I am turning 80 today. My son, his wife and his three-year old son have travelled all the way from Austin just to celebrate my entering eighties. They are here for the last one week running around and doing things in a hush-hush manner, lest I come to know of their secret plans.
I have stopped being a partying type long ago and in the normal course, I would have said a blunt 'no' to celebration of any kind. But when my son came on skype two months back and strongly suggested with an emotional undertone, I couldn't say 'no'. I also thought probably this could be the only occasion I may get to see my American-born grandson. Yet, I told him sternly that it should be a simple home-bound function without much fanfare and with only the close-ones as guests. All he said was 'leave it to me, I know what you like and what you don't'. I didn't want to be any fussy further.
I must have slept a little long, for I already hear the whispers coming from our drawing room. Out of curiosity, I peep out through the slit in the closed door to see who all have come.
My son knows that I have the wont for getting up late and going for a bath straight from my bed. He had instructed me the previous night that I should wear the new silk dhothi and the saffron slack kurta, which he specially got tailor-made for me.
I am seeing many friendly faces milling around in the hall- young and old- some of them who have worked with me as my colleagues -many of my nephews and nieces whom I have seen during most part of their growing up- neighbours of past and present from different time zones of my life.
Ah, when did my ears become so sharp! I am able to even hear some of them talking to those next to them. May be, they are rehearsing what they would say when I get there. One of my ex-colleagues was nostalgically recalling a training session of mine when I'd ask them to fantasize their eightieth birthday and imagine what their guests would speak of them. The exercise was intended to trigger the thought on life's purpose and vision. I was eavesdropping into what he was saying, 'remember the eighties exercise, he has truly lived up to what he used to say- to live a life of simplicity.' Another one was extolling about my erudition and modesty.
My son has really surprised me. I never thought he'd invite all those close to my heart. But how, at all, did he know? As I was relishing the good words coming in the air, oh, whom am I seeing there in the corner, a fragile figure seated in a wheel chair, oh, who is that - face looks very familiar, but somehow I am not able to place him. Is it that I am getting old and memory is growing weaker? No, not that, I must not have seen him since ages. Suddenly, a chubby boyish face in school uniform flashed across my mind. Oh, how can I forget my best buddy in my school? Oh, how we used to chat and giggle over every little thing for endless hours those days!
My zest and eagerness to meet my good old friend got the better of me that I totally forgot my son's instructions and started walking in to the hall. How can the celebrity of the day be in the night dress amidst all the important people of my life? But that thought could not stop me and I found me moving towards the gathering.
Why no one is noticing me walking through them?
Oh god! What am I seeing? I am lying there amidst them, still sleeping peacefully.