The gentle caress
The gentle caress
We hardly noticed when the waiter got the wine and poured in the glasses, and placed the bowl of salted peanuts and cucumber before us. This time we did not get our regular place at the restaurant and had to opt for a corner table for two. The place felt like home, the staff knew us so well (In-fact the manager had also quietly mentioned that your place is occupied, and another waiter had also told him which table I was waiting for him.
We had met after two months after a real hectic work schedule, and had tucked ourselves away from the hustle bustle of the restaurant. In-fact even the smell of the Tawa fried pomfret and tandoori tiger prawns was no challenge to our excited chatter. We were totally engrossed into each other, looking at each other, talking, smiling, laughing. We were enjoying ourselves too much to eat. Our conversation was lively, if not profound.
We laughed about the smoking zone being opened, the folks at home. About how Sumati's birthday party went good and how much we planned and struggled to keep the secret party. We spoke about office goals, erratic bosses, friends and colleagues and gossiped about almost everyone we knew and laughed. He had been nominated for a prestigious award for his performance in office and was very excited about it. Just recently he had shifted into his new dream house and his dream car was to be delivered the next week. He told me how he wished his father was there to see him and his progress now. He had got a little senti about his father… and so to change the topic, I said I wanted him to walk with me on the beach …. With the sea waves hitting our feet and the breeze making us inhale freshness…. And he said he doesn't like the sand in his clothes & shoes, and how once his car got stuck in the sand and the entire episode…. It was a pleasure watching him so close yet so far… The food, music, waiter and time all seemed to have disappeared ……
As he left for his smoke break, I quickly thought of a washroom break.. and as I walked towards the washroom I quickly glanced across the restaurant and found an elderly couple sitting in a corner. The lady was all grey and silver and wore a floral print pastel peach saree and he in a blue tee-shirt, his bald head with a silver hair neatly combed. They were sitting (very quiet) next to each other sipping on soup almost at a tedious pace. But what drew my attention was the undisturbed silence and emptiness that existed at their table. It seemed like a melancholy vacantness dominated their table. I wondered how my old-age would be…… and shuddered with just the fearful thought.
As the exchange between us went from laughter to whisper, to confessions and assessments, to romantic tease to gossips and sharing memories, this poignant stillness called to me. How utterly tragic and sad, I thought, not to have anything left to say. Wasn't there any page left unturned in their life that they hadn't shared their stories? What if that happened to us? The thought was killing and disturbing and I tried to just brush it away just as quickly as it popped into my head.
While walking back across the elderly couple's table I accidently dropped my kerchief, and as I bend down to pick it up, I noticed that each of their free hands were gently cradled into the other's. They had been holding each other's hand all this time. I stood up and felt humbled to see the simple yet profound act of connection I had just privileged to witness. The old man's gentle caress on his wife's tired wrinkled fingers .not only filled the empty corner that I had perceived, but also my heart. Theirs was not the uncomfortable threatening silence that one feels and experiences at the end of a date….
No…. It was a gentle, relaxed ease, a love that knew it did not need words to express each time. They were comfortable with the silence and each other's closeness, and they were at peace with that and with each other.
Maybe, I thought, as we passed their table and walked out of the restaurant, it wouldn't be so bad if someday that was us…… Maybe it would be kind of nice…very nice.