The Man In His Fifties
The Man In His Fifties
It was early dawn, around 4:30 when I checked in the motel. The train had reached Kolkata at 3. I had managed to get myself a confirmed reservation. Though we have the world’s second largest train network, managing a tatkal reservation in a Kolkata Rajdhani, that too, during the pujas, is not at all a piece of cake. You need maa’s blessings and a lot of good fortune for that; and thus, when I was able to book my ticket on IRCTC (I Refuse Connectivity To Customers), I felt triumphant.
The most obvious reason to be in Kolkata during pujas is none other than the pujas itself, but for me, that wasn’t the case. I wish my job in IT shall have been so merciful to let me do that. Yes, I was there for official work.
I had a couple of relatives in Kolkata who had insisted on me staying with them but rushing to their apartment at 5 in the morning didn’t seem a good idea to me. The problem with relatives is, you never know what they may expect you to be thankful for; even if it was a favour that they insisted upon. And so, I decided to get a rented room where I could enjoy some peace and meet my relatives later in the day.
It was going to be a 2 days affair for me; I could have come a day later, but then, you’ve got to make compromises with Indian railways (Of course when you belong to the middle class). These days, Indian railways has started showing a spousal behaviour- you have to negotiate, compromise, adjust. Though you can’t stop finding flaws in it, you can’t really do without it.
So, it was 5 in the morning and I was in my room, changing sides on the bed, trying to get some sleep. Journeys always leave you tired and for me, the only cure is abundant sleep. And so, I wanted to nod off for a couple of hours as I was sure of another tiring day ahead but obviously that could not happen. A pooja pandal few metres from where I was staying was playing popular Bollywood songs. I can hardly describe and you can very well understand how much I loved Kolkata that morning. I felt Phenomenal…
Finally, after a long unsuccessful attempt to relieve myself, I moved to the window aimlessly. The sun had just begun to rise and with a surprisingly soothing Bangla song, playing on the loudspeaker, the world seemed so quiet, so unlike… the empty roads, the clear sky and the shut shops…everything felt so calm. It seemed to melt every stress, every worry that life offered. And this time, I actually felt phenomenal. I wish I could have enjoyed this rare serenity of a metro when my attention was driven towards the glass window of a deluxe bungalow just in front of my not so lavish motel. There wasn’t much distance between the two and thus, without stressing my eyes, I could see a man, apparently in his fifties sitting on a comfy couch with another empty couch in front of him. The table in between had a chess board spread on it and it looked as if the man was waiting for his partner to start the game. I assumed, he too was a victim of the noise that had not let me sleep. Suddenly, my alarm sounded and I realised it was 7. Time really seems to fly sometimes. I got ready and left the motel at 8:30.
As I had anticipated, the day was pretty much tiring and after meeting my relatives, I was back in the motel room at 8 pm. However exhausting it had been, I had enjoyed every moment and somehow, I fell in love with the city of joy. As I was recalling the events of the day, I went towards the same window that had offered me the best morning in many days. To my surprise, I saw the man that I had seen early in the morning, on the same couch, in the same dress and with the same chess board layed on the table. The one thing that had changed was 5-6 coffee mugs on the table. Once in a while, a servant came, put another mug on the table, and went. I smelled something peculiar. As I observed, he got off the couch after a few minutes, sat on the other couch, and played a chance of chess. Again, he moved back to the previous couch and played again and so on… it did not take me long to realise that all this time, he had been playing with no one but himself. I was stunned!
From the look of the bungalow and the area it was located in, anybody could predict that the man was a rich magnate. Yet, he could not afford someone who could play with him…I felt pity for him… how unfortunate he had been… it was heartbreaking. I could no longer watch him play and I sat back on my bed feeling how wrong people are when they mistake power and money to be the ultimate goal in life…instead, the ultimate achievement is nothing but a bunch of people you can call family…few people you can call friends. Those, who will always be there for you when you are left with nothing else... When you drop a tear and someone is ready to wipe it out. My eyes were drenched and there was a lump in my throat.
I then called my mother. Her “hello” was enough to relieve me…