The author, Pallav Chatterjee recollects a moment of truth about the life in a pada (locality) in Kolkata. Reminds of the glory of hope of people who built their homes in Salt Lake area during the mid 1970s; the hope of having a bourgeois community, a home bustling with joy of living – family, children & grandchildren. But what he notices is that the elderlies are left behind. They are alone, despite their empty nests, however, there is hope. Though love struggles, but it continues to flourish.
…All these, while weaving the tale of an old man trying to come to terms with the fact of his dying wife, evokes a sense of pity when the man expresses his sense of loss for one simple yet precious thing….
I have hardly ever noticed this pale wall & the house besides it, whenever I parked my car by its side, by the kerb of the road just adjacent to it.
Behind it, there is a small kitchen garden & a huge two-storied mansion with its walls painted with the same fading pale yellow and red brick-lines outlining the windows and arching over the top of its entrance.
A small wicked-gate leads one to a quick & short narrow passage that goes to the entrance of this house – the entrance well guarded with a collapsible iron shutter-gate.
I have never actually noticed the remarkable silence & gloom about this whole place – resemblance of an era bygone.
Actually, I am always in a hurry whenever I put my car to halt, just driving a couple of feet ahead of the gate before locking the car, giving a fleeting glance at that entrance gate just to check that I am not blocking the way and finally jumping out and rushing to the Plaza for the library, to which I would usually always be just about time – this is the usual place where I park.
Sometimes, when coming out of the library and setting off to crank my car and drive off, I certainly did wonder about the family that stays in the house, worried whether I have been some inconvenience to them or whether they have some objection to parking the car this way bang adjacent to their wall and just about few feet away from the entrance.
I don’t block the way though but you see, some people do mind. But I often cut my thoughts short because by that time it would already be dark and I need to hurry home for taking pleasure of whatever little of the weekends that I am left with.
The Old Man
Today, there was something different, while I was just about calling it a day and packing off, I did notice the library coordinator having an inspecting look at my car.
When I walked upto him, he was in a mood to talk about cars, he knows about my profession. Half-way through our discussion, he waves his hands in greetings to a frail & thin silhouette.
At first I couldn’t make anyone out in the darkness, but slowly as that thin outline approached nearer that I could make it out – a very fair old gentleman, long wavy beard, stooping a bit, wearing a faded grey kurta and an embroidered Khadi Jhola(Handwoven Cloth Bag) hung by his shoulder.
The man was very frail and very old, the kind you normally don’t happen to meet often (almost in his nineties). He came upto us and asked the gentleman about how he was doing & after exchanging niceties abruptly changed the topic to something that seemed to make him pre-occupied.
“I don’t know what will I do when something happens to her”, he was talking about his comatose wife.
My gentleman friend assured Daadu (Bengali word for respect for a man of Grandfather’s age) all his help round the clock and assured him that he should ring him up anytime should he require any help or should there be any emergency.
Later, I was told that his wife has been comatose and under observation. The children & grandchildren all stay far away, settled abroad and his wife is the only loved one now the old man is left nearby with.
Married for past six decades, she is the only person who is the best known friend and accomplice to his life and the old man is worried about his wife who may now leave him anytime soon, to a new journey far away from him.
I could feel a pain of imminent separation and irony of having a family when, before winding up the conversation Daadu addressed me as “bright young man” , asking to get myself introduced to him.
His eyes wanted to connect. Winding up the talk, he walked to that wicked-gate, creaking it open and walked upto the entrance and dissolved somewhere in it.
I was humbled and gripped in sadness.
An overpowering realization grew upon me, that somewhere behind those pale walls that I didn’t ever care to notice, was this frail old man nursing his mortally sick soulmate and friend of last six decades.
“Course of True Love Never Did Run Smooth”
During the conversation, what hurt me was like a thousand spears thrust through my chest, when with child-like innocence with which Daadu asked us whether it is right for him to change his nurse, he doesn’t have his son or daughter nearby to advice.
The young lady he has employed to take care of his unconscious wife has been stealing things lately. He had to be ‘okay’ with that as any young lady would have to be a bit mischievous, aspiring of life, lusting for things, especially if poor, and when such a lady herself at his grand-daughter’s age.
And, also that she helps, so he said that he can’t be a chooser when it is him who needs help. But, what has really hurt him the most is the Nurse has stolen away from her frail, wrinkled & comatose fingers her lifetime’s most treasured thing – The wedding ring!
What's Your Reaction?
A management consultant based out of Gurgaon, Pallav is a gold medalist in Business Studies from Indian Institute of Foreign Trade. Having spent two decades of professional life in the field of automobiles, he often loves to unwind himself through his pen and his camera.