Wednesday, 4 July 2018

The Dark Place

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The rhythmic beats of the autorickshaw cut through the noisy wind. He stood at the door watching the brown leaves litter the tiled courtyard. I sat at the settee watching his smooth silver hair fluttering in the breeze.

He was exceptionally quiet this day. His wrist-watch wore a green strap, the same one he had worn earlier to the city. Strange. He was the kind who'd change watches the way we changed clothes - one for the weddings/parties, one for the casual outings, one for home wear, one for the nights, and so on. What was stranger was how his otherwise packed schedule seemed to include ample time for mulling and staring aimlessly at the courtyard.

"Aren't you gonna watch the match, Grandpa?" I broke his reverie. He turned towards me with his recently-formed slight stoop. He seemed to have aged all too sudden in a few days. I waited as he processed his response. He merely shook his head, although it looked like he was still processing the answer.

He came and sat down next to me, looking straight at the wall ahead.
"Have you heard of depression?" he asked, taking me by surprise. I nodded. He was taking his time again.

"I seem to have lost interest in everything." he finally said. I didn't know what to say. Here was the man who was waiting for reasons to step outdoors, here was the man who'd take up one project after another to keep himself busy, who preferred using ladders to steps, who'd sing aloud out of the blue, who'd tease you for being weaker than him if you were being lazy, and who'd tell you tales of his youth with sprinkles of advice.

"I'm very sensitive." he continued, looking unusually vulnerable. "I have these bad thoughts that won't leave my head. I can't sleep or eat with good taste. And the pills only make me drowsy..."

I sat there feeling as helpless as he looked. At that moment, I wished I myself could fix his computer, clean up the smelly backyard, and make peace with the next door neighbour causing him trouble, all of which were little but significant factors contributing to his depressed soul. I wish I could make him believe that whatever happened was circumstantial and had nothing to do with bad omens.

My grandma walked in with a tray of jackfruit seeds to peel. In an instant, she was chattering away cheerily to us. Does it help? To be in a cheery company and to talk about normal things instead? I joined in, narrating tales of my days back in Bangalore, the feels of being in a big city for the first time. He did listen keenly, but I could tell he was still trapped in his dark place.

In a while, grandma got up and returned to her chores. Grandpa still sat in his unnerving silence. Troubled wrinkles creased his face. If it weren't for his gloomy aura, he would've looked perfectly healthy even at eighty years of age. I felt utterly useless yet again, unable to make him feel better. In time he got up and switched on the TV. The match was on. Perhaps, this was a step toward betterment?

Although the silence between us was drowned in the running commentary and crowd cheers from the TV, something was amiss. He did not yelp when the players had a fall. He did not rejoice at a goal. He did not grumble over a missed pass. His expressive commentary was amiss.

It's been a few days. I'm still waiting for that teasing smile to crawl back into his lips. We all are.

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