This was at my dad’s place a while back. Early morning, I was out for a walk/run, when I saw the old man for the first time. He was sitting near a large tree, petting street dogs while enjoying a smoke. Problem was the tree & where he was sitting. Read on…..
The fitness bug had bitten – three days of straight exercise. Walks, Surya namaskars, yoga stretches – you name it. It got to a point where in 24 hours I went for a run the night before & the next morning I did it again. Experts normally would shake their heads at this kind of routine – but I was no expert. Besides all the stuff I do is light, just about 20-30 minutes. And am really glad about these two runs, especially the one in the morning.
I was running around dad’s place, a gated community of sorts. Because the gates are always open & the security stopped nobody! Still, its nice inside as the buildings bunch up at a distance cutting out the noise & pollution from the main roads. There is a line of trees planted around the periphery of the society that surround the entire space forming a natural walking track. Though at places the road is uneven, patches of gravel & dirt with potholes. Still beats running on dusty polluted roads outside with traffic swinging from both sides.
Another unique thing about our place are its street dogs. There are quite a few staying both inside the colonies & on the track outside. Kind folks from the apartments feed them, kids play & most importantly they can sleep or take shelter under parked cars without anybody chasing them away. Sure, they gang up & create a ruckus when home dogs come out for a walk but otherwise, they are very friendly & wise.
I had befriended a couple of them – both black coated skins, one a young rogue with patches of white, the other older one was an even black pure as silk skin. They would come happily nodding their tails at me. it was during the run that I also kept an eye out for them. that’s when I saw the holy smoke.
At a turn I spotted one, ran towards him. Usually he spots me & runs towards me. This time he didn’t see me. I thought that’s because his attention was diverted someplace else. I made whistling sounds – mistake. My breath got all caught up in the whistle, I began wheezing that lead to bout of coughing. Had to stop running as the coughs refused to go away. As I coughed, I looked up. now the dog was missing from my view. All I could see towards the side was a parked van & beyond that was a tree.
The van parked was obstructing the full view of the tree. My first guess was one of the dogs or both were underneath the van -maybe eating something. But as I neared the van, I saw white smoke rising from beyond it & near the tree.
It was an old tree – griped & grey with veins sprouting all around. It looked graceful & majestic. People had tied religious white threads around it, a raised circular platform was built around it. On the platform were little frames & idols of different gods & goddesses. There were steps leading to the raised platform, even a place to sit. Here, I discovered the reason for the smoke & the disappearance of my friends.
My first guess was right, both my friends were missing because of food. They were eating biscuits that a balding old man was feeding them. The reason for the smoke was his lit cigarette that he had kept to one side. While he was lovingly feeding the dogs who didn’t mind the nicotine or its rising flames one bit the smoke was busy paying homage to the gods & spreading tobacco love all around. The old man didn’t so much as glance at me as I continued to run.
I was hurt. Forget the old man – my four-legged friends had so betrayed me – all for a packet of Marie biscuits! The hurt must have shown as the big aunty who walks 10 rounds each day stared at me. The helpers at grocery store smiled, the security personnel waved, I kept scowling. The words treachery, traitors, trolls, and al lot of other T’s crossed my mind as I ran to again reach that corner with the tree.
The old man was busy reading his newspaper. He had put the cigarette out. Again, he didn’t look up. I slowed down to take a closer look at him. The grey specks of a two-day beard were showing, his t-shirt was shabby, hair unkept & his sandals were worn out. I took a couple of pictures from a respectable distance without being intrusive. He didn’t notice as I walked away. As I did, one of my friends came up to me. I stood to the side. He looked up at me, then looked towards the old man. Went and sat at his feet. I moved on.
After my run, I asked the security guard I knew. He told me that was the old man’s routine. Said he spoke very little to anyone. That people left him alone & that he also kept to himself. At home I recollected the old man again. I thought of his eyes – he had dog eyes, the same like my four-legged friends. He did care – but not for those that walked & ran around to stay fit. He was beyond all that. his eyes saw things the same way the dog’s eyes did. Live, love & let go – everything else is just Holy smoke.