She stood at the window, gazing out at the lilies in the pond and the cackling geese. The grass glistened with the wetness of the morning. Squabbling birds slowly rose up, their gray wings against the orange-tinted sky. How fresh and inviting it all looked! No matter how many years passed, they always seemed the same. Age did not seem to wither them, or perhaps it went by, not perceptible to an ignorant eye.
Just a little while ago, she had looked at herself in the mirror. Graying hair, crow’s feet, wrinkles, laugh lines-she had everything that would put her in that slot.
Old enough to use a walking stick, old enough to be a senior citizen.
Balancing a reed-like body as she tried to walk on a single railway track; climbing trees for juicy mangoes; playing hop-scotch on muddy lanes; graduating from lacy frocks to contour-hugging gowns; knowing the differences between a ‘real’ man and a normal one; the wonders of mascara and lipstick; the pleasure of arguing for the sake of argument; the joy of learning; the highs of being in love; the magic of motherhood; the satisfaction of feeding a child from her breast; watching her children grow; letting them free to find themselves…
She had also found herself, more of what she was, what she really liked to do. Every moment of her sixty-two years was worth re-living. Today, four children (three boys and one girl) and two grandchildren (one girl and one boy) later, she wondered about it all. Age has been digging her claws into my back all these years, and I barely realized.
What now? The children were well settled and happy with their families. Nothing to worry about them. There were many more things coming up: her grandson, Vinu, was starting school this June; her granddaughter, Mini, had already started to speak in full sentences at two.
She looked back at her husband, peacefully sleeping on the bed, dreaming about integrals and variables, she was sure of that. Age had not dimmed his passion for calculus, though mathematics had nothing to do with his career.
You must be so proud of your doctor-husband, people told her often. She was proud of him, but also loved the earnestness in his voice when he was listening to her and the way his eyes lit up whenever he looked at her. He had grown to be a part of her soul. Even when she slept, she knew a corner of her mind was always wondering about him, if he was safe. Love does that to you, she thought, makes sleeplessness a prayer.
She went into the kitchen to pour out a mug of coffee for herself. Doc, as she affectionately called him, would not be up at least for some more time. It was his day off from the clinic. Over the last few years, age had caught up with him as well, so he stopped seeing as many patients as he used to. He had settled down to a comfortable 9 AM to 11 AM and 6 PM to 8 PM shift. Weekends were strictly off. Will give me more time to work on my maths, he had announced. Silly Doc, he could not admit he was getting old, she smiled to herself.
Childhood seemed so far behind on the roads of memory. So many milestones met, so many journeys made, so many people met- now what? She mindlessly picked up the newspaper on the coffee table and started to browse at random. Her eyes fell on a picture of young men and women, dancing in a pub. Invincible and carefree, like youth usually is. If they knew where all that ends in, they would not be as carefree, she mused. Why did they not see it all- the boisterous energy to be replaced with lethargy, the boundless excitement to be replaced with gnawing ennui? She tossed the paper aside, part disdainful, part nostalgic. Anyway, she had work to do. Boredom was not an excuse to shirk your chores.
She went into the bathroom. Slowly, she reached for the warm water in the bucket and washed herself. She had to be careful, one slip and she could land in the emergency room of the local hospital. She bathed and dressed. She put the clothes from the hamper into the washing machine and asked the maid to keep an eye on the buzzer. She would probably not hear it, even if it blared like the pipe of Pied Piper. She settled down in her favourite chair to read. Not that she enjoyed it. The small print of most reading material plus the added weight of her glasses on her nose, made it very difficult for her to read. She put the book on her chest and dozed off.
Ten minutes later, she woke up with a start, an idea in her mind. She rose gently from her chair and walked with as much speed as her feet would allow, to Doc.
Doc, Please wake up! She tugged at his arm like a puppy.
Doc woke up, and reached for his glasses on the bedside table.
What is the matter, something wrong Princess? he asked , perching his glasses atop his nose.
Though she could not hear him, she continued, I just had an idea!
He beamed. Another of her brilliant ideas! He held her hand, waiting for her to continue. She rambled on and on, about the thing on her mind. Doc’s smile only got bigger and bigger.
I think it is a wonderful idea! I will talk to Ravi tonight, and see what we can do!
She watched the young men and women dance happily in their living room. What they were dancing to, she was not too sure, but she was happy.
Happier than she had ever been.
Doc winked at her from across the room. He was Master of Ceremonies tonight. She had never seen him this happy, either. It was their reintroduction to youth, their attempt at having another go.
Sitting in her baby seat at the dining table was Mini, playing with a piece torn from a newspaper. She could not read the words; or she would have known what they said:
Not so young couple invites young people, ages 14-25 for weekend get-togethers. No drinking, no smoking. Entry and dinner free. Contact : 45678234. Ask for Doc!