It was a daily exercise for me – a very heartening experience indeed – to watch the old couple. Though bent with age, their serene faces would have won the award for a happy couple hands down, anywhere in the world, no doubt at all!
They worked in the shadows of the corridors of power. Be it a warm day, with the sun shining bright, or a cold day, with the sky grimly clouded, one can be sure that the couple would be there, busy at work, intimate in their company!
For the past eight or nine months they have been sort of permanent fixtures in my life. If, perchance, I missed them one morning, it created a gap in my daily schedule. Indeed, it can even be said, that I used to look forward to my journey to the office so that I can catch this simple, yet sturdy couple en route!
I chanced on them one evening when it was slightly raining. I was walking towards the Sastri Bhavan (the main building where Central Government offices are situated in New Delhi) from the imposing façade of the North Block (the ancient complex that houses the Finance Ministry of the Central Government) silently mouthing curses at the capriciousness of time and tide that had landed me in Delhi, far away from my dear and loved family and friends in the sunny, spirited Tamilnadu deep in the south.
There is a small stone covered path that takes one through the imposing lawns that border the famed Raj path that goes down from the Raisina Hills that houses the Rashtrapathi Bhavan as well as the North and South Blocks towards another famous land mark in Delhi - the India Gate. This stone path is shady during summer and cozy during winter. It is a pathway utilized heavily by babus of the Central Government as an easy short cut to reach several power centres like the Parliament House, Sastri Bhavan and other assorted office complexes.
I was mid way through this path way when I noticed a bent form sitting on the edge of the path way engrossed in something. It surprised me that someone was sitting, actually squatting, in the open on such a cold and windy day and the surprise was all the more when I found on closer examination that the person squatting was a bent women, intent on some work or another. I paused mid stride to see what was happening.
The women, attired in a brightly colored chunni and churidar, complete with nose ring, anklets as well as colorful designs decorating both her hands and feet, gave me a smile – a most beguiling, warm and happy smile I have ever received in my life. She had been engaged in using an old gardening equipment to dig out small amounts of mud as well as small weeds that were growing on small patches that immediately bordered on the stone path way. It was a hard as well as monotonous job. But the lady was all in happy smiles. It was my turn to smile – in wonderment as well as in appreciation of how the old woman was tackling life and her job head on – boldly and with a spirit of optimism!
Further down the path way could be seen another bend figure – her husband. He also had an infectious smile that could easily throw glorious sun light on any miserable life – even that of a displaced babu, crying out for vendetta! Every now and then the lady would utter some comment, immediately reciprocated by the old man. These exchanges were punctuated by the gruff laughter of the old man and the tinkle of the bangles of the old lady as she covered her face when smiling contentedly at the comments of the old man – her husband!
My bitter thoughts about the ravages of the time flew away in a second. I felt renewed and invigorated. If an ordinary gardener couple can develop an optimistic view of life from their hunched up position in the teeth of nature, what right have I to quarrel with fate that has provided me with a good source of livelihood and the where with all to protect my family sitting from Delhi!
Don’t you think it is the right food for thought