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Lady in a Green Sari
by Pesi J. Padshah
“Auntie, that’s too much to give carol singers” said Renuka, who saw the lady next to her, put a twenty rupee note in the cap brought around by a small boy. She was a striking looking lady, tall, with a ‘tikka’ on her forehead, and dressed in a green sari.

“Well, they deserve it. I thought they sang rather well,” said the lady to Renuka, who had come downstairs from her flat on the fifth floor, with her twin sister Anita.

Minutes later, the group which had just sung, was replaced by another, a forlorn looking bunch of children among whom the eldest must have been not more than eight or nine years old. They were from an orphanage and a cardboard placard they carried around with them, displayed the name, in the hope that people would contribute towards their ‘home’. Their singing was a disappointment and the crowd chuckled good humoredly. But the lady in green exclaimed:

“ Oh dear, this will never do. They won’t earn anything for their orphanage if they sing like that on Christmas eve”. She pushed her way to the front of the crowd, held up her hands just before the singers began their next carol, and as they sang, she waved her arms about like the conductor of an orchestra. Renuka and Anita, as well as the others in the audience, noticed at once, the improvement in rhythm and timing, but their singing was still badly out of tune. Then the lady threw back her head and an alarmed Renuka said aloud, “My goodness, now she is going to sing!” Renuka was right, the lady sang along with the children. The notes came out smoothly and as clear as a bell. Along with her, the children too, found their voices and their sense of tune. Renuka, Anita, and many others in the audience, were so carried away, they could not help joining in also.

What a collection the little urchins made that evening. Five and ten rupee notes came floating down from the surrounding buildings. People standing downstairs with the girls, were digging into their pockets and giving generously. Renuka and Anita gave away a whole week’s pocket money that they had received just that morning.

“ Auntie, who are you? Where do you live?” asked Renuka excitedly. The lady smiled mischievously and said “ Aha !” Then she pointed to a star, way out in the distance “ Do you see that star? Not the big one, but the little one next to it?” “Yes” , chorused the girls “Well ... “, exclaimed the lady and broke off abruptly. At the same time there was a ‘plop’, like the sound of a bubble-gum bubble bursting, and when the girls turned questioningly, to the lady, lo and behold, there was no lady. The girls looked about them, among the people present, but there was no trace of her.

Renuka plucked up courage and asked the man whom she had seen standing next to the lady, whether he had seen her go, and to her great surprise he said

“ What lady? I saw no one in a green sari standing next to me, leave alone conducting the carol singers and singing with them. You girls must have imagined the whole thing.

The girls asked a few more people if they had seen the lady, but they all replied that they had not.

“ This is very strange”, remarked Anita to Renuka “If you had told me about the lady and I had not seen her, I might not have believed you. But since I saw her for myself, I know that neither of us is making it up. What a shame she isn’t here any more; I so wanted to speak to her.”

When the girls returned home, they wisely mentioned nothing about the lady to their parents. If people who were present at the spot, had not seen her, how could they expect their parents to believe she had been there, and then just vanished? So they had their supper and went to bed.

The next morning, Anita woke up with her eyes shining.

“ You know, I dreamt about the lady in the green sari,” she told Renuka excitedly. “You were there too”, she added. “I asked her if she was a Christian because she sang Christmas carols, or a Hindu because she was wearing a tikka. And do you know what she said to me?

“Wait let me guess”, responded Renuka. “She replied ‘I am a Hindu, a Christian, a Muslim, a Zoroastrian and all the religions you can think of. You were puzzled and asked her how that was possible”

“ Yes, yes, go on” , cried Anita, “ that’s exactly what happened.” "Well,” continued Renuka, “she said all religions say the same things about how human beings should behave towards one another, and other important matters, and that if there were any differences, they were almost certain to be invented by people. She also went on to say that great souls like Mahatma Gandhi, Shivaji, and emperor Akbar, believed likewise and were always surrounded by friends belonging to different religions.

“Why, that’s absolutely amazing!” remarked Anita “How do you know all this about my dream?”

“I had the same dream”, remarked Renuka quietly. “You see, she must have visited both of us at the same time in our dreams, which is why our dreams were the same. Now it’s up to us to think about what she said, and if it’s true, refuse to take sides when people try to make us join them in their quarrel against others who belong to a different religion. 
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