Deep down…

-Padmavathi Neelamraju

          People gone, days gone, silence makes everything silent. But, the memories not… …. …. They are stored somewhere safely even when everything, including self, is forgotten.

          I came to my home after a long time to visit my god who brought me in to this world. My mind is swamped with his thoughts. The train stopped at the Ongole railway station.

          So many changes seen…… escalator was set up. I remembered very well how I was excited to climb it. I stepped on it, once again the same old joy. I crossed the bridge and came on to the first platform. My eyes searched for something but not sure what it was. A well decorated tea stall, nearby an old man was sitting on a cane moda. I felt that man was looking at me. There was a slight remembrance, “he knows me”.

          I hired a rickshaw. It carried me to my home through the streets of my own where I wandered, roamed and contemplated.

          You may wonder why I am using so many adjectives!  This small town wreathed bondage with me of an old man who lives in my memories always.

          I went straight to Lalita Ashram, an old age home.

          I asked for Rao garu. The warden looked at me, no expressions in his face. He opened the register searched for the name.  He opened the page no. 226, 2012.  “He is kept in room no: 22, 2nd floor”, said in a detached tone. “But, madam, he does not know anybody. He forgot everything.” I heard some concern in his voice.

          I asserted “No problem, I just want to see him.”

          “Till now nobody came. When he was admitted he was a bit unruly. Not responding to any treatment. Always sits at this corner holding a small book in his hands.” he added.  

          “Once in a while he asks for a letter as though he is waiting for it. No letter for him from anywhere.” he said.

          He asked curiously, “how do you know him?”

          I remained silent. I can‘t tell him my acquaintance. If I say, his following question would be ‘why I have not come earlier to meet him.’ It’s a thing happened long back which cut me off from him permanently.  

          He laughed; he doubted me for being silent yet led me to Rao garu’s room. He opened the door. It made a cracking sound.  Bed light was there not for lighting up the room but to show the presence of a person in it. The bed was covered with mosquito net, a transparent curtain dividing him even from the other world of that small room. To sneak a peek of him closely, I stepped a little forward.

          He felt my presence. He peeped at me through the net. I switched on the tube light. He could see me clearly. He was looking at me, no sign of recognition. An exotic silence ruled the place. I wanted him to put his hand on my head.

          I walked close to him.   “Who are you?” A shrewd question shot at me.

          I had no words. He forgot me. I didn’t want to tell him.

          There were some old inland letters and post cards, a medicine kit and a cough syrup lying on the table. I understood those inland and post cards once written to him by his beloved daughter, still kept safely. A brown colour old diary was also there not on the table but it is under the pillow half covered as though it wants to say about some forgotten days. I was about to touch the diary.

          He screamed, “Don’t touch”.  He picked it up very close to his heart, smoothly rubbing its cover with a pleasant smile as though it is the most precious one to him.

          I jerked for a moment. I wept but tactfully hid my tears from being noticed. A letter had fallen from the table. He got up in a hurry and picked it up gently with his withered hands. Tears rolled down on his wrinkled cheeks. Mine were hidden.

          “Many days gone, no letter from her”, he said.  I ached with pain. I felt like a hard nut struck in my throat.

          I picked up a letter from my hand bag, just above to put it on the table; in a flash moment, he grabbed it from my hands. There was a sparkle in his eyes and lasting smile.

          “Oh! I have a letter today.”  He put the letter very close to his eyes to read.

          I left the place quietly. He forgot my presence and me.

          The attendant asked me, “Are you his daughter?”      


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