Back then, she used to run outside at the very onset of rain. Walking barefoot just to splash about in the muddy water, letting the joy flow out from someplace inside her. What is it about rain that unleashes hidden happiness in people? She couldn’t tell. But she knew for certain that before the showers ended, she would almost become enlightened. Or rather, enlivened.
But that was a long long time ago. Now, she couldn’t run even if she wanted to. The pain in her knees got harder to bear as the days passed. So she’d be happy just to watch the rain from the bedroom window, smiling wistfully at the blurry view. Life at 60 did offer its share of modest joys. She tried to forget, if only for a while, the nauseating smell of Tiger Balm which was essential if she were to get by with all the joint ache. Some days, her arthritis got worse. To distract herself, she lavishly treated herself with black coffee. Her deceased husband used to say with a laugh, “Make me some coffee…it can cure loneliness”. Nevertheless, he passed on and left her behind in a big beautiful house that seemed lesser and lesser like a home with each passing day. Drinking coffee several times a day she felt, was a way of connecting with his departed soul. Exclusive Columbian coffee sent as a customary gift from their son Arun, who was ‘happily settled’ in the US. She smiled at the thought of him. Smart young man he was. Working in a highly established mobile company, married to an intelligent young lady who was teaching at a primary school and father to an adorable young lad. She met them often on Skype. The pleasure of hearing the little one babble endlessly…thank God for technology, she used to think at times.
The photos hung on the wall appear lifeless now. The one clicked on their 25th wedding anniversary – both of them almost on the verge of spitting out laughter! She remembered it clearly…how Arun cracked a stupid joke just to make them smile. Then there was the one of their son and his gorgeous bride on their wedding day, the one taken on their grandson’s first birthday, Arun’s graduation, her husband’s retirement, 60th birthdays, the one of Arun and Meera in front of the Taj Mahal…so many memories. Funny how we try to freeze time and yet can’t relive those moments. If these weren’t enough, there were photo albums to pore over…but what’s the point if it just made her feel even more lonely? She sighed and stepped into the kitchen. Coffee time!
A hot cup of coffee, a couch and a book – these were her daily companions now. Photographs and phone calls were jealous friends who came once in a while to taunt her. But books…they were reliable. They would stay until she felt better. She scanned the book shelf in the study. R K Narayanan, Salman Rushdie, Agatha Christie, Shakespeare…who was going to give her company this evening? She picked Agatha Christie’s ‘And Then There were None’. “Detective novel…this would lighten me up”, she thought.
Ting Tong. She slowly got up from the couch, and went to open the door. “Who could be visiting me at this hour?”, she thought. It was a Sunday, so she wasn’t expecting the domestic help or the postman. Who else would visit an old woman?
“Grandma, can I come in?” The voice belonged to a sweet little girl of about five years. She had never seen her before. “Of course, you may. Come right in!”, she replied. “I’m new around here. We moved in to the house next door. Your house looks pretty nice from outside. And you have the most beautiful roses! So I thought I’d come in and make friends!”, the girl explained before she was asked. Grandma smiled and said, “Well hello, you’re my new friend now. What may I call you?”
“My name’s Tara. You may call me Twinkle if you like”, said the new little friend and flashed a million-dollar smile.
“That’s a beautiful name. So Twinkle, you like chocolate?”
And thus began a beautiful friendship. Untainted by material grandeur, unmatched in its resplendent innocence. Twinkle became the lone star on her horizon, lighting up her days with pleasant chatter and unending questions. Why do roses have so many colours, why do plants become tall, why do trees spread their branches, why do flowers die…? Together they walked and talked, and shared life’s little puzzles and mysteries. As the seasons changed, their friendship grew strong and steady. One night before drifting off to sleep, she spoke to her husband like she used to everyday. “Twinkle…aaah you must meet her! She’s a brilliant little girl. When she’s around, I forget my arthritis. I feel like it’s family again. Wish you were here”. Sometimes I guess, God sends us small bundles of happiness, just so we can get by in this fast uncaring life. Like someone said, happiness reveals itself in places where we least expect to find it. Like a butterfly. Or a mushroom that sprouts under fallen tree trunks. It’s like when you become old, really old, you forget that your glasses are on your nose. And you being forgetful as you are, go around all over the place looking for your glasses, when all the while they were there – perched comfortably on your nose.
Photo Courtesy: Dana (https://www.flickr.com/photos/roseannadana/15302699032/in/photostream/)