In The Land Of Shiva – A Memoir

charpoiWomen in Old Delhi pass the time on a rope bed, called a charpoi.   When elderly, they may spend most of the day outside, and even die there on the street.

Excerpt from In The Land Of Shiva:

I never knew her name.  She was simply “the old lady at the corner,” and she appeared so timeless I thought she could never die.

Every day on my way back from Hindi class or shopping, I would see her under the shade trees where the road in the neighborhood made a sharp bend.  She spent her time beneath those trees on her charpoi, a rope cot.  Her furrowed face and cloudy eyes always turned toward me as I passed, gazing at me more directly than would have been appropriate for a younger Indian woman.

I can’t recall ever seeing her stand or walk.  Perhaps she couldn’t by then.  But she always had her hookah nearby and smoked frequently.

As I passed her she would greet me with a light touch to her forehead and a throaty “salaam,” which I returned. A fleeting smile would cross her face, then fade.  I didn’t try to speak more with her.  There seemed to be too much distance.  Yet, she looked steadily at me, and I sensed that she was comfortable with me—and also, curious.