I wrote this when I was on my mobile in a train in Chennai and was feeling very loquacious. I don’t know. Just changed some not very grammatically correct sentences with decidedly incorrect sentences. And that is all.
Notes- In my family, the child is named after their grandfather. (Because it takes too much time to make up a new name.) Anyway, ASSUME that both the main characters in the story are named Seshan. After that you can assume whatever you want. ^_^
The story now.
‘Mama, what happens when we become old?’ asked a pensive Seshan to his uncle as they left the room. They had just left the room of their grandfather, an exceedingly old man. Wrinkles creased his skin, eroded by the passage of many years of time. His once proud torso was bent now, his cauliflower ears flapped uselessly, and his mouth opened and closed, no sound, no music.
‘When you become old, Seshan, you…’
The world is cold… so cold. But my teeth have forgotten to chatter, my hair has forgotten to rise, my life has forgotten to take notice.
Three blankets are wrapped, like a python over an unsuspecting victim, slowly tightening, slowly munching, slowly digesting.
Everything is slow today. The clock near my left arm takes an hour to move a second, a day to move an hour.
Time hasn’t grown, alas, as I have. It smells of youth, perfumed days and perfumed nights, the smell of a butterfly taking flight, the fragrance of the food being prepared.
There are people in front of me, of course. A woman in a sari, a woman in some other sari, three large men, and the littlest child.
It looks at me with big brown eyes. My eyes. Brown eye looks at brown eye, neither blinking, neither staring. The young brown eyes look at the old brown eyes, one pair brims with carefree innocence, the whole world prepared for them to survey, the other brims with water, the tear ducts have forgotten how to work, they have seen and seen but now forget how to see, they just look.
They are saying some things, these people. But I don’t hear anything but snatches. ‘94%’ shouts one disembodied voice. ‘Arts’ shouts another. ‘Looks like appa’, and I smile. ‘Sings very well!’ they say. But I don’t look at them; I only look at the child.
He looks like me, I think. Memories jostle for space in my brain, they hurt my head so. Yet I persist in them, looking, examining, and hallelujah!! There, me. In black and white and with a frown on my face, but undoubtedly me. The memory of me looks at me sternly, like young men are oft to do when thrust at with a camera. My nerves caress it, slowly touching and feeling their way across the treasure, the old memory of a young me.
Enormous relief courses through me. Yet again I have kept age at bay, once again I have fought off its siege, yet again I have remembered.
Yes, the child looks like me, but I don’t care. My joy keeps them voices away, and I cackle with laughter.
My heart pains. How long, I wonder, before I forget completely? How long, I muse, before my heart forgets to beat? Not today, though. Today I live.
The child is talking now. The others are clapping. I cannot hear him; but he sounds good. His eye is still on mine when he is ushered away, and summoning all my energy I raise my hand in blessing and in greeting and in goodbye.
‘Bah’ I manage, but the woman in the sari is crying. And I smile, I smile until little me, until little Seshan goes. I hear that voice again. It is soft, but I am prepared.
‘Mama, what happens when we become old?’
Go forth, Seshan. Live and live and one day you’ll know the answer. You’ll know as I know, Seshan, you’ll live as I live.
‘When you become old, Seshan you…’
Seshan- rather popular name.
And no, my grandfather was luckier than me and did not get my horrid name. I eesh, they say, an exception.