By Sandeep Dahiya (L&T-MHPS, Faridabad)
For long I thought of writing about this incident. It changed something in me though I still don’t know what? Perhaps it’s beyond my capacity to understand and analyze. I can only hope that it was something positive.
About five years back, I attended a marriage in MP enclave in Delhi. The “Baraat” was supposed to reach Delhi from Ambala at around 6 PM. (By the way it was my friend’s marriage). So, I reached the place at around 7 PM, taking into account the Indian understanding of “timings”. But my understanding of Indian understanding of “timings” proved wrong and I was told by my dear friend that he would only reach by 10 PM. That was great news for me on account of three reasons…first I hate waiting, second the place was completely new and I knew no one there and third I am introvert. I felt like I was stranded.
As I had to attend the wedding, so had to wait. I decided to roam around. The place was buzzing as there was a market nearby, lots of people around and traffic making waves. I started walking through the market just staring at shops, people and sometimes nothing. After wandering for a long time (it looked like that), I checked the time it was only 8 PM. I thought I should find someplace to sit and eat something.
In the process of aimlessly roaming around, I passed by a bus stop may be five odd times, and one thing struck my eyes that there was an old man (in his late 70s) sitting at the bus stop. He had something on his face which made him to get in my head. I stood to observe him for a while at the stop (observing people is my hobby as well as it suited my need at that moment). He also perhaps was observing me. Suddenly he said, “kahan jaoge beta?” I knew it was coming. His face told me he needed to speak to someone. I replied “kahin nahi baba.” I also asked him the same question and answer was same. So, we had a common connection between us of being aimless at that moment. He asked me to sit with him. I sat.
I knew everything with him was wrong. It was in his eyes. He started asking some common what, when, why and who type of questions. His voice was mild, humble but at the same time sad. I asked him directly that what’s wrong with him. He told about his early life in Punjab’s remote village, funny things he did. His job in the army, how he raised his children and sent them to best schools though he was from a humble background. How his three sons now well settled and doing well. Everything was fine till now. His story was a mix of emotions, waves of good and bad moments in life. He smiled at good times and became sad at bad times in his narrative. He was a brilliant storyteller. I could feel all of what he told (even though I am not a good listener). I asked him but there was no wrong in this story, he should rather be happy and proud of his life as it seemed inspiring.
He started again. “Today my sons have thrown me out of my house and dared that I shouldn’t come back.” I felt the shock in my chest. I asked him why? (As he told me that all of them were well off). He said “I am not useful anymore. I am not in there scheme of things. I have given all my property in their name. I can’t earn or do anything because I am old and unwell these days.” He continued “I am sitting here from early morning, without food, without talking to anyone and crying inside. “I was speechless, thoughtless and frozen.” A tear fell from his eyes. Something died in me. “What about your pension from Army”, I asked. “They take all of that each month. They have my ATM card. I don’t need money. I need love and care.” He said.
I bought a bottle of water and offered him. He drank. I asked him if he had a friend. “It’s almost same with every one of them also,” I asked him if I could help him anyway (I felt so helpless at that point, knowing I couldn’t do much). He replied, “No. Thank you for sitting and listening. Go, attend the marriage and enjoy.” He stood up and walked. I asked from behind, “Baba par kahan jaoge aap.” He stopped, turned, saw me once and then kept walking.
Next week I went home, I asked my father if I can hug him (He was an army man and also doesn’t like such gestures). He nodded and asked what happened? “Nothing dad, I Love You”. I hugged him tightly and a tear fell from my eye. I could feel a baggage lifted from my heart, but that face still lives on with me.