Shabari Express from Hyderabad to Thiruvananthapuram. B1 coach. Along with the wedding group of about 25 close relatives, I was proceeding to Ernakulam to perform the wedding of my second son Atchuth with Anjana. Seated next to me is a senior citizen, scratching his head as if to get rid of the illegal immigrants invaded into his vacant place on the top.
” I am fed up with my life,” he grumbles, gesticulating at me as if I am the cause for his agony.
“You mean sir, that you have more than one wife?” I enquirers, sympathy dripping from every word at the suffering of a fellow human being.
“More than one wife ? ” he fumes looking at the lady sitting peacefully opposite to him, as if he wants to throttle her for extending her neck towards him long back, to receive the garland.
” How divine she looks ?” I complement his wife, sitting silently enjoying the fun of her grand children’s play” and add unnecessarily, “what a perfect match ? ”
” Perfect match ?” my neighbor folds his fingers preparing to punch his wife’s nose or mine . She now opens her coffee flask, pours coffee into a brass tumbler and passes it on to him.
Enjoying the hot coffee, the old man looks at her affectionately and then, turning towards me, comments, ” I told you that I am fed up with my life.”
That surprises me. I ask, ” you did say so sir, but that was before you had your coffee. And if I’m not intruding into your personal life, may I know the reason for your discontentment? ”
” Look at my head, ” he makes a quick circle over that shining space and moans, ” not a single white hair and if I may share a secret, there is, in fact, no hair at all”
” There is no secret in it, if I can trust my eyes” I add, “but that is part of your aging process in which you have no say, I guess ”
“And this wife of forty years – she sits there like a dummy without saying a word ” That was his second complaint.
His son quietly nears and gives his dad a shot of insulin and moves away gently patting the old man’s back.
” And see this son of mine moving around shamelessly exposing his legs and see there, his wife laughing and playing with kids unmindful of the co-passengers’ piercing eyes , at her. ” The father complains again.
His daughter in law approaches him smiling and serves food. “Amma should not have given you coffee. I’m worried that might dampen your appetite.” She comments, waits there patiently till he finishes eating, enjoying every handful , and then leading him to the washbasin, brings him back to his seat, holding his hand and wipes it with a napkin. She then, rushes back towards the children to play and laugh loudly.
” Are you cool now sir, can we talk ? ” I inquire politely.
” What else were you doing all along?” He retorts with a harsh look and continues, ” go ahead. I love talking to less intelligent fellow beings”
“That reveals the depth of your scholarship and breadth of your humbleness ” I compliment him. ” I am sure that you are no more fed up with your life now.”
“Why do you say that ?” He is anxious to know.
“Because, you are able to fold your fingers to form a fist, bend your hip, squat on the floor, push your head below the seat to pull out your sandals, climb the narrow horizontal rods to reach the top birth and pull out a bag and pick up the newspaper, enjoy a sumptuous meal, admire your wife’s affection by glancing at her at times and sit in the same place for more than an hour without taking a nap. If a septuagenarian can perform all these tasks, what is there for him to complain in life? Your body is under your control, your brain is under your control, your wife, son and above all your daughter in law are all under your control at an age when generally people lose all controls and get controlled by outside agencies. What then, is there for you to complain and why should you get fed up with your life? ”
” What other reason do I need to have to complain when a nagger like you is occupying the seat next to mine ?” He questions with all the seriousness of a truth-seeker.
A valid reason indeed!.