Many years ago, I was working in a hospital with an attached “Old Folks home”. I used to visit it as the doctor on the campus. They rarely needed any medical attention- they just had to be “chatted with”. Of course they enjoyed getting their BP checked, once, twice, thrice..
Looking back after all these years, now in my early fiftees- I can see and understand a lot more. They were people for whom family and society had little time. May be their children were busy executives, successful professionals, industry captains, or may be ordinary people battling for job and security, who knows. Mrs Chaturvedi, for example was very fond of talking about “her saheb”- yes her husband, the first District health officer in colonial period! She told me many times, that he was a great stickler for time- that he would go to play badminton in white pant and shirt, every evening at four. She talked about a big tribe- all in “high places”- but I never got to see them. And she never complained…
My De baba was the best among those dozen inmates. He too was a stickler for “exactly so”. He would make me sit in a chair- exactly so. Then prepare black tea- exactly so. Then, as I would sit and sip- he would watch me with a little indulgent smile on his face. He talked little- I guess- because his hearing was poor. He would often consult me about his hearing aid. It should have been replaced may be years ago. I remember once, he elaborately planned and went on a pilgrimage to Velankani. He was quite excited and happy. After return, life went back to old routine. I will check his BP, ask a few questions, sip the tea- as he would sit across smiling at me exactly so.
Then, in eighties, I had a fear of death and old age. Now, I have understanding and peace. De baba, Mrs Chaturvedi- and many more old friends have gone – I do have a faith that God, like a good IT pro, keeps his back up files safe all the time. I may never get a chance to lay my hands on His back up data- but it gives me great contentment to think that all my friends, all the people who loved and whom I loved- are safe somewhere in God’s bosom, in His memory.
These memories came to me one day, as I was trying to make a 2 minute documentary on old people living in my village for a BBC competition. I realised that I had been living in this village since 1998- and yet, knew so little of their life. Thanks to BBC, whether they accept my entry or not- who cares. I had a good time fooling around with a camera and chatting away to all those wonderful people who have lived, loved and let go. Yes, they know how to let go- and that is what makes them strong- keeps them going day after day.