THE OLD MAN IN THE PARK – CONVERSATIONS RESUMED
Well I did not go to the concert the next day not because I did not want to meet the old man; in fact I did want to, but other things kept me busy. The Kutcheri season had ended but I thought that I may bump into him in some concert or the other in the neighbourhood sometime. I did look forward to it for I felt there was something else to him than the flippant exterior he presented. I was therefore pleasantly surprised when a few days ago I met him in the park, sitting there all alone and watching the children play, with a smile on his face. As I approached him he looked up and said to me –
“Well there you are. Did I really bore you so much that you decided to skip the rest of the music season? I am glad that we meet again and I promise that I shall not intimidate you with my remarks. Come sit down here if you have the time and may be we can talk a bit about the good old days. Sorry, but that’s all I know about now”.
I did not hesitate and sat next to him and said “Frankly I was looking forward to meeting you again. You interest me”
He laughed “Funny, whoever would find an old man interesting? But I like your openness and you have patience. That’s what I gathered when I met you that day. If my guess is right you are in your early sixties isn’t it? Now may be you can guess my age”
“Eighty five at least”
“Eighty seven to be precise”
Though he did look old, he appeared physically much younger and mentally very alert. But there was something sad in those eyes. He was obviously a very intelligent man who had seen and undergone all the trials and tribulations that life could offer. I looked at him and smiled.
He carried on “I come here nearly every day in the evening and watch all the people who come here. It is not curiosity, but as I watch them the park seems to come alive. After all as one sees his end approaching, he wants to feel ‘life’. As I sit here, the evening slowly drifts away as dusk settles down and then the night creeps in. I am in the dusk now and soon it will be night and I will go home”.
It was a lonely man that I saw sitting next to me, but one who had accepted the coming of the end. He had seen it all. I asked him “who else lives with you at home?”
He laughed “Home? Well I had one till last year as long as my wife was alive. Now of course I have a house where I stay with a servant to keep me company. He is also getting on in years. I brought him along from my village where he was living as a destitute and now he looks after me, as faithful as a dog. Sorry I couldn’t find a better expression”
“What about your children? Where are they?” I asked.
“No, I don’t have any children. There is a brother and his family who do come to see me frequently as they stay nearby. My wife passed away last year. You see we had been together for more than sixty years. It was only a question of who will go first and she did. What saddened me was that she had to go after suffering for some years. She had cancer and many a time I have wished she had gone much earlier. But when I look back now, I am not dissatisfied with the life that I have led, except for the fact that there were no children. But I did find other outlets to compensate for that. I love children and I have done my bit for all those destitute and orphans in my own way and it has given me and my wife great happiness. You may wonder why we did not adopt a child, but that is of no consequence for in the end we ended adopting many more this way. After the death of my wife I have slowly withdrawn into myself, but I do find a lot of solace in music and that’s why I do not miss any concert that is held in this neighbourhood. My friends do drop in at times but now one cannot have a conversation with them for they also have their problems. That day at the concert and now today I find it easy to talk to you though you are a stranger”.
As it was getting late I got up and asked him “Will you be leaving now? I can walk along with you till your house”
He said “No go ahead. I shall remain here for some more time. But we shall meet again I hope. You can always find me at this spot and next time I promise that I shall listen to you; till then, bye and all the best”.
As I walked out of the park, I turned back to see him, a lonely figure on the bench as the dusk settled. The night was slowly creeping in. that’s what life is all about – the dawn, the light of the day, the twilight and then the all consuming darkness.