The room was clean and airy. The fan was noisy and as it whirled round and round, it seemed as if the squeaking sound kept increasing. The tick-tock of the clock brought the day closer to her, slowly and painlessly killing the night.
She awoke as the bold ray of light made its way into the room, falling on her eyes and nearly blinding her. She sat up, her sore limbs reminding her of how waking up was more difficult than dying each day. A tear trickled down her small, wrinkly face. It was her first day in Thikana Shimla, the old age home. Surprisingly, she had a good night’s sleep, she thought. She blinked slowly, lazily. When she was 20, she hadn’t been able to imagine how old age would be. Now that she was 72, she couldn’t remember vividly, how youth was. The years had zoomed by, she felt. And yet, she knew at some moment in the day she’d feel as if time was moving ahead at the pace of the slowest of all snails. She wasn’t scared of ageing or dying, just bored. Life without him was nothing. And right now, more than the warmth of her old duvet, more than the familiar yellow walls of her room, more than her special morning tea, more than the beautiful, lively laughter of her grandson, she missed him. Her husband.
Locking away the faint, fading memories of her past in a tiny box in the corner of her mind, she got up. She made her way to the bathroom. Smaller than what she was used to, it took her time to make room for her toiletries. After arranging her things in a way that felt like home and taking a shower, she sat on the armchair in the corner. She was out of breath and tired, already. Taking a shower is a painful job these days, she thought. Nursing her aching knees, she hummed to herself. She liked the tune she was humming, though she was unaware where she had heard it. Was she forgetting things now? Her brow furrowed. As much as she didn’t mind wrinkles and wobbly feet, she sure didn’t like losing her memories.
She thought of reading her Bhagavad Gita placed neatly in the corner of her side table. She picked it up, opened it, sighed and placed it back. Her weak eyes made it difficult for her to enjoy reading. She got up from the bed and made her way to the garden. I wish I could fly, she thought just as she had thought when she was a little girl.In the corner of the garden, she found a quiet spot. She hobbled her way to the wooden bench and sat down, panting.
When I need him the most, he isn’t here. No person should ever be lonely in this big chaotic world. A tear again slipped her eye and fell on her faded dress. She wiped it and was extremely frustrated with her weakness. Does emotional weakness also creep in with old age? She thought.
Lost in her reverie, she didn’t notice an old little man who had come over and sat beside her.
“Hello.” He said. She jumped at the sound of his voice and after a moment gave him a feeble smile. “Are you okay?” he asked. She gave a nod and looked down at the tear stained dress. They sat in silence until the sun went up high in the sky. “Should we head back for lunch?” He asked. She nodded.
As she was about to stand up, her wobbly legs gave way. The little old man caught her hand and helped her sit down. Her eyes clouded with unstoppable tears and she hated how helpless she was.
“We are all in this together, you know. We are all one family. And it’s okay to help out each other. And it’s okay to be weak and frail. Honestly, I have made the best of my friends here and it’s only here that I have cherished my old age.” He said softly. She looked up at him. She gave a small smile and wiped away her tears. She stood up and held out her hand.
They slowly walked inside, supporting each other. She walked inside, a braver being and at the start of a new phase of her withering life. And he walked inside with a new friend he had made for a lifetime.