“I am eighty years old”. answered Mr Krishna Rao.
“Well, my assumption was not off the mark, albeit your physique suggests you to be somewhere around seventy”. I giggled.
“Then what adds another extra ten years?” Mr Rao enquired.
“Hmm…While everyone is immersed with their smartphones; you don’t carry any. I see you every morning from my balcony and almost daily in the evening since few weeks whenever I come for a walk.” I replied.
“So, you mean to say, smartphones make people look younger.” Mr Rao interrupted. “ Whatever, I admit I am an old school. I prefer to carry some books rather than phones to keep myself occupied. Old habits die hard, you see.”
“No offence, but I see you engrossed in books. You are fond of reading books, aren’t you? What genres do you like to read, Sir?.”
“Right now, I am at my son’s place. So, I read what I get to. My preferred genres are at my home in Vizag. Mostly they were gifted to me by my late wife.”
“Oh, sorry to hear that.”
“No issues. I am taking leave. God bless.”
I thought I annoyed him or maybe reminded Mr Rao of his late wife. I was feeling guilty and thought to apologize. Next morning I woke up little early to catch up with him for his morning walk. I felt curious as well as regretful. Curious to know how people without phones entertained themselves. Regretful because I irked him.
“Good morning, Sir. How are you? Sorry, if I irritated you yesterday.”
“Umm…not to the extent that you have come so early to apologize.” His smile relieved me of the guilt.
We exchanged greetings almost daily and I never missed a chance to interact with him. His years of experience were insightful. His zeal to solve crosswords dared senile dementia. Mrs Jaya Rao passed away some ten years ago due to a heart ailment. Since then this octogenarian visits his kids who live in different parts of this world.
Mr Krishna Rao was an engineer in public sector and his wife was a fervent reader. Once he was posted in a remote village. That was the era when even TV was not a conventional commodity. It was then Mrs Rao introduced him to her best friend, books. What started as a means to break the monotony, became his passion in no time.
They looked for excuses to gift books to each other. She saved every single penny from their monthly expenses to buy weighty tomes. He used to read stories to ailing Jaya in her last days.
“I feel Jaya around when I read. I lost one soulmate but found another in books.” I could see the endearment for her in his eyes and words.
Mr Rao left for Bengaluru yesterday to see his daughter. I went to bid adieu to him. Carrying one soulmate in his hand and another in heart ; he commenced for his journey.
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