Lifeless eyes stare at the half-cut tablet that’s in the palm. There’s little idea about what’s been just been given to him. He lifts his head up and looks at the man who just placed the half-tablet in his right hand. “It’s a tablet, eat!” shouts the man. There’s little change in the many creases that have formed on the forehead of the old man with lifeless eyes. He doesn’t recognize the man who just shouted at him. He doesn’t recognize his own son. The old man silently pops the tablet into his mouth, swallows it and goes back to sleep.
He’ll be staring at the oblivion for the next ten hours. These ten hours are going to be extremely tiring for the people around him. For sleep is something the old man isn’t blessed with anymore. Old age has brought myriad health problems to a man who has been to a hospital only thrice in life – two of which were after he crossed an age of 94. At 98, he is physically healthier than 98 percent of his counterparts. Every single person from the clan, belonging to his generation is now dead. He’s the last of them all!
His son, his daughter-in-law will be spending the night with one eye and one ear open. It’s just another night for them. They’d be anxious. What if the old man falls somewhere? What if he pees on the walls that hold the main door of the house thinking it’s the toilet? What if he does that in the kitchen instead of the main door?
The old man will pull out his sole shirt, two towels and two ‘panche’s (the dhoti) out of his red bag that always lies under his sofa – the sofa on which he sits the whole day counting his days, or does he? He will then fold every piece of cloth he just pulled out of the bag and rearrange everything in the bag. He’ll next pull his purse out and check if there’s money in it. Ask him and he’ll tell you there’s 16 rupees in the purse. You can’t convince him that it’s actually 600 rupees that lies in his purse. Once he’s done inspecting the purse, he’ll roll it in his panche and starting humming his mantras. You can make out they’re mantras (hymns) if you know his background. He has spent more than 60 years as a priest. Mantras have been his partner for life, more than his own wife. His son will get tired of all these and turn the lights on. The old man will realize that he’ll be asked to sleep or even be scolded for being awake at such late hours not letting others sleep. He’ll just lie down to fool the people around him, to make them think he’s asleep, to save himself from any sort of scoldings from people who he doesn’t recognize.
The sun will rise again in a few hours and the old man will wake up from his 2 hour-long sleep. He’ll pull his bag out, rearrange the clothes, check his purse and politely request his son to send him off to his hometown “Channagiri” or may be “Davanagere”. He’ll request them to put him off in an autorickshaw, that he’ll somehow manage to reach someone’s house, that we’ve helped him by taking care of him overnight, that he’ll be indebted to us forever. He’ll tell us he just wants to go to someone he can call his own.
The people around him will feel confused. They laugh at the old man’s plight. The son will call up his brothers next week to tell the collective stories. They’ll all have good hour of laughs. Yet, they’ll all feel sad. For they all know how active and mentally stable the man was for the first 96 years of his life. They are also scared somewhere inside, that they may end up like that at a lesser age. They are scared about a future where they are unsure if their kids will take care of them as well as they take care of their father.
“What could be going on in the old man’s mind?” wonders the grandson. He feels sad that the old man is going through all this at such an age. A man who lived like a Lion doesn’t deserve to spend his last few years like a Circus Lion, with ringmasters around him telling him where to sit, where and when to pee. The grandson feels that the old man doesn’t deserve such a lonely life despite having 8 kids and 15 grandchildren and 9 great-grandchildren. He can’t recognize most of these people most times. And when he does recognize, the moment just lasts an hour or two. Feeling sad the grandson remembers this line by Captain Barbossa in Pirates of the Carribbean – At World’s End:
“…You know, the problem with being the last of anything, by and by, there’ll be none left at all.”
The grandson finishes the blog.