Maa and I went to visit one of our former neighbours this weekend. They shifted to a house nearby just a couple of years ago. Yet the little girl who had lived next door to me for ten years suddenly seemed to have become mature beyond recognition.
Dida, this girl's grandma, was quite fit when I last saw her. She'd step out of the apartment daily to pick flowers for her puja, stop and chat for a while with people she knew. This time she could barely recognise me (of course, that I had grown a thick beard and moustache played some role). There was gloom on her face as she slowly dipped a marie biscuit in a glass of tea. Gloom as she gently shook her head in reply to maa's enquiry upon her health. And all the while I stood stiffly; not knowing what to do, what to say or how to react. There is something soul-sapping about physical degradation in old age. A youngster like me who is in the stage of life where he hopes and has the will to fight cannot really understand or appreciate what it means to be on the downspiral of hopelessness.
I was saved from the embarrassing situation of being expected to act like an adult and not being able to stand up to it. Kaku, the girl's father, called me away from dida's room for a chat. I was relieved and ashamed. Sometimes I wish I were a child. I could stand there without understanding the gravity of the situation and nobody would expect anything.