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My Idea of Strength – #WriteBravely

posted by Anupriya 13 Comments

As I take in the morning breeze and look around at the long stretch of the beach buzzing with activity, a particular figure stands out in my vision. No, I couldn’t possibly know him in person. Yet, I am confused because I seem to have seen the face somewhere. I racked my brain to recollect but to no avail.

I get distracted with hot babes jogging on the beach with their tight slacks and tank tops, but only for a while. My eyes keep falling back on the old man’s figure. Not that you could ignore it anyway. The old lean frame hunched over a walking stick yet exhumed dignity of a life lived well. As he walks closer in my direction, I see his grey white hair. If I were to pick a number to guess his age, I am sure he would be older than that.

With an extremely wrinkled skin, one would expect him to look worn and tired. But there was none of the frustration and fatigue generally visible at that age when one knows that life just takes never gives. I am extremely intrigued by the serene aura that emanates from his presence. But why am I so gnawed? Because the more I see his wrinkled paper like skin, the more I am sure that I have seen that face somewhere. Can I just walk up and strike a conversation with that old man? Would he deem it rude? Just then his mobile phone rings and he gets busy with a call.

As the old man gets done with call the mobile phone slips off his hand and falls on the sand. I grab it as my only chance to make a head way and rush to pick up the phone, handing it over to the old man.

As he smiles in gratitude, I join my hands nervously and smile at the old man. And then I see it. I see the dimples that dig into his cheek making his smile youthful and charming. I stop short in my tracks. I know that smile. But how can it be?

“Are you Mr. MohanLal Gunjal?” the words leave my mouth involuntarily. I get my answer as the old man’s smile diminishes a little and his eyes linger on my face with caution. It is his turn now to work up his mind and try and recognize me.

“Sir, in all probability you do not know me.” I answer the unsaid question, “But I have heard enough about you to claim that I know you well. And though I have seen you for the first time today, I recognize you from those dimples. Samar has inherited the killer looking dimples from you!” I exclaim, as I point towards his cheek.

“Oh! So you know Samar, is it? Has he become that big a rock start? I never realized it?” he grins.

“I don’t know about that, but I studied with him in college. But I thought that the entire family had shifted to Canada.” My last statement is rather a question.

The old man lowers his gaze and lets out a sigh.

“Son can you pick-up a handful of sand for me?” he stretches out his palm for me to place the sand on it. I oblige him in utter confusion. He tilts his palm and lets the sand drop back to where it came from.

“Do you see son? The sand looks good where it belongs. If I were to place this sand elsewhere, I would look like dirt. I felt like that dirt. I felt extremely out of place during those two months in Canada. Oh! There were enough Indians and all that. But I missed the charm of this city where I was born and spent 70 years of my life. Against everyone’s wish, I decided to come back here.” He looks far into the sea, probably looking at the horizon.

“But, you are old and it must be difficult to manage life all alone over here. Don’t you miss your family?” his logic sounds absurd to me. Atleast he would be taken care of over there.

“I felt extremely lonely initially, but then I made friends. Here on this beach. You are the latest addition to my friends list.” He chuckles, “Yes! Exactly like the friend list you youngsters have on social media. And then occasionally I meet some friends who I take back home.”

I stare at him in confusion.

“Don’t look at me like I have gone mad. After I came back for good, Samar helped me set up an old age home in our own villa. There is enough staff and domestic help and those who don’t find love and family elsewhere come to my place. Something like the ‘2nd innings home’ from that famous bollywood movie?” he looks at his watch and is reminded of something.

“Boy! I am running late for a doctor’s visit to check on one of my friends’. This is my number, do visit me when and incase you have time.” He pulls out a visiting card from his track pant pocket and hands it out to me. I bow my head in acknowledgement.

I stare at the leanest structure I have ever seen hunched on a walking stick rushing towards the parking lot with such zeal that makes me ashamed of my idea of strength. I realize that a person’s strength lies in having a large heart. A heart that sets his loved ones free to live their life and has the strength to live one’s life to his liking.

This post is a part of the #WriteBravely Write Tribe Festival of Words

Write Tribe

The prompt for the day is –

“The flower that blooms in adversity is the most rare and beautiful of them all.” – Mulan

Read more stories  in fiction section here.

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Anshu Bhojnagarwala June 30, 2018 at 10:53 am

Nice story. I know many people who don’t like to live abroad or have come back precisely for the same reason. Glad he found a purpose to his life and runs an old age home, what a great way to serve and pass life.

Bhavna Kaushik June 30, 2018 at 1:05 pm

“Do you see son? The sand looks good where it belongs. If I were to place this sand elsewhere, I would look like dirt.
How deep and how true these words are.
With knowledge comes power. It’s important to know what your heart desires than you get the strength to live it to the fullest.
This story filled my heart. Beautiful Anupriya. Simply, beautiful!

Priya June 30, 2018 at 2:33 pm

“the sand looks good where it belongs. If I were to place this sand elsewhere, I would look like dirt.”- you had me there. Awesome! Enjoyed the story.

Vidhi Duggal June 30, 2018 at 2:49 pm

Loved the old man’s spirit and determination. It’s very difficult to stay alone and go against everyone’s wishes.

Sonia Chatterjee June 30, 2018 at 4:15 pm

Wow. Such a beautiful and positive story that was. My father didn’t like living away from Bengal for more than a month ever. Every alternate month he would come back to Bengal. I could so relate to this story. Congratulations on completing this challenge successfully.

Anupriya June 30, 2018 at 5:27 pm

I come from a city known for its retirees population with their kids all settled away from them. But none of them seems to mind staying alone.

Vartika Gakhar June 30, 2018 at 5:51 pm

Wonderful Anupriya, not everyone is so spirited and determined as the old man in the story. Great post.

Suzy June 30, 2018 at 6:08 pm

Glad the old man found some purpose in his life and lives it on his own terms.

Akshata Ram June 30, 2018 at 8:21 pm

Kudos to the old man who taught us all some vital lessons in life

Amrita Basu (Misra) June 30, 2018 at 10:30 pm

This was a besutiful story.In old age we do need the familiar around.Difficult to understand about not wanting to live with family but one day even we will.

Varsha Bagadia July 1, 2018 at 3:52 pm

Such a deep thought, Anupriya. The sand can only belong where it belongs. Loved his positivity towards life and no resentment towards his son for leaving him there. Wish old people took lessons from this.

Sneha kishore July 1, 2018 at 5:53 pm

Lovely read..kudos Anupriya.

Corinne Rodrigues July 17, 2018 at 7:41 pm

Beautiful, Anupriya. It’s amazing how determined and strong people can be.


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