Old Man In The Window
Old Man In The Window
Saurabh had finished the book and when he looked at the wall, he was surprised to see that the clock was still striking at 4:40. He yawned.
Getting up from the sofa, he stretched his hands and fingers and walked to the balcony, which was in the backside of this apartment, facing and old yellow building. There was a narrow street down there. Saurabh had always found the window closed which was right in front of his balcony but today it was wide opened and there was an old man, leaning out with steel-rimmed glasses and a cabbie cap, starring down at the empty street. He was so close that if Saurabh leans out a little, both of them could shake hands easily.
"Good evening," Saurabh smiled.
"Good evening !" The old man replied in a dry voice, looking up.
"Are you waiting for the truck ?" Saurabh asked."
"No. Just taking fresh air in."
Saurabh laughed meekly. "I don't think it's fresh anymore."
"Oh seriously? look at them," The old man said pointing at the pigeons.
Saurabh glanced at the road and shifted his gaze from right to left and then left to right. The street was covered under dry leaves of various trees and the dogs were sitting at dusty vehicles, yawning. Once so noisy, but now it was so silent that he could even hear the clock ticking behind in his drawing-room.
"Very strange, isn't it ?" he said.
"What ?" The old man said looking at the pigeons.
"Never in the whole six years have I seen this road like this," Saurabh said.
He could remember how busy that street had been before it all started.
"Yeah, never seen so many pigeons here together in the last twenty years."
"You've been living here for twenty years ?"
In an old white shirt, perfectly worn and white beard under the cap, It was difficult to guess how old he was. At least seventy-five, he thought.
"Where the hell do you want to send me in this age ?" The old man gave a crooked smile.
"I didn't mean that. Do you live alone ?"
"Why? can't an old man lives alone in this city? I am a writer. Whoever he lives with, a writer is always alone." There was a sudden pride in his voice when he declared himself a writer.
"Great! What do you write, Articles in some newspaper?"
"Working on something right now ?"
"Yes, just have finished one today."
"I'd love to read. Now, we have more time than ever," He laughed.
"I'll give it to you when the pigeons are gone..they never come here again and again."
As some of them fluttered their wings and began to fly, Old man looked in the clear sky where they were going, beyond the grey and white buildings, and was disappearing behind them.
"The truck comes at five o'clock, do you need anything, Sir ?" Saurabh asked again. He preferred to call him sir after seeing the pride of being a writer in his old eyes.
"I bought all the stuff yesterday, boy .. for the whole two weeks...I need nothing," The old man proudly smiled. "Thank you for asking."
Saurabh took a packet out of his pyjama.
"Black ?" The old man asked.
"You smoke ?"
"You want one, sir ?"
The old man looked back inside his almost dark-room and then asked. "Does this truck bring cigarettes too ?"
"No. It only brings food and groceries. Because that's what people need today the most. But, I need this too and I have a stock. "
"You can have it if you want." Saurabh leaned forward. "Take it, I have lots."
"No no," The old man hesitated. "Okay .. just give me one."
Saurabh threw out a cigarette and a lighter afterwards. The old man lit it with a trembling hand. Blowing the smoke out, he said. "Thank you, son."
Saurabh smiled back.
"What do you do ?" He asked.
"Engineer," Saurabh said as he lit the cigarette.
"That's why I am sitting at home like this, doing almost nothing. I think I should have been a doctor."
"That's a noble thought," The old man said. "Doctor's are too busy now."
"When I was in UP, I always wanted to be a doctor and to go to America. Now I think, I was so stupid."
"Don't know? the condition is worse there."
"Worse than this ?"
"And in New York ?" The old man asked anxiously.
"Worst! Why ?"
"Someone of mine lives there."
The old man said nothing and slowly released the smoke that went up to the roof of this window and he felt good to watch it going up in the sky where the pigeons were going too.
"You live alone here ?" He asked.
"No with my wife."
"Where does your father live, UP ?"
"Umm, he passed away long ago."
"Oh, sorry, sorry. I thought ..."
"It's okay. Had he been alive today, I would have kept him here with me."
"But then you couldn't smoke like this," The old man mocked. "Well, you are a good boy."
Saurabh said nothing, looked down on the street.
"You ever remember him ?" The old man asked as he was taunting him.
"What do you mean ?"
"Don't you miss your father ?"
"You have to forget things and move on."
"You are right, son...Forgetting fathers..moving on..yeah..we all do that. No one's fault," He let it go and continued. "I've almost forgotten my father's face but yeah, he had big moustaches." He said and threw the bud away as far as he could. "And he taught me how to cook delicious eggs..."
Saurabh took the last puff and threw the bud and watched it rolling down on the slope, almost touching to the bud the old man threw. "My father always wanted to send me to the city, to become something ... But .."
The old man took off the glasses and cleaned them with the corner his shirt. "Everyone's father wants his son to do something big, bigger than himself. Go to the city or abroad... and then they never come back..." He exhaled. "Forgetting things .. moving on. But, I didn't do that. You know, I stayed with him till his last breath. And I think no-one should leave their fathers in their old age." The old man pointed his finger at him. "But, you're a good son. Your father got a good son."
When the old man looked at him, Saurabh took his eyes off and shifted to the right, a few people were peeping out of their balconies.
"I don't think the truck will come today."
"Probably not." The old man guessed.
Saurabh starred at him and he was looking at the dancing wires fixedly.
"I don't want to embarrass you sir but .. you know it is a hard time for our country... we have to help each other, you need anything ?"
The old man said nothing and kept looking at the pigeons, as one by one, they were flying away. The wires were almost empty but one big rounded pigeon stayed there. It seemed lazy or perhaps it was old enough to fly.
"Sir .." Saurabh called out. "You need something, truck won't today ?"
The old man turned back to look In the darkness of his house looked at Saurabh and gulped. "I bought all the stuff yesterday. " as he began to spoke, Saurabh noted his shaking hand. "Almost everything..umm .. but the eggs. I forgot eggs. How can one forgot eggs ?" he laughed. "Do you have... eggs, son ?"
Saurabh went inside without wasting a second and brought back a whole tray of eggs for the old man and gave it to him.
"Thank you." The old man said as he tried hard not to make eye contact with him.
"Welcome, sir," Saurabh said. "You can call me anytime."
"No no. no I.. bought all the stuff yesterday. Believe me. I was shocked there were no eggs in the truck. haha. No eggs !... That's why." He looked down at the tray. "Thank you for this." smiled at him but there was no pride in his smile but a glimpse of shame, so, he turned to hide it and went inside.
"I want to read your story, sir," Saurabh demanded loudly.
The old man turned back. "Oh. Of course," he said, "But... I think. I need to add .. more things to the story. I want to give it a new ending, then I'll give it to, uh... tomorrow ?"
"Okay, tomorrow. fine."
"Thank you, son. You're a good boy. You must be proud of you."
He waddled inside looking at the tray of eggs
Saurabh stood there looking at him. He didn't know why but he liked the old man so much that he had just ignored his Lie.