Chapter 13: Victims trapped in fourth phase

Being a lonesome or having a sense of superfluous may be a self-created tragedy or it may not be, however, its victim when trapped in such a misery, suffer emotionally, mentally as well as physically.

For some, an old age can be a blessing, equally enjoyable as youth, but when seen globally, for majority of people, it seems to be a curse. Perhaps, that’s why people do not seem eager to go through this particular phase of life. They feel reluctant but helpless. There is no alternative. It’s natural and hence, all have to accept this fact.

 For those who are all alone, it could be frightening indeed! Somewhat, it is also true that at this stage, material achievements and other temptations of life seem to be bedimming. Hence a person, surrounded by such circumstances, starts to realise the truth behind this saying, ‘Health is Wealth.’
I have observed this very closely, being in the company of these two relatives, Banta Singh and Jawala Singh.

There had been many such days in Banta Singh’s life, but he was feeling that after the death of his wife, Sawarni, it must have the first day of despondency. For common people, Sunday is a day of social interaction-----a day of excursion and entertainment. For Banta, it was a day of mere extreme depression.

The painful feeling of loneliness was wailing inside him, but these laments had no sound. If they, at all had sound, it was not audible to anybody else, except Banta. He wished that he should have been able to share this quiet pain with somebody. His condition was like that of a crying child who craves that somebody should come, embrace and distract him. He felt that both, old age and childhood were seasons of life, dependant upon the weather of compassion.

After having been awakened, he was not able to sleep as it usually happens in a depressed state. Instead of sleeping, he was repeatedly recalling Sawarni who had been separated for good. He thought that just as in childhood, the child becomes an orphan with the removal of mother’s support, quite in the same way, in the fag end of life one becomes orphan on losing the companionship of the life partner.


His mental state had become such as if one were feeling lonely, though moving about in a crowd. There was a pin drop silence in his room, but inside him, there was silence like the one in crematorium, at midnight. For a long time, he had been rolling in his bed. He had his fill of sleep in a few hours. Now, he was not feeling sleepy but, he had to spend the night or was obliged to pass it in reflections of the past. What can a person do in such a situation? He removed the curtains aside and peeped out. On the roadside, the lights were still on. He pressed the bed switch and put on the lights of his bedroom. The time was four in the morning as yet by the clock, ticking on the bedside table. He felt exhorted to see the time again, thinking that the day was about to dawn.

He went to the washroom, washed his face and brushed his teeth. Thereafter, he came down into the kitchen and put the kettle on to boil water for tea. Holding the cup of tea and sitting in his bed, he started taking hot sips of tea. Since the day his life partner, Sawarni, had passed away, he used to prepare the tea himself. Besides himself, he had two student tenants in the house. After taking tea, he had been going to his other house across the road to have his breakfast, where his son, daughter-in-law, two grandsons and a granddaughter resided.

He could now perceive the light of the day, beyond the window curtains. He moved the curtains aside and at the same time, the redness of the round ball of the sun spread in the room. This redness slowly faded into the white light of the day, as he watched it.

For the past several days, like a routine in this house, he changed his clothes, arranged his untied beard, tied his turban and having got ready to go to the other house, he stepped out. Then, thinking something he stopped short, “No, not yet. It’s only eight o’ clock as yet. It’s Sunday today. They will not get up till nine or ten and this way, I will not be able to get breakfast before eleven or so,” he muttered to himself. He thought that, as it is, he should prepare another cup of tea.

While taking tea, he started strolling in the lower room. He felt like going to the Gurdwara (Sikh temple), that day. Many other companions like him, may have reached there. Not only he would be able to exchange his views and share emotions with others to lighten his heart, but also, he would be able to receive some fresh news received from back home, India. Meanwhile, the community lunch would start serving and he would take it there. Here at home, also nothing was prepared special for him. Let the people here at home enjoy themselves. But, the time as yet, is just nine. It would take only fifteen minutes to reach the Gurdwara. Then, he suspected that his watch might be wrong. To remove his suspicion, he went back upstairs to his bedroom, to check the time with that of the clock there, his watch turned out to be completely correct.

He peeped towards the road outside, through the window. Nobody, coming or going on the road caught his sight. At a distance of few houses, he heard the noise of the starting of a car, and then soon after, a white car appeared and passed by before his house. On such a day, a car rarely passes on the road in the morning, except the milk cart. People, tired of race of the modern life, may like the quietness of the early morning. But it seemed to have aggravated the depression of Banta Singh.

Outside, neither the sun was visible nor the sunshine. This English wintry sunshine may not be warm but, it makes one feel its warmth through the window panes. At least, it removes the depression of the weather. Sunshine might have some sort of power to lessen depression of human minds. No doubt sunny weather makes one cheerful.   

While strolling in the room, as if to address himself, he said “Oh, Banta Singh, you can see the changing shades of the English weather. Only a few minutes ago, there was a very bright sunshine and in moments, drizzling has started.” In no time, the drizzling took the form of heavy rain. The flight of his imagination took him to India.

In Panjab, he had a farm beside the macadamised road leading to his village. For an instant, he would see the rain falling on the slanting dark green crop of wheat. And the next moment, the clouds seemed raining on the fields of maize, cotton and sugarcane. His fancy warbled from above the Persian wheel and the cuckoo of his imagination, started cooing from the mango tree standing amidst the corn fields. Meanwhile, a tenant living above closed the door of the toilet and Banta Singh was back into the world of reality.

It was raining outside and the weather also looked very depressed like Banta Singh’s own mind. At length, as if some proposition had struck him, his mind blossomed up like a flower. He thought of going to his daughter’s house and gossip there for a couple of hours. Chhindo would also have gratification and it will also console his own mind. Chhindo was his only daughter who lived in the same town, at a distance of about half a mile. Then he remembered, what his son-in-law, Bikkar Singh, had said when he met him a couple of weeks ago.

He had told Banta Singh that he would take his children to safari park, on that Sunday. Banta Singh wished that he also should accompany them. He too, did not dislike an excursion or a picnic. Secondly, what had he seen of life as yet? He moved from the factory to the bedroom and from the bedroom to the factory. This very journey had made him aged. In the whole of his life in England, his world was confined to his own town alone. He was just like a frog of the well.

Now the clouds had scattered and the rain also had ceased. He took hold of an umbrella and willy-nilly, set out towards Chhindo’s house. He thought that he was not going to cause any burden on them that might make them shirk. He had sixty pounds in his pocket, quite new, bearing the picture of the queen. Out of this amount, he would give twenty or thirty pounds on some pretext to his grand children and then, they would automatically ask, “Father! Let us take you also along and in this way, I will also spend today’s day very well.” Entertaining these thoughts, he did not realise when he had approached Chhindo’s house.

Hearing the sounds of talks inside, he felt assured that at least they had got up. He knocked at the door and no sooner did his son-in-law open the door saying, “Well, Father, you have come slightly late. If you had come a bit earlier, we would have served potato paranthas to you!”

Banta Singh noticed that they were ready to go somewhere out. They must be going to the safari park – he supposed. The children, while saying hello granddad, took their seats in their car. Seeing him somewhat confused, Bikkar Singh wanted to clarify, “Dad, we had actually planned to go out today.” Before he could complete his say, Chhindo came down holding a handbag and said: “Dad is no alien for us. He will again visit us when we have come back.” Banta Singh felt as if he had nothing to say.

“…Well, let it be when you be back.” saying these words, he was overwhelmed and two warm tears flowed from his eyes and took shelter in his beard.

“I shouldn’t have any complain against Bikkar, but my own daughter ought to understand my feelings,” Banta murmured.
 “Commercialisation has entered into human relations. Warmth of the family life seems to be fading,” he uttered to himself.

Walking on the road, a thought came to his mind, “I should have died before Sawarni,” thinking this, he held a deep sigh. Turning towards the High Road, he had lost back in his youth days spent in India when he had a dog and his neighbour, Kabul, who had a horse named Moti. He remembered he was also as strong as Kabul’s horse. Working in the fields from dawn to dusk, he never felt tired but, in this old age, he felt helpless. He wasn’t so weak but lonesome. He felt as if the people, who have enjoyed extended family lives, are more prone to the pain of loneliness in old age. 


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