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Posted on April 6, 2010 in Short Stories & Poems

Jubin Mehta:

A finicky old man used to wander around the park every morning. His skin was saggy and he wore the same old ragged clothes. He looked tired but always had a glimmer of hope upon his face with a twinkle in his eye. He was unshaven for days and his beard had grown ragged because of negligence. He used to sit at a park bench and stare at the butterflies or the flowers. Sometimes he’d get up and pick up a leaf with some struggle and stare at it for hours together. The particular bench on which he sat was the only one from where he could see everything. People never noticed him. Small children were amazed when they looked at him as he kept staring at nothing in particular. They’d play this game with him. The kid who could go nearest to him would win. The parents grew concerned and did not allow their children to go near this man even though he hadn’t moved a muscle. The fragile man looked absolutely innocuous but the people gave him uncomfortable looks and made it clear that his presence was not appreciated. He was labelled a creep; no one tried to understand him or at least give the matter a second thought, not that he was asking for any consideration. He sat there serenely lost in his memories.

I long for the time that went by. I want to relive the moments I remember and a few others which I dreamt and dream about. I long for my mother’s touch on the forehead which felt like a tender leaf caressing my skin. I long for the smell of my love which smelt like the early morning marigold. I see the butterflies fly and I remember the days that sped by me. I see the children giggle and I remember the carefree laughter. I watch the branches sway and I remember about all those people who came into my life and swayed away; branches that touch the surface of the water creating ripples and then move away. I long to be able to carry myself and not be a burden on people.

The next day he came to the same place but to his surprise the park wasn’t there. Instead, he found a big old house in its place. He looked bewildered and started to fidget with his eyes in an effort to make them work properly. But nothing happened. He started to move around in circles, scratching his head. Looking at his consternation, a man walking outside by the gate asked him, “What seems to be the trouble Mr.Reddy?”

“Huh?”

“Yes, I’m talking to you. Can I help you?”

“There used to be a park here. Can you tell me where it is now?”

“This is your house Mr.Reddy! You stay here. It has been here for the last two decades! Are you okay?”

“Yes yes, thank you. I’m pretty okay I guess. I’ll go inside and sit on the bench.”

The writer is a story-teller at Youth Ki Awaaz.

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