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I watched the old lady across my seat in the train. She spoke, but she used no words. Her daughter, standing a few feet away on the noisy platform understood her perfectly well. It seemed she could read the words off her lips. “Take care of my mother,” her daughter told me, “she’s half deaf.” That explained things, so I gave her a reassuring nod and smiled understandingly at the old lady, my new friend.

 

The old lady was my only companion the whole 12-odd hours of our journey. We were content to communicate now and then with caring smiles, sign language, and my limited knowledge of the Telugu language. And so the night passed…

 

The following morning when we reached our destination, my friend seemed worried. I understood it was because she had quite a lot of luggage and wasn’t sure of the city. She enquired how far the station was from the place she had to go. I had no clue, but told her not to worry and helped her off the train with her luggage. She looked around, expecting someone to come for her, but found no one. Seeing the anxious look in her eyes, I offered to stay with her till someone came along.

 

It was 5:30 in the morning. I was half asleep and longing to get home to my cozy bed. I had work at 8:30 a.m. that day. I stood beside that old lady on the platform, as if keeping guard over her. I had to be true to my word.

 

Finally her face brightened as she gestured toward someone, making unintelligible sounds of joy. Her son had come to pick her up and take her home. The worry was gone from her face, and her son thanked me, as he lip-read how I had helped her.

 

With smiles all around I took my leave, content that I too had spoken, with more than words.

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