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It was Sunday and she knew that she would have to keep a count of a lot of the foot ware that was kept in her care. She performed her duties as an aid in the kovil (Hindu place of worship) without complaints. She spoke lovingly to devotees who thronged the kovil and assured them that everything would be okay. Devotees called her Kumari.

She remembered the names of most devotees because she made it a point to speak a few words to everybody who kept slippers in her care at the kovil entrance. Kumari was very observant and knew what to ask and what not to ask devotees. She was compassionate and sympathized with visitors to the kovil. There were days when she observed that some devotees were coming with different companions to the kovil. She could guess what was happening, but she never questioned the integrity of devotees. She left that to The Lord.
Kumari lived a few kilometers away from the kovil and her home was on a one way street in Mandana Town. She got up every morning at 4am and poured tea for all the family members who were residing with her. Together with her, there were four family members and only her daughter, who was 19 years old, could have tea on her own. The two other members of the family, her husband and mother, had to be helped to get up and have tea. Her mother was very old and couldn’t hold a cup because she suffered from arthritis. Her husband was paralyzed waist down. Her daughter was still going to school.

Mandana-TownKumari managed to make a quick meal of rice and one vegetable everyday and feed the two ‘patients’ before leaving to perform her duties at the kovil. Her earnings came from the few coins devotees gave her for safeguarding their foot ware. She was a very pious woman and practiced four of the five basic vows specified in any religion. She kept breaching the vow where a devotee mustn’t lie. She was forced to stray away from the truth when devotees queried where she lived. Kumari lived in a partially completed home where even the basics for living were absent. This was one main reason why she didn’t wish anyone to visit her at home.

Kumari told devotees that she lived 22 kilometers away from the kovil. That was far enough to discourage any devotee from requesting to make a visit to her home. She often told herself that the lie she continued to live didn’t harm anybody, hence there was nothing to worry or regret.

She was a woman and she too dreamt of a home, a complete residence, filled with luxuries, sporting the signature of a woman’s touch. She had to take care for her husband before she turned thirty. Her husband was condemned as an employee of the railway department after he slipped and fell on the railway tracks and fractured his hip. He couldn’t receive any compensation because he was drunk during duty that day.

But she managed to keep her smile on her face. In the kovil she found happiness in abundance. She felt energized when working in the kovil, despite having to make the cement floor her seat. She told herself that God designated people with certain duties and they had to obey these ‘commands’. Kumari was convinced that she was the chosen one to perform the duties of caretaker of foot ware at the kovil. There had never been a day when she misplaced slippers at the kovil.

Some years ago she stopped coming to the kovil. Devotees inquired about her, but no one seemed to know of her whereabouts. There was speculation that Kumari’s daughter had got married and she was the one now caring for her father. There were reports that Kumari had gone abroad.

Then one day, a holy man from India arrived at the kovil. He told devotees that someone who fitted the description of Kumari was seen in India. This holy man said that someone who resembled Kumari was seen begging near a kovil in India. The holy man said that this kovil worker from Sri Lanka had been brought to India by a job agent and had been dumped on the road after being cheated. The last time the holy man had seen Kumari in India, she was severely depressed and close to insanity. She had been promised a better life in India and she had thought her problems would turn into little ones if she made a change in her life. The holy man said she had made the mistake of shifting her trust from the known to an unknown. There was no news of Kumari thereafter.