It was just another day, two years ago- an ever busy street under the slight drizzling rain and I was waiting at the bus stop for a friend of mine. As usual he had kept me waiting well over fifteen minutes and to ward off boredom, I was just staring at random people and cars and the rain. That was when I saw an old man walking alone in my direction from my right.
Now, the place where I was standing was something like a shed that extended between the awning of the shops behind me and the bus stop in front. The old man, who was probably in his late sixty’s or early seventy’s was walking under the awning of a shop. The reason I noticed him was cause of the way he was walking; he took the smallest steps possible and it was so obvious from his face as to how painful and strenuous a task it was. There was a gap of probably three or four feet between the awning he was under with the one that I was standing under. He didn’t have an umbrella with him and he was about to cross that gap. For a person walking normally, the crossing over would be a cake walk and would barely get wet under the rain. But seeing the way he was walking, I was sure he would take at least a minute.
I had an umbrella in my bag and just as he got under the rain, my hands instinctively went to the zip of my bag, all the while keeping my eyes on him. Just then he looked at me and I just froze. Just like that! I couldn’t move my hands, let alone open my bag and grab the umbrella. I couldn’t move a single muscle in my body, no matter how much I willed. My eyes kept locked to his, as he took each of those painful steps, getting drenched under the rain. He looked at me with so much pain that it kind of stung me. His eyes sought help, which I was dying to give, but due to some bloody reason, I couldn’t. And soon enough he was under the awning and he walked on upstairs into a shop. And I stood frozen just staring.
As soon as I got back my senses, I don’t think I have ever felt as bad as I did at that particular moment. I wanted to kill myself for what I did; or rather, for what I didn’t do. I still have no idea why in the frigging seven hells did I just freeze like that. Just then my friend appeared and I recounted my experience to him and was almost at the verge of tears. He kept on saying something like it was okay, but all I could think of was that man. There was something about him that I just couldn’t let go. When I say an old man, don’t picture a frail old man. He was obviously from a very well off family, dressed really well and looked quite handsome for his age and perfectly healthy, except for the way he was walking. There was something about the way that he looked at me that it kind of gripped my soul.
I was half listening to whatever my friend was saying when I saw him coming out of the shop. I kept staring at him as he passed by me, and stood in front of me,facing the road. It had stopped raining and I completely ignored my friend and went to the old man.
‘Appooppa ,( grandpa in malayalam) do you want some help?’, I asked.
‘Ha kid. I wanted to go get photostats from the shop on the other side of the road. I just don’t know how I’m gonna do that’, he told, staring doubtfully at the road.
‘Don’t worry, I’ll help you cross’
I gave him my hand and as he took it and held it so tight and firm, something in me blossomed.
As I offered to help, I didn’t give the slightest thought to how much of a busy street I was helping him to cross. Being a junction and a bus stop, it was always a cumbersome task to cross that particular city road. But, at that particular moment, I came face to face with one of the things that I truly believe in-what you give is what you get. It was one of those roads,where normally one had to stand for minutes and minutes at the middle, before someone would be kind enough to stop their vehicle for you and even then you had to run for it to reach the other side. But the moment I stepped on to the road, holding his hand, every single vehicle stopped for us to let us cross. We didn’t have to rush. In fact, we walked as if we were a grandpa and grand kid taking a stroll in the park. It took probably one or two minutes, and we talked every second of the way. I was totally taken aback when he started talking to me in English!! It’s not often that you come across a sixty year old that makes you fumble on your English, with his such perfected one.
He asked me my name, what I did and why I was there and he also told me about how he fell on the stairs and strained his back,thus the difficulty in walking. He told me where he lived, which was quite nearby. We talked about something or the other too and as we reached the other end , he thanked me ever so gratefully and left to get his photostat. I really wanted to stay and make sure he reached home safe and sound but my friend prevented me from it saying it would be too much and added something about invading his privacy or something. And I was in a daze and I just left with him.
I know what happened that day wasn’t anything extraordinary. It was a very normal thing and there are a lot of people who help out the elderly. Even I have, several times before too. But there was something about him that just left him imprinted in my mind. The way he took hold of my hand, it was like he placed all his trust in me. He was probably triple my age and yet he held on to me blindly, like a child would hold on to his/her elders. He must have took his children and/ or grandchildren on many such walks. But right then, at that moment, he was doing it again,but this time the roles were in reverse and it was a stranger that held his hand.
Thinking back about that day, I can’t help but ponder about how much we all need somebody in life. You could have all the education in the world, you could be the richest( he was both rich and well educated, am sure), you could even be the President of the United States of America, yet if you are in your old age and you fall down the stairs, you will need someone to help you walk. We all go about our lives giving importance to everything in life from wealth to education to a career, but forget to even consider the most important of it all-people. We go on about pretending our entire life that we don’t need anyone. But deep down inside, don’t we know that we all need someone, at some point or the other? Then why the hatred, all that ego and that too especially at the people who should matter the most?
No matter how much I helped him out later, I will never be able to forgive myself for letting him get drenched in the rain. Every time I went along that same road, I wished I could just see him one more time, though I don’t know for what or why. Due to some reason he impacted me in an unfathomable way. And I’ll always remember him-the way he looked, the way he held on to me and the white and blue striped shirt and black pants that he wore.
Image credits: Google