Posting an old story written seven years back to keep the blog ticking.
We live in a small town, rather an oversized village, about thirty kilometers away from a big city. It is an old house slightly narrow but very long with a porch at the entrance and a large vacant ground at the backyard. It was built during my husband’s grandfather’s time. We chose to live in this place as my husband had large areas of land under cultivation in the adjacent villages. A lawyer by profession my husband is not practicing much these days except to help old clients. The children who live in the city visited us during weekends off and on.
One summer evening when I was watching the TV I heard someone calling ’Amma’. When I went to see who it was I found an old man of about seventy, frail and small built and not looking well off. He had a smiling face belying his indigent circumstances as revealed by his tattered shirt and much worn out footwear. In a soft and pleasant voice he said “Sorry to bother you. I came to this place to return some amount I had taken as a loan. The person to whom I returned the money came home only at 9pm.The last bus to my place had left already and the first one leaves early in the morning at 6am.Would you kindly allow me to sleep on the raised platform (thinnai in Tamil) in the porch for the night. I do not know anyone else here. My relations with that person I met here were a bit strained and there was no question of my asking him.”
As my husband had not returned from the city, I hesitated for a moment. My six year old granddaughter who had come to stay with me for the week end said” Grand ma, please allow this thatha (grandfather) to sleep in the porch. Where else can he sleep in the night? He looks tired and hungry.” This clinched the matter.
I gave him a mat, a pillow and a sheet to cover as mosquitoes are a menace here. Declining to have food, he accepted a glass of buttermilk when I insisted. I could hear him talking to my granddaughter and her peals of laughter now and then. I could discern a jovial personality within this frail man depressed possibly by financial worries.
When I came out to take my granddaughter inside, he told me that he had a married son with children who are living in the North. The daughter in law was also employed in the government. It transpired that the old man’s wife fell from a bus some years ago and is unable to walk. She had a walker but still needed help to take her to bathroom. Luckily one lady in the adjacent flat is very friendly and helpful whenever he had to go outside.
After this accident the son and his wife became distant and aloof. He was sending money earlier whenever asked. But the old man has since stopped asking. He was getting some pension that was just adequate. He had no complaints to make and was thankful to god for keeping him physically fit and healthy to take care of his wife and manage his affairs without imposing on others
A thought crossed my mind. Financially not sound, advanced in age, a crippled wife, denied the affection of his only son in their twilight years, he still counted his blessings instead of crying about his disappointments. He was grateful to god for the doughnut he had instead of cursing the holes in it. I wished him good night and went inside with my granddaughter Shruti.
When I got up in the morning and went out to the porch with a cup of hot coffee, I found he had gone. The mat and the sheet were neatly folded and kept over the pillow. When I lifted them to carry inside, I found a small paper folded and on opening a fifty rupee note fell down. He had scribbled in pencil “To dear Shruti, with love, Thatha”
I could not stop the tears from my eyes.