Police officials at the Tadepalli police station in Andhra Pradesh are mourning. The shed behind the station, where their ‘Amma’ used to live, now lies empty. Mugamma, who had lived with them for the past 40 years, was buried last evening.
“She was perfectly hale and healthy,” constable Tirumal Rao says, trying hard to stifle his sobs. Tirumal was the first to find Mugamma lying dead inside her shed on Tuesday morning.
Octogenarian Mugamma had grabbed the limelight sometime in May when media discovered her living in harmony with the policemen at the Tadepalli police station premises. She had come to the village in Guntur district about four decades ago and had been living at the police station ever since.
Mugamma didn’t have any health problems in particular except for old age, which made her frail to carry out any chores at the station.
On Tuesday, Mugamma was buried at a cemetery near the Tadepalli police station. The policemen pooled in money and arranged for her funeral. The SI, CI along with other retired officials from the station carried her body and paid tributes to her.
“Mugamma’s death is a very personal loss to me,” Tirumal tells TNM, narrating fond memories with the old woman.
“We shared a mother and son like relationship. I used to get her food and tea every evening. She used to eat whatever was provided and never made a fuss about anything. She was like a senior staff at our station,” Tirumal says.
Mugamma was spotted by the policemen at the Tadepalli railway station four decades ago. Despite efforts, they could never find where she came from or the whereabouts of her family. Mugamma, who was speech impaired, had been living at the station premises ever since. The policemen named her Bhanavath Mugamma and called her ‘Mugamma’ affectionately.
“We tried finding details about her family. We knew she didn’t belong to this village. Some said her relatives worked in a nearby factory. But nobody ever came in search of her. After realising our efforts were in vain, we built a small shed for her behind the police station and she helped us in the day-to-day chores at the station,” an official at the station recalls.
Mugamma used to do a variety of tasks at the station till her age permitted. She would fetch water, clean the station premises and do other sundry chores. Though she could not talk, she used to communicate with the policemen in her own sign language.
Talking to ETV, the Tadepalli SI recalled how Mugamma, though speech impaired, used to talk to the complainants at the station with ease. “We liked her more because she would make the complainants, especially women, comfortable in articulating their problems. She would give them water and help them file complaints. She also made it a point to check that we ate on time every day, just like our mothers,” the official said.
“Even when I was leaving the station yesterday evening, she waved at me. Though a quiet presence, her sight would lift all our spirits. Her absence has now left a gaping hollow in everybody at the station,” the SI added.