Short story: Staying Relaxed

This is a scene I’d witnessed some time back and stayed in my mind. Here goes:

The old man sat in the corner of the small squat verandah of his house, a glass tumbler in his right hand from which he sipped something from time to time.

“Aha…ha….hhaa….” he cried out suddenly, his eyes glazed some place beyond in the distance and a smile played beatifically on his lips. A folded newspaper with a pair of reading glasses sat on the old wooden stool whose chipped paint told its own story. He had been sitting there for almost two hours having finished reading the paper end to end and forming his opinions on most of them. Most of the time he ended up ranting against this or that person, party,  prejudices, policies, poverty etc to his own predilections which he thought were valuable mainly owing to his having seen eighty and still going strong on years, on this earth. His wife had just given him a fresh sortie of tea- his third since the dawn while he grappled with world affairs.

“Ahhhaaa….hahhaa..” he mumbled again, eyes closed, his smooth forehead falling up and down in small waves- of contentment and general happiness.

“Uncleji…..!!!” a voice rang from outside his home followed by the speaker who entered it, hands folded in a namaste.

“Who is it? Oh, Anand? Come in come in. Have a seat.” the old man offered a chair next to him. “So what brings you here?”

Anand was the neighbour who regularly dropped in for a free cuppa, the newspaper or any delicious food the old lady gave him. Unemployment had its pluses. In return he ran errands for the old couple.

“Oh I just brought you milk packets. Ah thank you aunty!” He said as the woman handed him a cup of tea. “All well?” he asked as he slurped loudly.

“What can be wrong with me? I am always well. It’s the people that are not okay with the world. They always find life hard and I want to ask them, why should you take on any tensions that others give?”

“But how can you help not getting affected uncle? If someone says or does something bad or wrong about you won’t you get affected? It’s only natural.”

“Why of course it does. People, especially my relatives, are fools to be getting into all kinds of situations and that really irritates me. You know……I am a heart patient for the past thirty years. And their callous and irresponsible actions really perturb me at many times but I…..Its only due to a scrupulous minding of my health that I am able to keep my heart beats going fine and have complete peace of mind.”

The woman took away the empty tea tumbler and cup and gave money to the boy to pay the electricity bill. She checked her stock of food items to be replenished and prepared tiffin to be given to a sick relative in the hospital. The boy would take it there.

“You read newspaper in the morning and feel your spirits sag. What’s become of this world I ask?  But there are ways to stop all these things from disturbing you. I do it all the time.”

“What do you do uncleji?”

The old man smiled indulgently as he was about to reveal his deep secret.

“I lose myself in dreams.” Anand gaped at him and waited for more to come. The old man obliged. “I try to distance myself from whatever is upsetting me. And the best way to do that is by losing self in dreams. They take you far from harsh realities.”

Anand is no stranger to free time but he has tended to fill it up by being useful elsewhere. He is jobless but not workless. His time is not straitjacketed and he is a freelancing chore-worker. That’s how I see him and in a small town that he inhabits this is a welcome virtue although he is constantly in need of money there being no regular source as it is.  So he is quite taken up by the prospect of shedding some tensions just by dreaming.

“What do you dream of uncleji?”

A smug smile and a pause later the old man said- “My girlfriends. Houris. Beautiful things.”

Anand is startled by this revelation and he looks towards the old woman warily. She was as usual busy fretting and finishing off the day’s work unmindful of the two seated there.

“Oh she knows of it. Every time I get upset, I think of my young days, my escapades and a couple who I almost got married to, of course not all at once….at different times!” He continued with a smile.

Anand silently contemplated the scene unfolding in front of him- a very normal everyday household and two different ways of dealing with things.

He can be inspired by either of them.

Image courtesy


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