My life in a day

I am a retired old man with no one to closely check on my movements. And this, my dear people, is not a complaint but a statement that reeks of relief. All my life, I have worked hard to make others happy. Be it my parents, my teachers, my boss, my wife, and even my children – I have always thought that my happiness lies in theirs. Seeing them content and fulfilled would give me the greatest pleasure. May be it even did or may be it did not. Who can tell for sure?

Today as I sit under the mango tree in the backyard of my ancestral bungalow, I can see different phases of my life walk past me. Since I have no one ordering me around anymore, I choose to spend my day my way. About time too, at seventy seven.

After my bath, I settle down with the newspaper and a cup of tea around seven thirty in the morning. This is when I see my early days; as the school kids trot pass my fence, I see myself when I was about nine. It had taken me a lot of nerve to ask my father if I could join the swimming lessons at the village lake. Water fascinated me. Floating on my back with the early morning sun shining in my face was the best experience of my life. It was even better than sex, if I may say so without offending my dearest wife. However, I wanted to learn to swim and compete with the village boys on Sunday afternoons. A senior boy from my school offered lessons every weekday morning, for one rupee a month. He was the swimming champion of our district but was from a poor family. My father refused. Not because we did not have the money to spare; but because the boy was from a caste I was not supposed to mingle with. I obeyed my father and as per his request, attended music classes instead. I have never touched the harmonium after I left the village at the age of seventeen. And till date, I can only float on my back.

Kamla, the lovely little girl who helps me around the house, gets my breakfast around nine am. One boiled egg, two slices of wheat bread, and lime juice with honey. As I enjoy my first meal of the day, I notice the men dressed in crisp shirts and perfect trousers, rushing to catch their transport. Most of them carry a big bag with a computer inside. Very amusing, if you ask me. Imagine if everyone carried the tool of their work with them? I would have had to carry a 100 kilo weaving machine on my head. After I finished my school, my father sent me to the nearest city to complete my graduation. Although, he provided me enough money for college fee, food, and rent and my mother sent me regular parcels of clothes, I took up a job in the evenings. I wanted to be like the rest of the boys I studied with and till date, I am glad of the two years I spent working in the cloth mill. But in the third year, my father got to know of my job and he considered it a measly position for someone of my rank, which was being “the son of a rich moneylender”. I pleaded, but he paid no heed, and that is how I lost the chance of getting a job in Bombay Dyeing Mills and moving to city of my dreams, Bombay. I instead sat for the bank exams and got a position that made the moneylender family of mine very proud. The first time I went to Bombay was at the age of fifty three, when my son took a job there.

After the breakfast I take a nap, while sitting on my chair under the tree. But I wake up at twelve forty. My old body clock still works, and I wake to up see the young lady walk back home. I do not know her and am afraid that someday, one my friends is going to introduce her to me as his granddaughter. I do not want to know this girl because she is somebody I do not care about. Who I care about is the one she reminds me of. She ties her long hair in the same fashion as the girl who worked in the saree store next to the bank. She even dresses up like her, in salwar kameez, unlike most other girls today. But if my friends where to introduce me to this young lady of today, I am sure the mirror will crack. For it is impossible for someone to have eyes as innocent as hers. I first saw her at the nimboo-pani stall outside the bank. She was beautifully coy when she first looked at me, a very awkward young man. I soon found out that she worked nearby. After I had seen her multiple times at the stall, I attempted to smile as our eyes met. To my absolute surprise and unaccountable delight, she smiled back. That is when I lost my heart. But my mother would not listen of anything. She had already promised her sister-in-law and she always kept her word. I learned to love my wife, for she was a tremendously lovable person and a very good wife. But I never lost my heart again.

I lunch on simple vegetarian food – daal, sabzi, curd, and two chapattis. Kamla is a good cook, although she complains that her husband never compliments her for her culinary skills. She sits under the tree and shares with me her woes and joys as I finish my lunch. Her biggest woe is being unappreciated by her husband. I hope my wife never had this complaint. For she never expressed her opinions openly, unless it was about my request to cook her dinner. What had started as a necessity became a passion overtime. My roommate and I took turns to cook during college days. The initial three months were troublesome and then, I fell in love with the spices. Indian food is the best food, in my opinion. You can play with the numerous spices and alter the flavor, aroma, potency, and taste of something as ordinary as potatoes. My favorite spices are cinnamon and asafoetida. Since the first day of my marriage, I have wanted to cook a delicious meal for my wife; using my own recipes. But she was adamant, men are not supposed to enter the kitchen. It made them unmanly, she said. The first time I entered her kitchen was thirteen days after she passed away. God bless her soul.

In the evening, Kamla cooks dinner and then leaves. I also go out for a walk then. I chat with my retired friends and they usually complain how their kids or old wives control their day. But they do not trust me when I say that I am happy to be alone. They pity me for having children who are settled elsewhere and won’t have me. I do not care what they think anymore. I walk around the park and watch the little children playing on the jungle gym. My son was seven and my daughter three when we moved to Delhi. My bank had posted me to the head office along with my promotion. The salary in Delhi was the temptation that made me shift to that Godforsaken city. From day one, I detested its cultureless lifestyle, cold personalities, the need to be better than the one next to you . But my children loved it. They loved everything I disliked about Delhi. So after thirteen years, when I finally got a chance to move back to the hills, I announced it with great pleasure and a box of laddoos. But my children refused. They said they would rather live in a hostel than go back. And my wife would never hear of her kids living on hostel food. So I stayed in Delhi until my son moved to Bombay and my daughter married an American and moved to New Jersey. I went to Bombay, but not to my own house, as I had always dreamed but to my son’s house. My wife loved my son’s wife but she could not accept her lifestyle, which was a pole apart from hers. That is when I persuaded her to come back to the hills with me. My children visit me twice every year, and for those fifteen days I let them control my life again.

I refuse to dine in front of the television but I enjoy watching the show about world travel, therefore I eat an early dinner and then settle down to watch Ian Wright trek around the globe. In my next life, I am going to host a travel show.

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