Since I intend spending considerable amounts of time in this beautiful place in the foreseeable future, I practice my usual courtesies towards my fellow walkers. A smile, I find, best serves the purpose. It doesn’t break the flow of your thoughts; it aligns you loosely with those others around you who have forsaken the warmth of a bed for the alternative of the tarmac, the trees, the early birds, the milk man, the trash man, the garden tenders, both men and women, the later with saris hitched high in the local fashion, the sprightly school children hurrying on their bicycles and the yet as benign sun overseeing the motley but mostly silent crowd.
As I approach the end of the lane, I espy an old gentleman sporting a tidy goatee, dressed semi-formally in trousers and a shirt, newspaper in hand and walking towards me in an amble fashion. I, for a brief moment, feel in a more comfortable and formal presence. Automatically, my head inclines in a respectful greeting. The gentleman perceives the nod with slight surprise and returns a stately nod in return. The fleeting encounter over, I pass on and he goes back to his newspaper. Days roll by. The lanes are now familiar; the smiled greetings or the lack thereof expected. Today I am in an expansive but distracted mood. The distraction stems from a different thought. The thought that where am I headed in life(with nothing much to really look forward to). Questions lead to more question: Am I being the best I can be? Where did I go wrong down the line? It goes on. My mind battles with questions of whether I will ever be able to become the best version of myself or not.
Thus engrossed, my feet were doing their walking when I was brought up short by a heavy educated male voice saying firmly and courteously: ‘Good morning, son. How are you?’ Startled I looked up and beheld the goatee gentleman of a few days ago, crossing my path tangentially, walking down from an artificial hillock. I was startled on two counts. Firstly, as I have said before, I was engrossed in deep thoughts and second, it was the first time that an exchange of greetings had been initiated by a person other than me. Also, at such a time, a mere ‘good morning’ would have sufficed. ‘How are you?’ was extra and welcoming, especially as it had sounded to my unwary ears as genuine. I responded with: ‘Good morning sir, very well. And you?’. What he told me next shook my world inside out. He said, ‘Never better, son. Never better. Cancer sure teaches you how to live life while you are still alive’. I was unable to get a word out after hearing that.