Last week I was traveling after a long while and by train. The railway station intrigues me. The bringing together of myriad basic life forms, minus the loud same-ish-ness of flaunting, commonly seen at the airports. The platform is an unassuming space that seems to be blending in with all the elements so well that if you tried perhaps to get inside the train and close your eyes to think of all that you'd been through till you boarded, it would be a blank.
Generally it is a blank for me too. Except an image that transpired right before my eyes as I walked down the underground tunnel (common to U.P. stations) behind G, who was behind the porter, carrying our luggage to the parking lot. Unknown faces passed by, a part of the ever growing census. Individuals carrying not just their luggage but the excess baggage of aspirations and disappointments.
And right before me trotted an elderly couple. The husband balancing himself on shaky legs, struggling perhaps under the burden of worn off bent limbs, arthritis or vericose veins and the likes; and his wife following him, short of breath and with the support of a stick. Both would be in their seventies at least, if not more. And the man in addition to dragging his body onto the incline of the plateau, was also clearly troubled by the constant holler he had to make to the 'coolie' to go slower.
I walked along side as the elderly lady in old Multani language, reminded her husband that the porter was carrying all their luggage and he must hurry up. The man said he was trying to but told her to go slow or her knees would buckle up. And after a minute or two of awwing and witnessing this, I finally decided to speed up my steps, asking Seeya to tug along faster and ran up to the porter - a young man in obvious hurry, so he could be grabbed on by the next prospective customer.
Life usually gives us chances to do a good deed for the day, as we're passing by. But it gives us only a split second of time to decide whether we're up to it or not. I usually let such chances pass by. Because maybe I'm driving and I go ahead when I should stop that minute. Or when I'm walking down the stairs and cross by the room already and not bother to stop. I've lived to regret those stupid decision makings. When I would have given just five minutes perhaps of my life and made a difference, again to my life more than anyone else's. For I'd only leave them with a momentary smile.
Anyway, I ran up to this young man who was probably singing "saare duniya ka bojh hum uthate hain" in his head. I asked him to stop and go slow thinking of the age of the couple who were so evidently hassled by the effort of keeping up with him. The young man smiled almost apologetically and I smiled back. I exhaled. Thank the Lord. Goodness is not yet dead. I had half expected a rude retort of "minding my own business" from him. He stopped. They caught up. G turned around and stopped for me too. And I waved to him to keep moving and I'll be there in a jiffy. I received smiles from the couple as they plodded on and the relief on their faces was such a reward. And in that one minute I had felt a bit of that rare delight in my heart, not realised even after materialistic possessions.
Though also I shuddered within at that momentary thought of coping up with old age. The fears, the helplessness, the dependency, the burden of carrying happier, carefree and better memories, the need for feeling useful and wanted. It's a scary thought. Scarier than the first signs of wrinkles appearing on my face and my first lot of white hair. Despite all our efforts and hopes of ensuring a comfortable old age, are we really sure what's in store for us?
When I walk at an unmatched speed during my evening sojourns, I often wonder when in time I would join the ranks of those marked by slow sauntering. How the wheels of life move and the cycle takes over! My parents have recently started coming for evening walks to the HBTI too. Age has made their steps slower and gait unsure. A sight that leaves me with a pang in the heart if I witness it for too long. It's the world's most terrible feeling - watching your parents grow old. Mum asked me to walk with her and after dabbling with it for a few minutes, I told her she was way too slow and whisked past.
Though in the same instance, on those rare occasions, when Seeya comes with me for a walk, I move like a tortoise, matching steps with her. We keep bending backwards for our children as our parents take a backseat. So very sadly. But then that's how it's meant to be. There will be a future when Seeya would rather match steps with her children than her much older parents. The cycle should prepare us for that, though it seldom does.
Let's hope old age for all of us is peaceful despite all unpredictability, despite our dogged confidence at having prepared ourselves for it. Keep our parents strong and children wise and us, loved. That's all that really matters, doesn't it?