The Old Man

Sunrise in Tiger hill, Darjeeling, India

Image via Wikipedia

Posting a story I had written a long time back

It was a beautiful morning on the hills of Darjeeling. I had woken up early (around 2:00 A.M.) to visit Tiger Hill, the summit of Ghoom about 11 km from the city. The main attraction of the place is the view of the sunrise over the Kanchenjanga peak it offers. The first rays of the sun paint the snow-clad peaks of the mountain pink and then the colour changes to orange. Although a beautiful site, it is a rare chance to witness it as most of the times clouds block your view. Only a lucky few are able to see it and sadly I was not one. By the time the clouds scattered, the sun was already up and the white peaks of the mountain were visible. The top of Mt. Everest could also be seen, peeping at you from behind two other peaks.

Since the show was now over, we decided to visit Senchal Lake, just below Tiger Hill. It is a fresh water lake and is the major source for portable water in the city. The area also has a golf course, which at 8000 ft is one of the highest in the world. Alongside the lake is the Senchal Wildlife sanctuary. The lake offers a picnic spot and this is where we intended to waste the next 3-4 hours.

I left my group beneath a shaded area and went for a walk alone, through the scenic area. Both the zoological and botanical specimens around were amazing. I was especially enjoying watching the oversized wasps and spiders. Then something caught my eye. An old man was walking, a stick in hand, but he didn’t seem to need its help. He just walked, his white beard and head glowing in the rays of the sun like the peaks of Kanchenjanga. He walked with a steady pace, he didn’t seem to be in a hurry, but he didn’t slow down either. He didn’t stop or look around but he didn’t seem to be unaware of the beauty of his surroundings. There was a strange aura about him that aroused my curiosity.

I kept looking without having the courage to call him. My group had arisen and were ready for the journey back to the city. They called me to help in packing the dishes. By the time I had done that the old man had disappeared. I went back with them but the strange old man occupied my mind. The next day we went to visit the Makaibari Tea Estate. It was a short and sweet visit, where we were shown the steps involved in tea processing and then we bought a few kgs of the precious cargo. Makaibari Estate is the oldest in Darjeeling and is the most expensive and one of the best teas in the world. Also we learnt the correct way of making tea (Apparently the way we make it, destroys much of its flavour)

The Tea Plantation was a beautiful site; small bushes growing over the slopes of the hills with ladies in colourful dresses (some had children hanging by a belt like contraption) and a basket hung on their back, merrily plucking away at the small flushes on the plant. These leaves would be consumed by many all over the world.

Ton the opposite side of the hill, I saw the old man again. His behaviour was the same. The pace of his walk hadn’t changed. This time he wasn’t escaping me. I ran after him like a mad man.

Hey! Old man! Wait! Stop!…..I kept on howling after him in between. He didn’t heed my request and went on with his pace. Distances on mountains are usually further than they seem and such was the case here. By the time I was  close to him, the hard running had ensured that my heart was acting like a battering ram, trying to open my rib cage from inside. I had to place my hand on it to check its escape. But I didn’t have time to catch my breath as the guy kept on moving.

I went closer and was a bit angry at his insolence. “Mr. I  was running wildly trying to stop you. Nearly tripped over the slope, but you didn’t stop.”

No reply

“I am talking to you,” I said while putting my hand on his shoulder.

He was very strong and I could feel it. He didn’t stop but spoke in a calm and unwavering voice.

“I had seen you coming and I had heard your cries.”

“Then why didn’t you stop.”

“You were curious and wanted to know about me. I had no reasons to wait for you. Moreover I had some work here and till it is finished I cannot stop.”

“But you don’t seem to be busy or doing anything. I saw you yesterday near Senchal Lake.”

“Are you stalking me,” he smiled “Yes I was there. I can be anywhere I wish to be can’t I”

“Can you stop for a while,” I gasped “I ran after you from such a distance and am having a hard time keeping up with you.”

“I said I can’t stop, if you want to talk then you will have to continue with my pace. You are young and it won’t be so hard for you to keep up with an old man.”

“Do you never stop? Just look around you, the beauty of the place….doesn’t it entice you?”

“I have seen all these and more. And what makes you believe that I am not aware of the beauty around me. The way I see it, you are not fully appreciating the natural wonders around you.”

“How can you say that,” I said angrily “We went to see the sunrise at Tiger Hill, we have been on a sight-seeing trip through this area since the last 2 days.”

“But you didn’t witness the spectacle of the sunrise and that made you sad. You are only using your visual senses to witness the nature’s wonders. To truly appreciate it you need to open all your senses. Be one with the environment around you. If you had done it, the clouds wouldn’t have marred your view of the sunrise.”

“And how do you propose I can open my senses?” I asked

“By being patient. Do not try to control everything. Go with the flow. Continue walking with me and don’t look at anything in particular.”

I walked along side him, without focussing on anything. The smell of orchids and other flowers, the odour of animals and the pleasant mountain air-filled my nose. The songs of birds, the voices of animals and insects and the voice of the light breeze entered my ears. The touch of the moisture in the clouds that flowed alongside and the light rays of sun-kissed the skin. The tongue could taste the distinct flavour of the Darjeeling tea without drinking any; the water in the clouds also had a pleasant taste. The eyes were not focussing on anything in particular and I still seemed to see everything.

Yes the old man was right. You need to be one with the environment to truly appreciate it. We continued to walk silently for quite some time. A little shower in between had soaked me to my bones but it didn’t seem to bother.

But the dream had to end and I had to return to my group or else they would be in a lot of tension.

“Thanks for being my guide, old man. But now I must return to my group.”

“Yes, you must. You have a responsibility towards them also.”

“Where can I see you again?”

“In time maybe, we will meet again.”

“But can I know your name, please.”

He smiled at me and replied, “I am Time.” He continued to walk with that pace and I watched as he disappeared into the cloud.

6 Responses to “The Old Man”
  1. Sapna says:

    A very compelling story 🙂

  2. Amity says:

    A lovely story..and extremely well told. Great job!!

  3. Kartikay says:

    Did you ask him, “Bhaiya time kya hai?”

    Really nice stuff, Mr. Leopard! Some more?

  4. Giribala says:

    The old man will only make you wiser if not younger 🙂

  5. Purbaray says:

    Reading it the second time and still liked it as much.

  6. AlkaGurha says:

    Go with the flow ….makes so much sense. Often nature doles out lessons of life which we had long forgotten. Engaging , meaningful read.

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