After about twenty-five minutes of discussing Mamata Banerjee and the politics of West Bengal with the cabbie, I reached Shakespeare Sarani, where the Apollo Clinic where I had set up an appointment was located. I primed myself up for a lengthy three hour long medical checkup where I would be subjected to third degree torture in the name of a checkup.
The treatment at the center was surprisingly fast and smooth. As soon as they saw the letter from the company, they moved very quickly. I was asked to go from one room to another, give blood samples, a pee sample, an X-ray, a vision test, an ECG, and within about an hour and a half, I was done! No third degree, no flashlights shining into my face and repeated questioning on alcohol and smoking and drug abuse. It was over before I knew it, and I suppose what made things seem faster was the fact that the place was air-conditioned and after the hot humid climes that Cal offers, this was absolutely heavenly.
Once the checkup was done, and half an hour later the NSR formalities completed, I debated with myself whether I should go back to Jamshedpur earlier and let go of my 5pm train ticket(it was 1:30pm at the time) or whether I should wait and pass my time alone. A phone call to Dad, and things were settled. I hailed a taxi to the Howrah station. Upon reaching the station, I bought a Current Reservation ticket to Jamshedpur. There was still another hour to go and I went to the restaurant at the station and about ten minutes of dilly-dallying about whether I should have a burger or a chat, I reached the decision that a dosa would be the best solution to my hunger woes.
So I got in line to buy a coupon, and about ten minutes later, the dosa was finished, my hunger gone, and my hands were washed. What next? Ice cream, of course! Well, I reached the ice-cream counter, and was looking at the list of available flavors, when I heard the voice, feeble and weak, “Beta, humko woh wala ice-cream khila do.”
And there she was, the frailest old woman I had ever seen. And she was looking at me with such a look in her eyes; it betrayed hope and confidence at the same time. Hope that I wouldn’t say ‘no’ to her earnest request, and confidence in the knowledge that she would get that ice-cream that day. I didn’t have the heart to say No. “Kaunsa wala chahiye aapko?”, I asked.
And like a small child she pointed at the most elaborate sundae that that ice-cream outlet in Howrah Station had to offer. The guy at the counter looked at me bemusedly. I’m sure he was wondering what I would do. Would I ignore her plea and pretend that I had never heard her, or would I acquiesce?
Without missing a beat, I said, “Bhaiya, wo wala inke liye, aur ek cone mere liye.” I also got him to put extra honey and nuts on the sundae. When the bowl was handed over to her, she looked a little disappointed, like she had been cheated. “Kya hua? Thik nahi hai kya?” I asked her. “Chhota hai.” She said simply. I smiled sympathetically and told her that it usually is like that, the item on the poster would look bigger than it would be in real life. She held the bowl out to me, offering me the sundae that I had just bought her. I politely declined, shaking my head. And I saw her smile the most innocent, child-like smile I had seen in a long time. It wasn’t the smile of gratitude, it was the smile of pure joy.
There is a joy within us that we all have as children, but we lose it somewhere along the way, as we all grow up and mature in this journey of life. We don’t lose that joy, it just hides itself under the layers of all the years of cynicism that life teaches us to build up around ourselves. Some of us do manage to find it, like the old lady did, who got an ice-cream that day, without having to stoop too low or ask too much. I’m glad I could help someone have that moment of joy.
We’re given such opportunities every day. It doesn’t cost too much monetarily, it just needs us to be a little more receptive, to keep our eyes and ears open to those who need it.