Lush green fields, now transformed into a glowing golden yellow, as if a halo has encircled the expanse of earth. The withered, wrinkled hand rests on me, confident and secure of the support. I and Beeji have lived in unison, one incomplete without the other. It is unfair to assume that the arrival of the sunset years takes you closer to receding light and eventually darkness. Well! Not for my Beeji.
I’m not the sunset entry into her life for I have spent long, lonely moments in lost corners of the Haveli after the death of Sardarji. My innings at this Haveli began with his kind eyes singling me out amongst a hundred siblings. Well, I did feel privileged for having caught the fancy of this immaculately dressed old man who had alighted from a tonga with golden rims, drawn by white mares.
“Hmmm….the man has taste!” I had wondered with a mischievous smile while bidding adieu to the crowded marketplace.
“Look dear!” Sardarji had exclaimed to Beeji announcing my arrival. I was vowed by the beauty of both the lady and the Haveli. Thankfully, the mischievous giggle I let out was oblivious to human ears. I knew propitious times awaited me. Being constantly by his side, I felt fortunate to be the forerunner as he walked the streets of the town with élan. It was his self musings that became a treasure trove and I understood the ups and downs of human life. My place in his life was non-negotiable and I stood by him even on the fateful day, an unexpected pain brought him to his knees. I supported his gait and despite all attempts could not save his fall.
“It was a heart attack”, I often heard Beeji say in a trembling voice that rarely hid her overflowing eyes. With Sardarji gone, my apprehensions grew! “Will I be allowed to stay or not?” a constant question that haunted me.
I lay unattended, confined to an inconspicuous corner, smothered by darkness. Careless kicks of the house cleaners jolted my spirits. I almost gave up till………a chilly morning, the bespectacled and visibly feeble Beeji stepped into the room. That was one moment I wished I had the human magic they call communication. I was desperate to be discovered and taken away from this dungeon. As Beeji’s feet oscillated the room, I prayed.
Once the curtains were removed light flooded the room. Her gaze fell on me, she lunged forward, closing me in a warm embrace, tears rolling down.
“Sardarji’s constant companion.” Her snobs melted my heart. Once again I wished for the human magic called emotions to console her. Her frail fingers caressed the worn engravings of Sardarji’s name on my sturdy frame.
“As you stood with him on his fight against child marriage, you shall now do the same for me.” She announced to an empty room with a steely resolve. This is how, the walking stick from Amritsar Lakkad Bazaar became a harbinger of myriad human emotions.
Beeji – grandmother in Punjabi
Sardarji – respectful salutation to the head of the family
Tonga – horse drawn carriage
Haveli – grand bungalow
Lakkad Bazaar – wood market
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