HE fell! The pavement had been unkind to him, he hadn’t seen the sharp stone sticking out, uneven, arrogant, catching his worn out, treadles soles and throwing him forward with a lurch.
He lay quietly on the ground, waiting for arms he knew would come to help him up, but there were none.
He thought of friends, men and women who would have rushed gladly to lift him up from cruel, callous ground, but knew they were not there anymore; they’d also fallen into deeper pits called graves or had been laid on cremation fire that had smoked their souls away.
He lay on the ground and looked sideways at the road; he saw people glancing at him, “Hey,” he tried to shout, “Pick me up, will you!” But no sound came from him, and the people seeing his lips move looked at each other and shook their heads, they thought he was drunk maybe.
Or maybe they did not want to get involved.
Lifting an old man up, meant they would be late for work, for their movie, for a date with some new friend, their journey home, their bus that would come any moment. Lifting him up meant involvement.
This was a city of concrete walls, concrete hearts. He pushed himself up a bit and slumped. There was no strength for him to lift himself.
Where was his son? No, he had no son, not anymore. He had turned his face away at the bride he’d brought home. “How could you?” he’d cried. “We are high caste! We do not marry out of our caste! Get out!” His son had left with Muslim bride in tow.
He’d heard they’d had a daughter. As he lay on the ground he wondered who she looked like.
Did she look like his son, or did she have the pretty looks of her mother? “Her prettiness stole my son’s heart!” he muttered to himself even as he lay on the ground.
He closed his eyes, then heard a voice, “Wake up! Wake up!” He opened his eyes and wondered what the blackness was till he realized it was black clothing he was seeing; a woman in a burqa. “Wake up!” she said. “Ah good your eyes are open! Now hold my hand and get on your feet.
I saw you fall, I was at the bus stop, I thought you’d scramble up yourself, but when you didn’t I realized you needed help!” She pulled him up.
“What is your name?” he asked. She told him, “It’s a beautiful name!” he whispered.
She patted the dust from his clothes, smiled and slowly walked away. “Son!” he called his son on the phone later, “What name have you given your daughter?” “Dad it’s you.”
Said his son, “No, we haven’t named her yet!” “May I visit my granddaughter?” he asked, “I have a name for her..!”