OLD MEN


Sitting here in the balcony, I can hear the Suprabhatam being played over the tree tops and terraces. A light , cool breeze is blowing. The sun has risen and flooded the whole sky with bright day-light.
akers of a nearby Vishnu temple. I wonder what his story is, why is he up at this early hour, at his age? Why is he walking back and forth on the terrace? Don't his joints hurt? Why hasn't he brought his grandchild up with him for company ?
Summer vacation is going on, the child can enjoy a healthy walk with his grandpa instead of huffing and puffing down the street to catch the school bus.
The old man has stopped at the left end of the terrace. There is a Gulmohar tree in full bloom, next to the house. He's bending over and trying to catch hold of one of the higher stalks of the golden-orange flowers. He's plucked two think stalks full of the small, fragrant flowers. Now, he's walking across the length of the terrace to the staircase that leads downstairs into the house. He's disappeared from my view.
Why did he pluck the flowers? Does he plan on using them in today's puja? But, Gulmohar flowers are generally not used in Hindu worship. Maybe he wants to decorate the living room , or his bedroom. Flowers do liven up a place.
He's coming back. I can see the top of his head  , climbing the staircase. He's on the staircase again. He's carrying a wicker-basket with him. The plucked stalks are lying in it . He's walking across to the tree again. With great effort he's filling the basket to the brim with the iridescent flowers from the swaying tree. Tired, he's sat down  on the floor and is wiping the sweat off his temples. It has been a hot summer this year, and the strain of ripping the tightly bound stalks from the tree must have cost him a lot of energy. With his head resting against the wall, he's closed his eyes and is letting the breeze, which has dropped now to a whisper, caress his face and fill his lungs with the cool perfume of the Gulmohar.
-- V


The sun began to wither his already rumpled, folded ageing skin. He knew he was a burden to his son. But he wanted to stay on and fight the battle of mortality to keep his young grand-daughter alive. She was currently fighting death in the ICU. He had always known that she wanted to die, but, he had always hoped that it was a passing fancy. One of her pet peeves that would eventually disappear.
While I wrote the first entry into your stone white, rigid indifferent leaves, Dear Diary, I didn't know this old man's story. I simply thought he was one of those old men who were obsessed with the many ailments that would slowly kill them. Or maybe, he was saddened by his partially comatose state, brought on by old age.
However, he was one of the nicer ones. He cared so deeply about another human being, that he wanted to live on for her.
Isn't it amazing to find that love can exist without the shakles of expectations, greed, desire and narcissism? A grandparent' s love is probably the purest kind there is.
I went to meet him.
-- H

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