by Debleena Roy
Back to first page - The Park
The Park - Continued from previous page
His two daughters were crying and yet trying bravely to speak to all the people who crammed in all the corners of the house.
His grandchildren were sitting on the sofa. Too young to comprehend what had happened and too wise to pretend nothing had.
And at last they saw Mr. Das. His body covered with a white sheet, his eyes closed forever in the deep slumber of death, his last smile on his face.
Yesterday night he passed off in his sleep, his son-in-law told them.
How quickly things were over! Yesterday they were all at the park, arguing over the recent elections and today their friend was no more!
Death..how stealthily it had crept up on them! Did they feel sad that their friend was suddenly snatched away from them? Did they feel happy that he had died peacefully and happily in his sleep or did they feel a bit jealous at how Mr. Das seemed to have escaped the pain and decay of old age that they were all scared of?
As they walked out of the house, their gaits slower, their voices softer, each of them wrapped up in their own thoughts, Mr. Das’s wife handed them a piece of paper.
‘He had cut this out yesterday night’ she said. 'For all of you’.
It was the entry form for the local Marathon they saw, for senior citizens. Mr. Das must have planned for them to participate in it. He would have told them about it today.
As they headed out of the house in hushed silence,
the sky seemed to also start mourning for Mr. Das. Large drops of rain fell on their bald heads as they hastily tried to open their umbrellas. Everybody seemed to be hurrying away from the rain. But they saw a group of five boys happily stretching their hands out and jumping on the puddles in the rain. Not caring whether they got wet or dirty, they seemed to enjoy the simple happiness of getting wet in the rain.
Four old men stared at the five boys. Did they see themselves or Mr. Das in them? Their innocent childhood, their careworn years at work, their initial boredom in retirement and their recent happiness with their retired friends. Their friend was no more but he had shown them happiness is possible in the simplest of things in life.
So participate they would in the annual marathon. For their friend and for themselves. They would not feel sorry for themselves again. They would live life Mr. Das style and hopefully one day die like him as well. Mr.Das had once more taken the lead. As in life, so in death he had shown them the way. And this year they would run the marathon in the memory of their friend. They walked back to the park, four old faces with young hearts. The End
Bengali words used in the story:
Ayah: Maids who look after children
Adda: Long discussions with friends about any topic under the sun
Samosa: Fried snack made with flour, potatoes and other vegetable filling
Jalebi: Round, sticky sweet
Payesh: Sweet dish made of rice and milk; traditionally people have this on their birthdays