The weather was fine with gentle breeze and the sun was luckily still shining bright. The boys were playing in the middle of the big park and many people young and old were walking briskly on the well laid pathway. As I scanned around the park. I saw at a distance an elderly gentleman sitting alone on a bench. I went near and sat quietly beside him. He must have observed me and gently coughed possibly to attract my attention. He must be around 75, frail and lanky with a prominent red vertical line on his receding forehead. Clad in a clean dhoti and a white shirt with a towel thrown over his shoulder, he smiled at me. When I reciprocated his smile, he started a conversation asking, “I remember to have seen you often, but do not exactly remember where, whether here or elsewhere. I wish to talk to you.”
“Nice to hear you. Can you try to recollect where? Is it in the park or elsewhere? What is it you wish to talk about? My name is Partha. Do you know anyone by that name? I live in the adjacent street,“ I replied
He did not speak immediately and was lost in some thoughts with a forlorn look. He coughed repeatedly.
“Are you fine?” I asked.
“Can I address you Partha? I like that name as it is after the presiding deity of Triplicane temple. I used to live in car street years back. My son was born there,” he replied.
“You have not answered my question whether you are fine since you are repeatedly coughing,” I said.
“I am fine but suffer from lot of worries that I cannot speak out openly, but they make me sleepless. I live with my son who is very affectionate. My daughter-in-law, I forget her name Rohini or Mohini, is also very caring and kind. They look after me well and have given all comforts. He earns very well,” he said and stopped when the cough recurred.
I looked at him intently even as he saw me. There was a distant look and the eyes seemed tired with the spark missing
“Strange, what worry troubles you? You said your son and his wife are very caring and keeping you in comfort. Your health also is good as you said. What is the problem for your sleeplessness? Did you tell your son to take you to a doctor?” I asked.
“I wish to but I do not see him these days.”
“What, why don’t you see him as you are in the same house? Ask his wife to take you,” I said.
“Ï do not see her also. Both of them are not there. May be they are away.”
“Who looks after you then? Who gives you food? You must be having grandchildren”,” I asked
“One man and his wife are there with their children. I do not talk to them though they keep coming to me frequently pestering me to take bath, eat, take medicines and sleep. They do not allow me to go out alone. They are always keeping a watch on my movements. Where is my son and his family? I am really scared. Today I managed to escape without the couple’s knowledge”, he said with a sly smile.
“What is the worry you that is bothering you? You can confide in me safely,” I said.
“My only worry is why my son and his wife have left me with this strange couple. Where have they gone? He is a good and loving chap and would never do that. Still it has happened. I suspect this man and his wife might have driven them out or done harm to them? I am afraid to ask them as they may kill me. I found you to be a decent person and thought of telling you. Do not tell what I confided to the stranger and his wife, I implore you,” he pleaded with tears and fear in his eyes.
“Do not worry. Your son would never desert you. I will get your son and his family very soon as I have tremendous influence. Do not be afraid, I will take care. No one can do any harm to you. Come with me. I will drop you at your home,” I told him
As I led him inside the house clutching his forefinger with one hand and putting my other arm around him, he stopped for a few seconds and looked at me keenly. Meanwhile my wife rushed out to me and asked “Where did you find him? I was so worried that I prayed to all gods for his safety.”
My children followed her and said “Thatha, why did you go out alone. Amma and appa were in tears not finding you in the house and searching you everywhere.”
The old man, my father, looked at us in a bewildering and incomprehensible manner and asked me after a very long pause,” Are you my son Partha? Only he would clutch my forefinger and put his arm around me as you did.”
Nodding my head vigorously in affirmative, I hugged my dad tightly as the children also snuggled around his legs. My wife was wiping her eyes in joy. I could see the distant look in his eyes had vanished.