Ms./Mrs. Random Old Lady
The footpath near St. James School
I don’t know if you still live at this address. I don’t know your name. I think you might have died. You were quite old then, and it’s been almost eight years since that day I met you. I remember being sad. Before I met you. After I met you. There are flavours to sadness just like there are in coffee- there’s latte sadness, for the time when,say, you lose one of your favourite pair of earrings, and then there is a double ristretto, a dark,brooding mess, when you feel everything that you have is slipping away. My sadness that day was somewhere in between, when I casually walked out of the house, hoping no one would see that, in reality, I was storming out.
I remember walking aimlessly, the only direction in my mind: Away. Away from death, away from morbidity, away from the endless discussions centred around a few lines of a medical diagnosis. Now, I can’t even remember who it is that was ill. So many have passed, they’re all blurred in my head. I only know that they loved me, and I must have loved them as well.
So I walked. Past giggling school students, teashop owners, women with vegetable-laden shopping bags- their damp blouses letting the light brown of their skin peek out in places. I moved as if in a dream, contemplating life and death until that great equalizer, hunger, played its drums in my stomach. Descending from plane infinity to ground zero, I stopped at a tea stall, gazing at people who seemed far too happy, especially through the mist in my eyes.
Perhaps, I noticed you because you were staring at me. Rather, not at me, but at the biscuit in my hand. I’m writing to you today because I don’t want you to keep thinking I bought you the biscuits because I cared, or anything like that. I was just a self-obsessed teenager wanting something to come and set her world right again. Even when I sat down next to you, I was jealous of you. Jealous of how cheaply your happiness could be bought. Ten rupees. Why couldn’t I have it too?
Well, I did get some of it. When you patted my head and smiled, still lost in your own little world where dinner would be biscuits. But I was greedy, I wanted all of it. I wanted to push away all the sadness. Even for a little while. I went home soon after that and told them all about it. Told them how happy it made you ,and how happy it made me. The thing about happiness, I think, is that when you see people happy,you desperately want to be a part of it, at least for a while. Just for a while, no one spoke of death and darkness and doctors. They spoke of biscuits, and kindness, and gifts.
Now I’m older, and when I look back, I’m not so sure. Of you, your happiness, my happiness. I only hope you’ve moved to a better address. Because I do care, a little bit.
*Published on The Scribbled Stories*