Monday, 2 December 2013



                                            Ananda the Bag lady

Dot made her way to the park. It seemed to get further away from home everyday. She remembered as a child how it was always a magnet for her and her sister and they would spend hours on the swings. They used to close their eyes and dream of being grown up and how happy they would be. But that hadn’t happened. Her sister had married first and gone interstate. Then later she too had married because everyone else did and said yes to the first that asked. Now Dot was miserable. Everything had gone wrong in her life. Her husband had died a few years ago which was a relief because she didn’t really like him anyway and couldn’t think what possessed her to marry him in the first place. Their children too had grown up and got partners of their own and her dear sister she saw only rarely and even the letters they used to write regularly had dried up. Dot knew it was because she had dried up too and nobody liked her anymore she was always so miserable.

She came to the park because there were always a few fossickers in and around the litter bins. When she saw these dregs of society as she liked to call them she would feel that tiny glow of satisfaction that her life was nowhere as bad as theirs. Dot was fastidious and shuddered with disgust as she watched the bag ladies pull drink cans and bottles from the trash; turn them up-side-down to make sure they were emptied and then place them in their bags. The bag ladies faces normally wore a dead pan expression or a scowl to deter any comment or criticism of their activities. So all was well with the world for Dot as she observed those failures in life and she was able to forget her own failures that brought her there in the first place to shut out her own life.

That was until she met the Indian girl who although wearing a sari she also had a hooded cape as well. She too was a bag lady with three sacks on her shoulders with various bulges grinning through. However what caught Dot’s eye was the girls broad grin as she scanned the area ahead of her searching for the discards of the local’s greed and consumption. As the girl passed she nodded respectfully to Dot. There was no scowl or look of hatred but that perpetual smile that seemed to say. “I'll keep this park clean for you”. Quietly and with barely a nod she went on her way as Dot wondered why she was so happy.

And so it was that Dot saw the happy smiling Indian girl in park quite regularly. In the end Dot’s curiosity persuaded her to nod at the girl in acknowledgement when they saw each other until one day Dot patted the bench seat and said to the girl “Come, sit and let us share some cake I have.”

The girl looked doubtfully but sat anyway pushing her collection sacks to the side of the seat. Dot brought the cake out of her bag and offered the girl a piece. She took it politely and nibbled at it while Dot tried to make conversation. Gradually she discovered that the girl was in fact married and had two children at school. Her husband had died and she was left to bring up the children by herself. Because her command of English was not good she could only get the most basic jobs such as cleaning and these were at night when she needed to look after the children. So she spent all day when the children were at school collecting recyclable material that could be cashed in at the collection points.

Their meeting transformed Dot. She stopped being sorry for herself and always spoke to the smiling girl when she saw her in the park. She even found out the girls name which was Ananda, which meant Happiness. 


Photo by  C. Frank Starmer


  1. Life is full of lessons. The ones that are most meaningful are usually unexpected. This is a wonderful story. My heart always goes out to these people who somehow seem displaced. Thank you for this.

  2. This is so mindful of my favorite adage... Be kind because everyone you meet is fighting their own battles... we just never know what people are going through and it's wise not to judge.

  3. Oh WOW! I love stories where the main character manages to redeem themselves :D

  4. When we're feeling down, we know we're supposed to think of those who are worse off, but this is often too abstract a concept for us. When confronted with a real live person who is cheerfully shouldering a bigger burden than our own, however, things become clear.

  5. What a wonderful story, Sir Old Egg. This simply tells us that each of us has a cross to carry, but have to move forward anyway ;o)

  6. I love this story Robin, because it carries such a strong lesson on perspective. Life isn't about what befalls us, but about how we handle it, with grumbling or determination. I also loved that the lady in your story warmed her heart and initiated a friendship, because someone shared a smile. Smiles are powerful medicine!

  7. Nice story! At first I thought that it was bad of her at first for looking down on all the bag ladys, but I liked how it ended! I liked her name too!
    : )