Monday, October 3, 2011

The Stranger – Part II

Read the first part here

Iam not sure if it was the old man’s tone or the fact that the tears were flowing across his face that made me listen to him without reacting back. People generally react by shooing away a stranger or be indifferent to him. But somehow, seeing the old man made me feel that I could relate to him on something. But I wasn’t sure what that was. Since we were standing at such close proximity, I could get a clear look at him. His age seemed to be slightly over 50-55 and he had very few hairs left on his head, a sign of old age. His face seemed crinkled with tensions and worldly worries and he sported a beard which grew uneven across his face. He was visibly thin made more visible by the fact that he was wearing an over sized kurta. The picture was complete with an old leather bag hanging on his shoulders which seemed to sag a little due to some heavy object kept in the bag.

“What do you want, Baba”, I asked him. (Baba is a salutation used to address elderly people)

“Help me out son.  I came here to visit my son but I have been tricked & my stuff stolen from me, and left like beggar on the roads. Saying so, he coughed violently. 

I thought that since he has come to visit his son and that he must have forgot his son’s address and got lost. Bangalore is a big city to find someone without an address or a contact number.  So, he basically wants me to help him find his son. A difficult task but at-least I can direct him to a police station. 

“Baba let me see what I can do”. Do you know where your son lives? Any address or other information?

“I had just an address with me. Now I have lost that too. That doesn’t matter now.” He replied 

His coughing seemed to re-occur frequently. I was amazed by how his fragile body could withstand such a heavy onslaught of bouts of cough. I asked him “Your coughing looks pretty bad. Are you alright?”

“Iam unwell & I haven't taken my medication for the last 2 days. In addition, this bad climate seems to be aggravating my situation”, replied the old man.

That’s too much of a gloom for a person to handle. Bad health, bad climate, lost hopelessly in a new place – a recipe for a perfectly un-perfect situation for any person.

“Why don’t you take some medication? That will improve your health”, I replied. 

“I have my personal doctor’s medication list but I can’t buy them” he said.

“Why? Aren’t the medicines available here?”  I asked

“I don’t have the money to buy it”, he said and started coughing again.

He seemed to be in a real bad shape and his frequent coughing was taking a toll on him. Definitely not a good place for him to be standing in the rain. My heart reached out to him, so I asked him “How much does the medicines cost. Let me have a look at that list”

The old man gave me a small chit from his bag. Few medicines were scribbled across the sheet. “Let’s buy these.” Saying so, I asked him to follow me and took him to a pharmacy shop across the road. 

The old man seemed to be startled or at least that’s what his face expression seemed to look like. The pharmacy was crowded but then this is the time of the year when the pharmacy guys makes a killing. The worse the climate, more the number of people who fall sick & hence more customers. As we waited for our turn, I asked him how he had turned up here.

“My son was working in the company here. 5 weeks back I got a call from India, saying that they wanted me to come down here regarding some important thing. My wife is old and is bed ridden in Kerala, that’s where our ancestral house is. They had conveyed the message to her initially. Because she is old, she couldn’t travel here. Last week, I got an emergency courier informing about this. I was busy with my work hence couldn’t get leave immediately, still I let my boss knew about the emergency and rushed back here”.  The crowd at the shop had lessened in the meanwhile, and I used the pause in our conversation to inform the pharmacist to give the required medicines. The pharmacist packed our medicines and I paid for the bill. Coming out of the shop, I handed the medicines to the old man.

“I thought all the people here are evil. Fortunately, even good exist. Good people like you”.  I didn’t know how to react to that one. I said “It’s not like that. There are a lot many good folks too”. I suggest that you take some medicines now. It will improve your situation. Saying so, I gave him my water bottle and he took few medicines and gulped them down. 

“My son would have been the same age as you now. He too was caring and understanding as you are“. Being made the point of adulation again, was proving to be embarrassing for me again. To divert our conversation to another topic, I asked him what had happened next after he arrived in Bangalore.

“I reached my son’s office and inquired about my son. They directed me to go to another office nearby to meet someone else.  I reached the place & when I tried to enter the office they said that I have to leave my luggage outside before entering it.  There was no one outside except two young people so I asked them to take care of my luggage and I went in. I was told to sign few papers after which I would be allowed to meet my son”.

He paused for a moment. 

“After signing the papers, I met my son & when I came out, all I could find was this old bag. Those tricksters had taken away my money, belongings, clothes etc. I looked all around but couldn’t find anyone”.

The old man really seemed to be very naive. Trusting someone with your belongings without any proof meant a clean sweep of one’s stuff. “By the way, did you ask them about the papers which you were asked to sign? 

“Oh, that. “I didn’t get time to read it, as they were forcing me to sign it quickly. They said that it’s routine paper work for any visitors. I was more interested in meeting my son, so I didn’t bother much about it”.  

There you go again. Signing a paper without reading it in India meant one thing. Being made a complete fool. I didn’t want to bother him further by saying this could mean more trouble later. This man seemed completely out of place. I got curious to know which part of India was he from as staying in India and still being oblivious of all these facts. “Where do you work?”

“Bahrain”, he replied.

So he had traveled from abroad and found himself in this situation. No wonder, the beard explained the place he came from. Then I recalled that he had said that he had met his son. Then why the hell did he leave his son. All he had to do was to go to his son’s office and meet him. His son would take care of him.

“You said you met your son. Why did you leave him there and returned back”, I asked

“I haven’t left him there. I have him with me”, saying so, he took out a small pot from his bag.

“What do you mean”, I asked him.

The old man said “My son died last month in an accident in his firm”. It dawned on me that when the old man had said that he had met his son, he had meant his son’s ashes in the pot which he had collected from his son’s company.

To be contd...


Mystic ray said...

Hey very emotive twist ...kya likhtehain app...U said only little hairs on the head ... signs of aging ... now a days ... even without olg age ... peoples hair getting grayed ... and baldness has become the sign of wisdom...:p

Pree said...

Finally Part II out..Interesting! Awaiting Part III... :)

ఉదయ్ శంకర్ యర్రమిల్లి said...

Eagerly waiting for part III..

And what a twist in the end da... I thought that this was the same incident that u shared with me sometime. but this turned out to be different in the end.. :)

Aragorn said...

@MR: Thank you. Yup, i agree with your point that judging someone by the remaining hairs on the head might be costly mistake! ;)

@Pree: Thanks :)

@Uday: Glad that you got twisted with the twist in the end :D