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The temple stairs seemed difficult to climb up in the windy afternoon, the sun was shining brightly into my eyes. But it was my routine to visit the Shiva temple once in a week, preferably on Mondays. I carried the pot of milk carefully on the steps, holding on to the railing so that not a drop should fall. I could feel the drops of sweat dripping from my forehead on to my hands, as I climbed and reached the temple courtyard which was quite spacious. Its always a relief to reach the temple because my physical strength has not been on its peak lately. Age has finally given me a hard hit and I do feel old now.
Today, I saw him sitting on one of the benches in the Temple courtyard, his face brightened at the sight of me. I walked past him, eyes downcast, not letting him know that I had seen him. After bathing the shrine with milk and doing my small routine prayer, I walked back again trying to avoid glancing at him. This time I could not because he was right there in front of me, at the steps. We exchanged greetings and he started walking with me. After a few minutes of talking, he offered to walk me home and I happily agreed. We walked together with me to my flat and I asked him if he would care for some morning tea and he readily agreed.
This was not his first visit to my house. We chatted like old times, made fun of the neighbours and praised some. He asked me about my health, my relatives’ health and whether I needed any help to get milk from the booth, or some vegetables or medicines from the nearby market. I told him honestly that I do have problems walking and it would be very kind of him if he could drop by the can of milk tomorrow morning. I offered him the money for the milk but he politely refused to take it. He said I was being stupid.
I felt like he was trying to ask me “something” ; I avoided it on some pretext or other. In the middle of the conversation, he would ask me whether I was happy or not and I always replied with a smile on my face. He looked concerned and I know he cared but how could I have told him that after my husband passed away and my children left me to chase their dreams, I was just a lonely old lady who has now just accepted her life. Although, he had become a friend over these past few months when my temple visits became regular but I was still scared to answer his questions. Sometimes, its better to hide your feelings than revealing them to someone who cares for you. This will just end up hurting them.
Months passed and it was finally spring. It was my most favourite season of the year when gardening comes into play. There was a scent of freshness in the air, that of the new leaves, the buds and the beautiful flowers. That day, I took out my favourite saree and wore it when I visited the temple. That day, he looked restless on the bench, more like he was waiting for me to finish my prayers so that he could come talk to me. He looked at me with hopeful eyes, wanting to share something. Again, we exchanged greetings and he walked me to my house.
When we reached home, he took out a pink flower from his jacket and surprised me! And as I looked at him with thankful eyes, he asked me what I dreaded the most, he said, “Can you be my companion for the time we have left ?” . For a second, I had goosebumps all over my hands out of utter shock. I was blank, although we had a short dating history before I got married, I never thought my history will come back knocking on my doors. I told him with tears in my eyes that it was not possible and that nobody would accept it, for I was a widow, seventy years of age and he was an old man aged seventy five.
I had mixed feelings- that of joy and fear. Joy because I rather liked this man and fear because I did not know what would happen next and what would others say. These “others” were none other that my children, my relatives and the society. My children loved me a lot no doubt, but here I was, living in a flat all by myself. Would they accept the fact that I could get attracted to someone or fall in love at this stage of my life? No, I could never tell them what had happened. I told him that I need time to think and decide if we were doing the right thing.
Next time I went to the temple in the morning, there was no space on the stairs to even move. It was a special pooja and the whole temple was buzzing with devotees. I had my “thali” in my hand and suddenly someone pushed me and my thali flew up in the air. I was almost about to fall when he held my hand at the right time. That moment, I realised that I did want him to hold my hand and help me get through the little time I have left . Maybe this was a sign from my lord, that I should rather be with someone who cares for me than live a life alone. The world is chaotic and what the society says shouldn’t matter to you, when you are happy with your decisions. So, I decided to go forward with offer of companionship and this was the moment when I felt alive.
I think it is time for us to understand that love and companionship have no age limits or boundaries . The young in our country want freedom to express love, but there are times we forget that the old also have feelings and it’s important that they feel alive about themselves.
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