He entered into the restaurant as usual at around 12:30 pm and went straight to the last table that was reserved for him, without the reserved board kept on the table. He had his favorite newspaper- Indian Express with him. With a serious look on his face, he went and sat on the table that had just one chair. The waiter came quickly and kept a hot cup of tea even though there was no order placed.
“Sir, chapati and mix veg, today?”, The waiter asked
“Nah, I want alu gobi today, and please add dal also.”, said the old man, who was probably in his early seventies. With glasses on his nose and wrinkles that showed the number of years of experience that he had, he had an aura of an intellectual who had tasted life and all its shades.
“Yes Sir.” The waiter said and left.
He immersed himself in the newspaper with the same grave emotions intact. The crowd in the restaurant kept changing from school kids to college students to families according to different phases of time. But what remained constant was the old man sitting in the corner, unfazed by any happenings around him, with his teacup and his face into the newspaper devouring every bit of it.
It was almost lunchtime when the waiter slowly came and delivered the hot and sumptuous meal as ordered in front of his table. The old man smiled at the waiter, kept his newspaper aside, looked outside the window for a while and then towards the crowded restaurant full of people, some impatient about why their orders were delayed, some laid back customers enjoying their time involved in gossips, before eating his lunch.
None of the people bothered about him. He was someone who due to his very simple attire easily merged with the environment as well. With a pale blue shirt with grey pants and his slip-on, he looked relaxed and at ease. His presence there was equivalent to one of the pieces of furniture that just lies without any disturbance. The hotel staff knew very well how to serve their daily customer and hence the waiter was accustomed to serving him as per his taste.
However, there was someone among those pool of unknown faces who kept staring at this old man from time to time. He had come with his family; his wife, and three children all aged roughly between five to twelve years . The family had been there for their lunch. It seemed that they had been traveling somewhere with packed bags and the usual anticipation on the face of travelers to reach their destination was easily palpable. The man, though in a hurry while attending to every demand of his wife and the little ones was somehow curious about this silent figurine that sat calmly on the table having his lunch in perfect silence lost in his world.
The young man and his family finished having their food and after the man made the payment at the hotel counter, he slowly came near the old man, while his family had started leaving the hotel.
With a slight hint of hesitation in his tone, he said, ” Sir, very sorry to disturb you. I don’t know how to put it. I just had a Deja vu moment while I looked at you while having lunch with my family. It felt as if I am seeing my future in you. I have always wanted the calmness that you have now, the silence with which you are enjoying this moment is something that I crave for. I so want to be in your place right now and wish this moment of me-time to be all mine, I don’t know if I ever will have it or not. I don’t know if I am making any sense and if I should be saying this to you at all. But I just could not stop myself. I am extremely sorry to bother you.”
The old man looked at him and he smiled with warmth and said “It’s alright! I understand, this phase of family life gets a little hectic and we crave the peace that we all so desperately want. I am glad you shared your feelings. I think you are traveling somewhere.”
“Yes, yes. we are going to our native. My inlaws are not well and I need to be with them at any cost. This is again a responsibility. Life is all about responsibilities.”
“Are you coming or not? we are getting late.” the wife called out.
The man exchanged pleasantries and left.
It was late in the evening when the old man came back after his long evening walk and opened the doors of his small cottage. He freshened up, put on the Television with a little high volume, and went into the kitchen. He took about an hour or so to prepare his dinner and make other arrangements in the house. After his dinner, he took his medicine pills and it was time to hit the bed. He stood in front of a photo hung on the wall with a garland that adorned it. His better half had long succumbed to cancer . She had left him alone with only the memories of their togetherness, of their struggles, of their bitter fights, of their eventful nights, of their experience of creating a new life, of their journey of ups and downs of life. After few minutes of deep contemplation, he hit the bed. Just then his phone rang. It was his only daughter, who now was happily settled in another part of the world. Even the nights and days were not the same between the father and the daughter. She called up every day at the same time to know if her dad was doing well.
The old man answered the routine call and just before closing his eyes his mind wavered back to the young man who spoke to him today in the restaurant. He smiled to himself and his thoughts came alive in his mind.
‘What an irony! He wanted my calmness which is nothing but loneliness for me that I despise so much! And what he calls chaos and noise is probably the best phase of a family full of life and its unending demands. He wanted to be me , but who do I go and say that I want his chaos around me? That is the sole reason why I go to the restaurant every single day so that I can see life in front of me, immerse myself in the discord of life to feel lively, to feel the presence of my only daughter when I see cute little girls walking into the hotel holding the hand of their fathers just like my little one did, to experience the presence of my better half because that is where we had first met before confessing our love to each other. I was jealous of the time he was spending with his beautiful family. But can I ever say what I feel? No, never, I will be judged if I say so. And time as we all know just moves forward. I and my calmness… Dammit!’
After tossing in his bed a few times, and popping his sleeping pill, he tried hard to escape the melancholy calmness that was now his only friend and escape into his dream that probably mirrored celebrations of life.
Most of the times we tend to become jealous of what others have not realizing whether it is worth it or not.
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