The refreshing smell of the rain had just settled down as I sluggishly stepped out in my back garden, the leaves were still half-wet and half-dry, the sudden voices of the lazy birds had swallowed the infuriating noise of the traffic.While my weary eyes were busy regretting the afternoon sleep, I saw my grandmother, sitting in her evenly rusted rocking chair, effortlessly looking into the open sky, wishing that the heaven will call her soon.
A few minutes later, still unaware of my presence, she gradually lost her touch with heaven and started mediating with her only friend, ‘Hanuman Chalisa’. Her 70-year-old skin wore a 17-year-old watch, the loud lines on her head expressed the joys and the sufferings she has been through. Her tied up colorless hair stored all the vibrant moments of her life.
I smiled back and in her eyes, I read a simple desire — let’s talk, son. I wiped the dust from the stool and sat next to her, without the hope that we had anything to talk about. We shared a delightful glance as I sat down.
She asked softly: “Daftar theek chal raha hai?”
With a blink, I joyfully replied: “Sab theek hai.”
Her eyes twinkled and the smile multiplied. “Canteen hai office mein?”, she anxiously continued. Though I have answered this question a million times but every time, her memory had mistakenly erased it.
She appeared mused, looked left, possibly trying to remember something and then, suddenly, looked to me and said,
“Beta, tumhein pata hai? Long time back, when I was working as an administrative officer in municipality office, I had a close friend, Sheetal. Uske haath mein na jaadu tha. Whatever she cooked, the aroma of her flavors would make the air more savory. She was a permanent cook there. When I first joined the office, she told me that she had been cooking there for the last 30 years. She started working there for just Rs 10 per month and when I retired, she was earning Rs 500 per month. Bas 500 rupaye income thi uski. Till the time I left the office, she was 47 and still unmarried.”
I used to ask her often, “Why don’t you get married?”
She would always say: ‘Didi, mein akele hi khush hun’.”
I, abducted by my grandmother’s thoughts, reached an useful conclusion. Only and only memories will be your companion as you age, people will eventually move away from you for no real reason, that’s how time rolls its uncertain dice. Many people we love immensely right now may not be a part of us five years later. Sounds strange!!
They would be in some other part of the country dealing with their own problems and life issues, may be once in a while we would remember each other, just the way my grandmother did.
With the validity that my grandmother shared her most vivid memory made me realize the breakneck speed with which life passes by. For her, it seems like everything happened yesterday, as if she and Sheetal had met just a week before.
We hardly value the love we can give to people today and things we can say to each other and most importantly, understand each other. The way we have conditioned ourselves is so shallow because we are SO OVER-THINKING about NOW and raping our mind with judgements and imaginary tensions.
Forget about valuing each other, we don’t acknowledge sense of humor and sarcasm.
With the eagerness to know more about Sheetal, I asked: “Do you know where she lives?”
She slowly closed her eyes, kept her right hand on her chin, appeared a bit faded into some memory and said: “5 or 6 years back, she once called me and told that she is living in a small town in Moradabad, Rampur and I also noted the address in my diary then.”
I was glad to hear that they were in touch for so long, she looked unsatisfied in telling me this but I became more keen and questioned: “What don’t you go and meet her?”
Suddenly, a gust of wind came by and dropped her glasses from the table. I was about to reach out but she bent her arthritic knees to take them. She picked them in discomfort and ache filled her face. Rubbing the cloth over them, she spoke in pain: “My legs don’t obey me, they display a will of their own as I try to walk on, son”.
Not only her knees, but the rest of her body has aged too. Health is the only wealth that you can survive with if money betrays you. Her dying knees had snatched life out of her free soul. Even thought her desires are pleading to live like there’s is no tomorrow, she knows she can’t.
For her, today is just like yesterday. The pain in the legs and the pain of ignoring her health delimited her.
I, out of uneasiness, asked: “Why haven’t you gone for an operation?”
“Because of fear, son. Fear is developed in a girl’s mind the day she is born. I was afraid of going through an operation and was occupied by the fright of its consequences. One day, when the burden of fear defeated my body’s resistance, my knees gave up. So, son, health is life. Protect it.”
She knew that I had turned a bit gloomy, just to light me up she changed the topic: “Shaadi kab raha hai?”
Her same-old-question further downhearted me. I was no mood in answer, said harshly: “Why do all these grandparents wait for us to get married?”
She kept silent for a few seconds. May be she felt offended.
She was right.
She knew me personally more, and jokingly said:
“Girlfriend nahi hai teri..… to shaadi to complicated hi lagegi?”
I wanted no more discussions and I had had enough. I had almost got up when she softly kept her hand on my left leg, then the crux of the situation stopped me and I shouted:
“Shaadi is not so happening for the next 5 years! first I need to find the right girl.”
Why was she acting like love guru? She herself had an arranged marriage and yeah….I know films.
“What love, you don’t know anything about today’s love. It’s all confusion. Feelings, dating, relationships, crush….sab practical hai aajkal?”
To which, she had best words:
Beta practical to zamana humesha he tha, par pyaar apna raasta khud he nikaalta hai.