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They always walked by the sea as the dusk fell, and the sea would wash their feet. The rumors also whispered that they always held hands. Padma heard them too, but she had lived life long enough to really care for it now.
Ankur almost cried as he put his mother’s luggage at the reception of the old age home. He whimpered like a 6-year-old, “Maa, do you really want to do this? You can always stay with us.”
Padma, his mother patted him and said that he and his wife Madhavi can always come to see her. “It’s an old age home, not a jail,” she added with a smile. Ankur left without looking back. Dusk was falling. The sea was roaring on the other side. The sky turning orange, inviting the night.
Padma sat down in her new room. A very young girl came in and told her that dinner would be served by 8 pm. Suddenly, it took her back to the day her father dropped her at her hostel to begin a new college life. She had been in tears lying in her new room, not knowing anyone. Dinner then too, was served at 8 pm. So many years had passed since then. And here she was, again waiting for her 8 pm dinner.
Padma thought of unpacking, but somehow she fell asleep. When she woke up, it was already 8:45 pm, and she rushed to an almost empty dining hall. It seemed that everyone had finished eating, and the TV room was roaring with laughter. In a corner, Padma could spot a man with reading glasses on, reading a book while having his dinner. Hesitantly, Padma went to him and gently asked, “I am sorry to disturb you, but can you let me know where the water cooler is?”
The man raised his eyes, and she noticed that he had white hair and kind eyes. He smiled and showed her the water cooler at the end of the hall. Padma smiled back.
That was the first time the two met. Her first friend in her new abode. Later that night while she went for a walk on the terrace, her friend was already there. He smiled again. That was when they had a formal introduction. He was Prof. Harish, now retired, who taught physics at a University in Chicago. He was divorced twice. And according to his own admission, had steered away from relationships post that. Padma introduced herself as an ex-banker. She had lost her husband years back in a road accident when her son Ankur was just 8 months old. Since then she had raised her son on her own. And now, despite her son’s complaints, she chose to live in an old age home. Free from all care.
That night they both sat under the wide sky in that small town in Goa, and talked about how life had treated them.
As days passed Padma met all the other inmates at the old age home. Some complained. Some bitched. Some rejoiced. She felt as if she was back in her hostel days, just with an older body and weaker eyesight. But as the days passed, at the end of it, she always found herself with Harish. Like always, most people would come to her and Harish with complaints and questions. They would often listen to others sitting at the garden, mostly laughing.
Harish had not brought much when he had returned to India. But he had got his bike. Now every evening, Harish would ride with Padma to the beach, and mostly they returned for dinner. They always walked by the sea as the dusk fell, and the sea would wash their feet. The rumors also whispered that they always held hands. Padma heard them too, but she had lived life long enough to really care for it now. She and Harish became inseparable.
As days went by, Padma became more and more comfortable in the old age house. Ankur, her son also complained less as he saw Padma’s bright face each time he came for a visit.
There was a barren land right opposite to the old age home. Padma sought permission to set up a garden there. Though reluctant, the owner agreed. Since then, it became a common sight – Padma and Harish would gently toil over the barren land.
For the first year it seemed futile. But from as her second year there began, Padma discovered green foliages in small patches, much to her joy. Harish took her for a dinner that day. The garden and the walk by the sea took over Padma’s life. She stopped wearing her watch, which was her lifelong habit as a banker. The garden grew. Birds and children came together. Lovers joined later. Padma and Harish became older.
One day, Padma did not wake up. Ankur was called. That day, the whole town visited the old age home to pay tribute to the woman who had gifted them a beautiful park. Harish was nowhere to be seen.
15 days later, Harish had a massive heart attack, and the hospital declared that he was brought dead. The whole town again overflowed the old age home to look at the man who gifted the town a park, laughter and love. The wise old ones in the old age home said that Harish and Padma were soulmates who were destined to meet each other late in life and be together forever. Love can come and blossom anytime, they said.
After many years, now too as the dusk would fall and children would play in the park which Harish and Padma built, the sea would sweep the shore as if a tribute to them, for gracing its shore late at dusk and teaching the sky what love is, one more time.
Lovers kept meeting in the park. Children played. Flowers blossomed. And the sea kept sweeping the shore as the dusk would fall on its bosom.
This is how old people said, love lived on, in a small town where once two people met in an old age home.
Image source: shutterstock
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Proud Indian. Senior Writer at Women's Web. Columnist. Book Reviewer. Street Theatre - Aatish. Dreamer.
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