/The man on the balcony…

The man on the balcony…

He is an old man ; by his own admission he is 92. Mr Santosh Kumar used to be a powerful  Trade Union leader and  a journalist of the old school. His forefathers had set up the first newspaper in Lahore. He is now turning frail but his  spirit  refuses to be smothered. His powerful booming  voice  still carries his convictions and can be heard across the open spaces. He lives with his daughter and her family. He is well looked after. He is now not allowed to go out on his own  because he has fallen  a couple of times. His favorite jaunts used to be to the pan wallah  in the next lane or the Lodhi gardens to meet up with his old cronies. Now he is not allowed either. Now his interactions with people of all ages is n the balcony of the first floor.

He is an early bird and is up and about by 0500 hrs. Although he shuffles , the tap-tapping of his heavy stick  provides him great mobility  He makes his way to  the balcony to enjoy the fresh air .By then Reshma is up and makes  his  tea and takes it out  to where he is sitting . She must give him  some sweet biscuits, no salted ones please!

I stood in the sitting room and watched while he  waved out  to a bunch of kids heading to school. They waved back  and he  blessed them with  a prayer that they should study  and work hard. A little later an elderly citizen passed by and wished him a   loud ‘Namashkar’. A hearty response came from the balcony—loud and clear!

Another younger citizen passed by  and wished him—“Chachaji  kaise ho?” To which came the response—‘upar wale ki dua hai bhai!’(Grace of God!)

Mr.Santosh Kumar -Trade Union leader and Journalist
( Pic by : Shyamola Khanna)

Now it is time  for his shaving  kit  to come out  along with the hot water. By now the newspaper has also  landed on the balcony . He has it open  on the headlines and scans it carefully. He does not need reading glasses . While he is shaving  another voice from the road calls out “uncle”! He is happy to respond.

He is happy where he is , doing what he does. He has  subdued his urge to step out and wander the streets, meeting people or talking to them. He misses  his active life yet he loves an audience, someone to pay  attention to his travel  stories  of far away exotic places. He does not fail to remind me that he has travelled    to 35 countries  and he has nine passports.

 His wife of 60 odd years passed away a few years ago.  He is lonely but  he is happy with his situation.

 A lot to be learnt  for all unhappy, dissatisfied ,silver citizens  who insist on pontificating  to all and sundry. The young have no time and patience to listen to repetitive tales of yesteryears— enjoy their company and get back to your own pursuits as much as you can! So what if you have nothing better to do than eat and sleep, shave and bathe and be properly dressed and live out your life in comfort .

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Shyamola Khanna

The first one in her orthodox Bong family to marry a Punju fighter pilot, Shyamola Khanna has never had a day’s regret, except for the fact that her dear husband of 36 years did not live to see the day her book came out. He would have been proud. From teaching kids in schools across the country, she made a tentative foray into writing lifestyle and soon acquired quite a professional level—she has been published in all the mainline newspapers and magazines. She continues to write for magazines and is now a volunteer teacher at the AOC centre and at the Denver School for the Blind where she helps kids with English.