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