Few things inject more pep and vigour than a green signal from the orthopaedic to resume the invigorating morning walk after its temporary suspension. And so, tracksuit, walking shoes and a deerstalker in place, I set out with a song in my heart. A cuckoo let out a long, lusty call echoing my jubilation.
After a dozen steps the left knee seemed to buckle a bit but its twin, the right knee, urged me: “Go on, sir, don’t pay attention to it. It will become alright soon.” Indeed, it became alright repairing by itself as body parts are wont to.
Surprisingly, the puddles of the previous night’s rains were not there — only the abandoned poodle, the brown-coated animal. It lifted his head without altering the canine sitting posture and asked with an accusatorial look: “What happened? Where did you vanish?” The bakery had not yet opened so I could not buy him a few biscuits. It lowered its head moaning, its food security a perennially iffy thing.
Nothing seemed to have changed during the last three months. The regulars, the combative old woman picking a quarrel at the milk booth over leaking sachets, the whistling newspaper boy who pedals as if he is in a velodrome, the ragpicker looking deeply into his treasure trove, the dustbin near the lamp post, the man who shamefacedly plucks flowers from others’ trees for his puja.
The divine wake-up call of M S Subbulakshmi meant for Lord Balaji to open his lotus eyes to the troubles and turmoil of his devotees; the muffled roar of the reverse thrust of the aero-engines of the airliner that landed at the distant airport; the bullying noise of yellow buses ferrying blossoming technologists to the seats of study in the suburbs — all the early morning template sounds were there as if from a recording. The city was waking up to yet another day of the free fall of rupee, the tanking of Sensex and a climb in gold and onion prices.
The senior citizen in his skullcap sailed past with the buoyant gait of an ostrich. The wave of his designer walking stick was a solicitous inquiry about my longish absence.
Without passing in my stride, I tossed a sheepish smile pleading helplessness and reaffirmed a relationship that was close yet not bonding and fusing, like a droplet of water on a lotus leaf.
A dove-grey Ambassador pulled up alongside. The tall, distinguished gentleman with a fringe of silver hair who got down asked the way to Ashoka pillar.
His wife, a quintessential picture of domestic bliss, looked at me excitedly from the back seat as if I was going to direct them soon to Utopia or Shangri-La. I gave him guidance but pointed out that he could have asked without bothering to get down from the car.
He smiled shaking his head, “that would be disrespectful, sir.” The good lady bobbed her head in earnest agreement. Soon the car drove away. Perhaps the rain gods smile at us now and then because such courteous people do exist still.