It was raining heavily that night. Everything was pitch dark. Pagli lay there crouched, behind the big dustbin, trying to shield herself from the rain. Suddenly something fell with a thud near her. She could hear the footsteps fading away. Someone had thrown something in the bin and had gone. But what could Pagli hear? Was it a child crying? She got up and traced the sound to a bag in the bin. She pulled it out and a child, around two and a half to three years old, looked up at her. It was sobbing bitterly. The sound of crying was very feeble, may be because of crying for a long time. The body shook violently, giving out only intermittent sound. Instinctively, Pagli took the child in her arms and pressed it hard to her chest. She showered her head with kisses. All her motherly love flowed out and drenched the child to the very bones. The crying stopped and the child too clung on to Pagli, as if, would never let her go.Thus began one of the purest forms of love between Pagli and the unknown child.

No one knew who Pagli was or what was her name. She seemed to be mentally unstable, always kept to herself and had been staying in and about the place for many years. She never bothered any one so the people also let her be. Some kind soul would give her food some time, the bin would help her out the remaining times. No one knew her name so they called her ‘Pagli’ the deranged. No one had heard Pagli ever speak but she, most of the times, would have a big smile for everyone. She would wave out to children and many would wave back at the familiar figure. Pagli would happily wear the faded, discarded clothes, given to her by someone or the other, one on top of the other and roam around. She had a couple of blankets too which she used to cover herself and a few stray dogs who would come to settle down with her, every night. Now she had the child to share her space as well as her life, with.

Raghoba worked as a delivery boy, in a grocery store. The owner of the store had a daughter Nirmala, who was not getting married because she had a very dark complexion. After trying as much as he could to find a boy and fail, the owner married her off to Raghoba. With the eyes on his shop and property, Raghoba agreed to the marriage. Little did he know that all of this was heavily mortgaged and after just five years of marriage, they were all taken over by the bank. Meanwhile, Nirmala gave birth to three daughters, one after the other, in five years. Raghoba was furious. He wanted a son. Unfortunately, the older two daughters died of pneumonia and the youngest was left. She was named Kali. Raghoba took to drinking, in the evenings and would then beat up his wife. Not able to tolerate him any more, Nirmala eloped with some other man, who claimed to love her. He refused to take the child along though and so Nirmala went away leaving the toddler behind with Raghoba. Ditched by his wife and being saddled by a girl child, Raghoba was out of his mind. He hit the bottle harder and started to ill treat the child by not giving her food and even leaving her alone the whole day. Poor Kali would fight hunger, loneliness and beating most of the time. She could only cry but there was no one to hear it. The neighbors would try to counsel Raghoba but to no avail. He would just ask them to mind their own business and leave him alone. This went on for about two months and one night the exasperated and drunk Raghoba could not bear little Kali crying any more. He picked her up, put her in a big bag and stepped out of the house. It was raining heavily and everything was dark. He took an auto rickshaw and went very far, to the outskirts of the town. He walked from there in an unknown direction and in that state of mind he threw the bag with Kali, into the bin. Pagli pulled the bag out and discovered Kali. Very naturally she just took Kali into her life. She held her to herself and started walking in that dark night. She walked the whole night and reached a village in the morning. She found a desolate temple and settled there. The villagers noticed her, but as she kept to herself and the little one, no one really had any suspicion.

Pagli doted on Kali. She would never let her be out of sight. The people around noticed the toddler with her and took them to be mother and child. Kali had never experienced so much love before. Pagli became her world. She started growing up in that village. Soon she joined the free school too. The harmless Pagli had won the hearts of the villagers so they helped her in every way. She in turn tried doing small, odd jobs for them. Kali had changed her life. Now she had a purpose to live. Kali had become the centre of her life. Kali and Pagli, both became inseparable. No one could tell, who cared more for the other.

Time flew and Kali became a bubbly, sweet teenager. She was doing her class ten and was quite a popular child in school. One day she returned from school to find Pagli, sleeping. She had high fever. Kali got worried. She ran to the only Vaidya ji in the village, who would treat everyone in need. Vaidya ji gave her some herbal medicines for Pagli. The treatment continued for a couple of days but Pagli was not getting well. Then the Vaidya ji suggested her to be taken to the district hospital in the near by town, about five kilometers away. Kali took Pagli to the hospital by bus. After examination and some tests the doctors diagnosed Pagli to be suffering from tuberculosis. Kali was too shocked to even cry. Somehow she gathered herself and told the doctors to start her treatment. The doctors explained her that the treatment would be a long drawn out one. They also suggested admission for some days. Fortunately the treatment was free and kali got Pagli admitted right away. Pagli kept holding on to Kali’s hand and refused to let go. They stayed in the hospital for about ten days. Pagli started showing improvement. Kali was there with her like a shadow, doing the needful. The doctor treating Pagli, was a very kind hearted person. She was touched by Kali’s love and care for Pagli. One day she asked Kali if she would be interested in doing a Nurse’s certification course. It would be of a three months duration and then Kali may be absorbed in the hospital itself, to work as well as train further. The doctor offered to sponsor her course too. Kali thought it over and agreed to the doctor’s suggestion. Meanwhile Pagli was better and they returned home.

Over time, with Kali’s care and right medication, Pagli was cured completely. Kali too finished her Nurse’s certification course and joined the hospital as an intern. Pagli and Kali never needed to be biologically related to justify the beautiful bond that they shared together. In her subconscious mind, Kali still had deeply rooted, the feeling of being unwanted, hated and discarded by her own family and the terrible insecurity assosiated with it and that was replaced by the unconditional love and acceptance showered on her by Pagli. Yet, according to the world standards, Pagli was mentally unstable!



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