Old Man and the World

​That day was a well spent one, as I got to play with my new toy, a brand-new DSLR camera. Whole day I clicked snaps of silly and useless things just to check out the features of my new gadget. By the evening I was damn tired and to worsen the situation I had to board an overcrowded train to get back home.

Thus I ended up standing at the doorstep of an overcrowded Intercity Express, trying hard to fit into the millimetre space I managed to get. “Huh… what a hectic rush”, I mused silently after a quick scan of those faces which mercilessly invaded my personal space and tickled the nape of my neck with their hot breath. I tried to shrug off my thoughts and the air stinking with perspiration and sweat. The train soon caught up speed and lush greeneries flashed past me, soothing my tired eyes. Then all of a sudden, out of nowhere, a song came and struck my ears. It was an awful rendering of “Maanasa maine varu…” in a screeching noise. I immediately started searching for its origin, the singer, who has mercilessly killed one of the most soulful song I have ever heard. From the clarity of the sound I sensed that it’s source cannot be that far. With my head tilted in various angles, I peeped into all the void spaces left by the standing passengers and after 5 minutes of craning and tilting the head in angles ranging from 0 to 180, I finally found him.

The singer was an old man of late 50s who sat on the corridor space created between the toilets and the vestibule connecting the next compartment. With much difficult, I made my way to him to have a better view. The old man wore a dirty tattered t-shirt and almost torn mundu. He sat on the dirty floor like it’s the loveseat of his penthouse. He smiled at me pleasantly for I was the only person who paid some attention to his noise or song. I returned him the smile and searched for my newly bought camera for I couldn’t resist the temptation of taking a snap of this interesting man. I asked him through gestures whether I could take his snap. He nodded his head in agreement and I clicked his picture. I must say, he posed quite well. He cleared his voice and offered me with a raised voice, “You can take more pictures if you want”. I chuckled at his offer and replied a polite “it’s enough”. I returned back to stand near the doorstep.

I stood near the door, holding the handle bars for support while enjoying the way wind played with my hair, as if it’s my girlfriend. And I slowly slipped into my thoughts without knowing when I got entangled within the web of thoughts and lost the track of time. It took a passenger next to me to pull me back to the real world and to mention that I have been called. I turned my head to find the old man. Throwing an inquisitive look, I turned to face him fully, wondering what had made him to seek me out. He waited for a few seconds, as if looking for a sign or consent from me to start off the conversation. Then in his screeching tone he blurted, “Excuse me.. The picture you took of mine, will that be published in newspaper…..” and the old man trailed away, finding it difficult to finish his enquiry. He talked in a manner which made me conclude that he has to be either fully drunk or mentally unstable.

“Yes, it’ll be published”, I answered. He seemed happy and returned back to his seat – the toilet corridor space. I could feel a wave of sympathy creeping up my mind like a high tide. There are many in this world to whom, people like us, the so called sophisticated and trendy don’t even care to look twice. His face was glowing with happiness when someone had shown him care and patience to listen to his rasp, less cultured words and talk. I slowly turned back and resumed my thoughts as soon as my eyes took in the passing greenery and beautiful views.

My train of thoughts were charging away like a Duronto express, when the old man paid me a second visit. I was so immersed in thoughts that it took a considerable time for me to recognize his presence. Even though it was his second visit, his presence and close proximity created a sense of irritation and disturbance to me. Whether it’s the smell of the locally brewed liquor which he had consumed or the stinking clothes he wore which had mopped up all dirt of the toilet area, I don’t know. Whatever may be the reason all of a sudden, everything related to him started annoying me, inciting a deep sense of disgust. He seemed to sense my aversion and sudden contempt towards him, still he managed to mumble “ethu newspaper’il varum” – in which newspaper will this picture be printed? And in his lusterless eyes I saw that I’m no different than the so called sophisticated and trendy lot.

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