Koyambedu bus terminus holds many pages of musings, wonders as well as tragic and melancholic stories to its credit. The passenger waiting section is filled with people who have reserved their space for sleeping during night. They are lying down in the place with their body and mind as their sole holdings. That is the only abode for many families. The stories of the children and aged who have occupied the Koyambedu bus terminus would make one pitiful of them.
There was a person who has laid his head beside the belongings of him tied in a gunny bag, after vacating his house. When a police tapped his baggage doubtfully he told the police that it was a cooker. There was another person who made a pillow out of his belongings and trying to get a glimpse of sleep. There was a photo stand with an image of a god at one’s headside. There was a lady trying to feed her baby and next to her was an old man applying oil to his worn out legs. The police are moving across the premises with their walky-talky continuously changing its wavelength. The whole area looks like a play area where a kid disassembled many toys over its entire space. The stomach of the mosquitoes is fatter than those helpless people sleeping in the premises having bitten by them relentlessly.
There will always be a group of four or five women constables posted as guards during night. They will enquire the women and children found in the premises. We could even witness a woman constable who gets food for those who are hungry and helpless. Ms Saranya is one of the woman police constables guarding at the entrance of the bus terminus. “Many of them who are sleeping here come from outstations. They will leave by morning. Some will sleep here and leave the place in the morning as they have no houses of their own to sleep. There are people who ran away from their homes, being rejected and thrown out of their homes and also those who are in search of job. One will lose sleep after listening to their tragic stories. Just now I enquired a crying girl who ran away from her home in Salem and does not know where to go. She grew up in her uncle’s home, having lost her parents. She is interested to study but his uncle was not able to send her to school. So she came to Chennai and one of our police constables has taken her to a home in Anna nagar.
It is already past 1.30 am. It is said that it’s not only air but also silence can fill the void. But remaining silent for a few moments, filling her void with her memories, she continued. “From the day I joined here on night duty I saw a man entering the premise by 9 o’ clock daily and sleep here with his two children. Both the children seemed to be below 10 years of age, Deepa his daughter’s name and Akash, the boy’s name. He vacated his house as he could not pay the rent. He would take bath at the terminus and then leave the place daily. One night I spoke to Deepa trying to get their story. “Mother was lost as she was mentally not fit. Only father takes care of us. I studied up to fourth standard. My father used to drop me at my school and go for his job. He would return by 8 pm. I would go to my father’s woek place after my school and sometimes I would remain at my school. Then I dropped my schooling’’ said the girl. Often I would get food and tea for them.
Generally, we will wake up all those who sleep over here by 4 am daily. But I will allow those two to continue till 6 am. Their father does not have any wrongful habits. His kids are his only world. Ten days before I asked her if she wished to go to school and she said yes to it. But I was posted to a different place the very next day and I could go to her only after a week. She reached me, holding my legs and asked “Akka, when will you join me in a school, as you promised? Two days ago, a drunkard tried to misbehave with her and we threw him out of the premises. I am worried about her future. Could you help her find a home?” She was in tears when she took us near the place where those children sleep regularly.
Abandoned by the world those children were sleeping close to their father with their limbs and head spread wide. As we tried taking a photograph of them other police constables surrounded and enquired about it. Having been convinced they tried to wake those children up. But the woman police hurriedly stopped them saying, “Don’t wake them up now. They have gone to sleep only a while ago. We can discuss this in the morning”.
By this time, the woman police who took the girl from Salem to a home in Anna nagar came back to the terminus and said, “She wanted to pursue her studies. She has scored good marks, 750 in plus two exams. But she keeps crying continuously. It is really pathetic”. She had the heart of compassion even for the strangers. The woman police got our mobile number and urged us to come in the morning by concluding, “I will keep them here when you come back in the morning. Let some good happen to these helpless kids”.
By 6 o’ clock in the morning, when we arrived the same place, the whole scenario looked completely different. The haunting night transformed into a zippy morning. We met the woman police constable and she took us to the place where the children sleep. They hugged the woman police constable at once. She invited us for a tea. We gradually started our conversation with their father.
“Panruti is our native, Sir. My wife lost her mind. I did not have any permanent job at my place. I came to Chennai three years ago. I work as a mason. I don’t have enough money to have my own house on rent. I cannot live without my children. They are everything for me. But I’m very much worried about their future. Therefore I request you to keep them in a safe home. They should live happily. Wherever I seek help, Aadhar and ration cards are expected from me. I don’t have anything of that sort”. He sobbed.
The kids were cheerful carrying their cup of tea. When the woman police asked them if they were willing to study after being admitted in a hostel, they eagerly nodded. She embraced both the kids with love. When invited for a photo snap they showed a miraculous expression of utmost cheer and happiness that is rare to capture (photos are not appended here with an intention of protecting their privacy).
Gangai Amman Koil, situated behind the CMDA signal is their haven during the day. Their bag of cloth was kept near the wall of a building, opposite to the temple. Adjacent to it was a half constructed building. The lady who is a flower vendor near the temple said, “They have been here for the past four or five years. We used to take care of them during the day. Their father is working as a mason in this building. It is of great merit for you if you could find a shelter for them”. She felt happy about it.
The father brought a carton box with him. There were two chickens inside it. They were nurtured with love by these kids.
“We have spoken to Don Bosco home in Egmore. You can go to school within a few days. What do you wish to become after completing your studies?” We were curious about it.
“We want to become a police, like this Akka, and help everyone”. They happily concluded.
(This article written in Tamil by George Antony has been reproduced in English by V Amalan Stanley)