Monday, April 13, 2020

A Fascinating Person

---500 words about a person who fascinates (fascinated) you.
As the days grew warmer, it made sense for me to walk earlier in the mornings than I used to. That is when I first noticed him, walking on the winding paths of our colony garden, R.K. Laxman’s common man grown old. To add to that endearing image was the cotton scarf that he had tied under his chin. There was something very appealing about this old man, who became a part of my morning landscape.
As the days warmed up, the scarf vanished, revealing a bald pate surrounded by a fringe of white hair. Thick glasses, a dull cream dhoti and kurta, and thick navy sneakers worn with dark gray socks were his everyday garb. After a few sightings I started wishing him, on my first round, with a silent ‘namaste’, which he equally silently reciprocated. I inevitably walked clockwise, and he walked anticlockwise, so of course our paths had to cross a few times. Since we were living in Covid times, close encounters of any kind were not desirable, and whenever our paths were due to intersect we would try to shrink into the hedges that lined our path. He would also hold his proximal arm behind him, to minimize the chance of an accidental bump. The only time I ever spoke to him was yesterday, when I pointed to his shoelaces and said, “Uncle,pheetey khule hain”. (Your shoelace is untied). He mumbled an acknowledgement and we both continued on our respective ways.
He walks with stooped shoulders, also bending forward from the waist. His walk is a strange dancing shuffle, which propels him quite quickly along his way. After I’d done a couple of rounds, I would spy him sitting on a particular low wall. The day I was very much later than usual I would, to my chagrin, see him sitting on ‘my’ bench, where I sat and did my knee exercises.
A couple of times I saw him leaving the park with a man whom I recognize but do not know. I assume that he is living with his son. I also assumed a rural background, though I could not envisage him as a patriarch. He looks as though he had been, for much of his life, a younger brother, someone who has bowed to the commands of others. He didn’t look as though he could ever have been strict or authoritarian: perhaps even his own children called him Chachaji rather than Babuji, which used to be common in joint families. (Both my grandmothers were universally known as Chachi). I can also see him as a benevolent grandfather, as someone whose lap grandchildren clamber onto, demanding a story or a toffee from his special stash, or just five rupees to buy an ice-lolly with. I can see him absent mindedly petting his son’s dog. Is he modern enough for his daughter-in-law to not have to cover her head in his presence? I hope so.
I hope he never knows how much thought he has inspired!

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