THE OLD MAN – DARKNESS AND BEYOND
It was nearly a month after I had last met the old man that I went to the park. He was not there. I did not give it much thought at that time, but when I did not find him there during my subsequent two visits to the park, I grew concerned. So I decided to drop in at his house on my way back home and enquire whether everything was alright with him. I was slightly concerned for after all he was eighty seven years old.
When I rang the doorbell, it was opened by a man possibly in his forties. He saw me and said “Please come in. I have been expecting you for sometime now”. He led me to a sofa and asked me to sit down and make myself comfortable. I was surprised for I had never seen him before, so I asked –
“How come you know me? We have never met before.”
“No sir, but Mama had told me about you and that you will drop in to see him one of these days. He described you as the bald and bearded friend who he had come to know over the last few months. He really seemed to like you. You see he had very few friends.”
“But where is” I started to ask when I noticed on the wall directly in front of me two photographs – my old friend and the other of a lady with a graceful look and kind eyes. I understood that my friend was no more. It was for a full five minutes that I just sat there in silence. I drank the glass of water which the man had brought and then asked him –
“When did it happen?”
“Two weeks after he last met you at the park. It was peaceful. He went to sleep that night and did not wake up. I went to his room at six in the morning as usual to wake him up when I found that he had passed away. Very sad sir, I have never known a more humane person than he. You know a number of people misunderstood him and thought him rude. But that was all because he was frank and forthright. Mami was a very gentle lady and full of affection. Mama was never the same after she passed away last year. He spent a lot of time by himself. It was rarely that he found someone with whom he could share his thoughts. You were one of them sir. The last three to four days before he died, he spent most of his time inside his room busy arranging all his papers. He had even gone to the bank to take care of some work he said. Looking back now I feel that he had a premonition that he will die soon. One of the last things that he did was, give me a cover to hand it over to you when you come. He did not say anything else.”
While I sat wondering why he would want a cover to be handed over to me, the man came back with a cup of coffee and handed me the cover. Though I was eager to know what was inside I placed it in my pocket and asked him –
“What happens to you now? He told me he did not have any children and had only a brother who stays somewhere here.”
“Sir, I have been in this house with Mama and Mami for the last thirty years. I came as a fifteen year old boy. It was on one of those trips to his village that he saw me and brought me back with him to work in this house as a servant. You see I was an orphan and was staying with my uncle whom Mama knew. I have never been treated as a servant. In course of time I was accepted as a member of the family. I will now be going back to my village for Mama has made enough provisions for me to start a business on my own. He has been very gracious. But before that I will be continuing in this house for some more time to take care of certain responsibilities that he has entrusted me with. You see sir He wanted to ensure that whatever he leaves behind as material possessions should be used for the welfare of orphaned children.”
I could see the tears in his eyes as he spoke. I saw the old man through the eyes of his servant and I understood what it was that made me want to meet him and talk to him.
I asked “Was he religious?” when I saw the small pooja room.
“Oh yes, he was religious. He did believe in God but not the rituals. Mami was very devout and would do pooja daily.”
I saw the bookcase filled with books mostly on music and literature and of course a few religious books which included The Bhagavad Gita. After giving him my address I left. I asked him to stay in touch and inform me before he went.
As soon as I reached home I took out the cover from my pocket and found the words ‘To My Friend’ on it. I took out the letter and started to read –
You must be surprised at this letter addressed to you. I know that I have only a few more days before I finally bid good bye. You remember that the last time I met you I said that the night is creeping in. I know that it will soon envelop me and take me to the ultimate darkness. I do not know what lies beyond, but since light fades into darkness and the darkness melts away with dawn of a new morning, I believe that there does exist something beyond this darkness and that is the hope I carry with me. As I am not really sure what lies beyond I believe that I will carry with me the things that have really mattered during my life and may be that is the beyond that I will be remembered by. If you ask me whether I believe in Karma I will say yes, but at the same time I have not acted in a manner with the expectation of better things to happen as a result of my good actions for that would have been selfish. I have acted as per the callings of my heart and not by the allurements of the mind.
I do not want to be judged by what I have done. I would rather be accepted for what I was. Though I have known you for a short time only, I felt that I should address this letter to you. So here I am writing all this. Wish you the best and good bye.”
I sat for a long time with the letter in my hand and then went to my bookshelf and placed it in The Bhagavad Gita. I knew that is where it belonged and that is where it will be safe.
Yes like there is light at the end of every tunnel, there is a ‘Beyond’ at the end of this ‘Darkness’.