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That Old Lady!

Walking down the path towards my canteen in the research centre, cursing my teachers as well as my seniors for doing something wrong (or maybe right) with me. Thinking about how I had to regain my health and to be fit again. Preoccupied with many thoughts. Many scenarios for evening duty playing in my mind. Many facets of it which made me think constantly that how I had reached where I was. Thinking deeply about some of them and superficially about others (making a mental note to deal with them later). Thinking about how my life would have been different if I was born in a different country or with different ambitions I was stopped by That Old Lady.

                                                   An old but beautiful smile with creases all over her face, yellow glistening teeth, humped back, grey hair, wearing an old saree, carrying a thermos flask in her hand and an age-old pair of sandals on her feet. She stops me in between and asks my name and designation. First Reaction - I was stunned, not because she scared me in any way but by the way she approached me. So I think I should put it again for you -  An old but beautiful smile with creases all over her face, yellow glistening teeth, humped back, grey hair, wearing an old saree, carrying a thermos flask in her hand and an age-old pair of sandals on her feet, her skinny hand suddenly rising and holding my chin in affection. Yes, it was pure affection.
                                                                              So, as I was saying that she asked me my name and designation in the College. As I had practised for the past three months (for various bureaucratic purposes) I answered. Smiling with that beautiful face she introduced herself, telling me that she was the oldest employee of our college who had worked here for at least 40 years. She described the time when she was young and used to go to the Forensic department for work. She described all those great people who had worked in my college and made that department one of the finest in India. Describing her zeal and interest to meet new people she chatted with me for at least fifteen minutes. During that long chat (as it was for the first time) she described almost all her duration of work in college - telling how new blocks had come up, What was the size of this college when she joined, how some of the HODs liked her and used to gift her sarees on festivals, how she would go to the same place every day for lunch with her colleagues. It was really fascinating to see this complete stranger just standing and talking to me about the good time she had in her past. For some of you, it might be just wastage of my fifteen minutes but not for me. For me, it was a wonderful experience to observe her objectively and also to see how and why a stranger can trust another stranger so much that they become sort of friends in the first meeting which lasted just for 15 minutes. I say, friends, because even now I meet her regularly, greet her properly as she is too senior not to be given respect. She asks about my well being and talks about the stuff she did during the day. How still she goes and has her lunch in her old department with her old and some of the new juniors who have replaced her old friends. 

                                                       The reason why I write about her is that despite being around seventy-five years old she still has that spark in her eyes. The spark to live. The will to come walking with a humped back and meet new people. A wish to be around her own folks despite all the difficult times she might have faced due to or with them. She has that boldness to stop a complete stranger and talk to him about who she is and how she has come to where she stands. Also, there might be a different side to it when I go more objective about it. The reason why she comes here might be because she misses her days as a worker in that department. It might be because she is alone in life or not getting enough respect at home, which makes her naturally drawn towards the only place where she has gotten it or the reason might just be that she wants to be that young woman again who once not just walked but flew down the flight of stairs, who once had so many things to do in life, who once had high hopes and great aspirations for herself, who was the queen of someone's heart, who was always the problem solver, who once was the centre of attraction wherever she went.
                                                                  As the sun sets on life people do unexpected and unpredictable things. I have seen a living example of it in my own grandfather who actually turned into a comedian (not professionally)  and stopped worrying about almost everything. They are naturally attracted towards who they were or what they wanted to be. Maybe that's the simplest of explanations of her excursions towards Forensic Department on the third floor of our college. 
                                                                         In the end whatever it might be the experience I had by meeting her was an eye-opener for me, which was that someday (I hope after a long time) I'll be old. I might have a hump and support those yellow glistening teeth. I might find people to talk with me. I might be That Old Lady all over again. So, the realisation is that I should live my life to fullest in the present instead of worrying what would happen tomorrow, without worrying what would people say if I do something which is unconventional, how would I go against my culture by not abiding by certain rules of society. Instead of worrying about how my past is I should be more focused on doing everything smartly and right in present and hence paving a path for a better legacy than my peers. Life is a race but that's not all it is. Life is a gift which has not just to be lived, but felt, seen, breathed and all the other sensations. It was and never will be about going to work, earning and coming back to a cosy bed. It's about being compassionate to others, being helpful and kind to others. It's about being at peace and caring about others. It is about being That Proud Old Lady.


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