Jagan was looking for a paying guest accommodation in the city and one evening finally tired of walking through building blocks, decided to take rest below a banyan tree that had a concrete bench built around it where he thought he would rest his aching legs.
“You seemed to be tired, young man. What is it that are you looking for? asked an old man sitting on the same bench at a distance. Jagan didn’t remember noticing him while he had sat on the circular bench. He must be in his late seventies, a retired old fellow who must be a frequent visitor here, so he thought. Jagan told him about his predicament about getting some accommodation, as staying in a shanty lodge which was far away from his work place was difficult for him.
“You have come to the right place and lucky for you, I am been sitting here this late today. Maybe I was waiting for thee” he chuckled to himself, his wrinkled faced showing the amusement in the faint glow from the street light. “There is an old lady in the next building who is a bit lonely. Her children now grown up with families of their own, have left her for greener pastures. Maybe you can drop in and have a word with her. If she likes, as I have, you can surely move in to her house and stay with her as long as you are in her good books“.
Jagan thanked the old gentleman who was now looking at him with gentle eyes as if a father would look at his son, and proceeded to the building pointed by him. He had walked a few steps forward and then turned to ask him. “Can I refer your name to her? ” Why not? came the answer. “Tell her one Mr. Ram referred you. I am sure that would be an advantage for you” he said waving to him. Jagan thanked him again and went in search of the flat on the second floor.
While climbing the steps, he had his doubts as to whether he could adjust with the old lady or whether the owner would adjust with him. Not that he had any habits which would be a bone of contention for rejection.
The lady took an immediate liking for him and told him that he could stay with her and share her flat. He was supposed to be with the lady, so that there was someone at home, who could take care of her in case she fell sick with some ailment at this advanced age. Therefore the rent amount fixed was quite low by her to Jagan’s liking. Jagan was a pleased man as he climbed the steps down that day. He could move in, bag and baggage from the next day itself. As he went by the banyan tree, he wanted to meet the old man, but he was not to be seen, not surprising, as it was quite late.
As days passed, contrary to expectations set, it was the lady who started to care for him. She always prepared breakfast for him though it was not part of the deal. On weekends Jagan could enjoy the vegetarian lunch and dinner with her. She used to have a menu of dishes so that Jagan would not feel it mundane. While eating , she used to remark, “what is the point of lavishing love on you by making such dishes. One day you would leave me as others have did..”
Once when he came late as usual, there was no electricity, so he bought candles and lit one of them as he climbed the stairs. He knocked on the door and kept the candle besides his face, so she could identify him in the darkness as she looked through the peephole. But what a coincidence, as soon as she opened the door, the electricity had come back.
Most of the time after dinner, he used to switch on the TV and leave it running and fall asleep and it used to be her job to switch it off in the midnight. She used to make fun of him about this. The lady had trouble sleeping and therefore the only job he used to do for her was to bring sleeping pills for her using an old wrinkled prescription. Some medical shops would decline seeing the date on the slip and he would have to approach a few before he could get a couple of strips from an obliging shop or a shopkeeper who didn’t care to see the date.
One day, he had to rush to the doctor on the ground floor as her pressure was low and she couldn’t get up. The doctor when he heard Jagan, in surprise and shock asked. “which lady are you referring to?“. The lady in Flat 202 on the second floor was Jagan’s reply. The doctor got up immediately and came upstairs with Jagan, and when they went to her room, she was not to be found. They searched for her everywhere, but just as the doctor had thought, she was a faint apparition of her self that passed away an year ago.
It was now Jagan’s turn to look surprised and worried as he heard the story and packed his bags with the doctor in attendance all the while. He thanked the doctor and bid adieu to his accommodation of few months, his mind full of turmoil, and as he walked on the pavement, he just looked upwards at the balcony, did he see an apparition of the old lady waiving lovingly at him? He averted his eyes, was it fear or something else which made him look down, he never knew. At least, he was still in her good books, he thought.
He hurried knowing he had to find Mr. Ram one of these days and then wondered if he would ever find him…