The wind whistled through the trees as the old fiat came to a halt by the gate. The word “gate”, did the rust covered obstruction between the dirt road and the old house a great courtesy.
The old man who stepped out of the fiat, preceded it by almost half a century in age. He was well dressed. But he rather looked like he would be better half indoors. Indeed, it had been several years since he had last driven his car. But he had managed the drive to this forgotten old house. He wanted to see it one last time.
The gate was half open and he walked through it, supported by his cane. As he walked up the neglected pathway, his gaze fell on the ancient mango tree which stood like an obedient servant, on one side of the path.
Memories flooded back, as he saw a young boy with sweets in his hands, being chased by at least ten other children. The boy tried to shelter behind the tree but his pursuers had already seen him. Laughing, they surrounded him and took their rightful share of the sweets.
He had been the youngest in the house. With so many children, there had been no dearth of playmates. His childhood had been one filled with happiness.
The house did not have a door. He gingerly stepped inside, only to be greeted by the dust and grime of decades. Years of neglect had reduced the one grand mansion, to a place where even the homeless refused to take shelter. As he moved through each room, he was filled with a deep sense of sorrow, that he could not do anything to prevent the decay.
He saw the patio where his grandfather would sit every morning, reading the newspaper. “Thatha” as he was affectionately known by everyone, was a grand old man, whose word was law in the house. And he had been Thatha’s favourite grandson.
He remembered his grandmother or “Pati“. She was a pious old lady who brought him up strictly in accordance with the scriptures.
They had all been very happy. The several uncles and aunts and their children; his cousins, with whom he had had such a wonderful childhood.
Then it started. Each brother broke off from the family to a house of his own. Far away from Thatha. And they took away the grandchildren, the light of Thatha and Pati’s lives. His father was the last to leave, and when he left with his family, Thatha completely broke down. He did not live long after that. Neither did Pati.
As he reminisced about the past, he came across the framed photo. Surprisingly, no one had stolen it. It was the photo taken on that Diwali night sixty years ago. The house was decked up like a bride, and it drew envious looks from even the white people in the area. It had been his last diwali with the entire family.
A tear rolled down his cheek as he stared at that memory of a time long gone. He noted with sadness the expressions of utter joy on the faces of his cousins and himself. He looked at his beloved parents, his uncles and aunts and his Thatha and Pati.
All were gone now. He had been the youngest and he was the only one remaining. Time had taken its toll. He sat down cross-legged on the ground whit the photo in his hands and rested against the wall. What he wouldn’t give to go back to that time, he thought as he closed his eyes for a brief moment. Outside, the wind still whistled, as darkness crept……
They found him 2 days later. He hadn’t moved an inch. At last he was with his family again………