's, Tara told her story in disjointed chunks -- apparently her memory doesn't retain all the tragedies that befell her:
She had three children, of which one had died. A schoolteacher, she used to stay in the posh Kalbadevi locality along with her family. But her eldest son abandoned her and went to live separately.
Soon, things started going downhill. As her finances eroded, she had to sell off her house and move to a rented flat in Kalyan along with her younger son.
But her younger son died as well. To sustain herself, she performed daily chores as a housemaid, until she couldn't make ends meet at all and was eventually thrown out by the landlord.
And this is how she came to stay at Kalyan platform.
Hefty medical bill
They had arrived at the doctor's. Since there was pus formation inside her ear, the doctor said he needed to operate on her immediately.
Tara's first surgery happened on October 31 at Sridevi Hospital, Thane (West). "We thought it wouldn't cost a lot. But after the surgery, the bill touched Rs 70,000," Mehta said.
As Tara's condition continued to remain serious and another surgery was required, the surgeons at the hospital asked Mehta and friends to get a clearance from the local police or government, since she had no immediate relative. Mehta approached the local police station, did the necessary paperwork, and procured the permission.
On November 8, the old woman underwent a second surgery. The cost of hospitalisation has been escalating. So the group of 7-8 friends is splitting the cost. They are also trying to enlist the help of NGOs and other organisations that could possibly foot the bill.
Said Mehta, "She hasn't blamed anyone for her condition. But she did mention that her only surviving son has now become a part of the elite society and doesn't care much."
They have been trying to find the eldest son, who is now reportedly staying at Mira Road or Vashi.