Verdant rolling hills, a well-made road ending in a cul-de-sac at a mountain temple, strolling peacocks and lush greenery — this depicts the path of 8–10 kilometers where i cycle almost on a daily basis.
Couldn’t help but notice this gang of 3 everyday.
One was a tall, portly gentleman who had a loud voice and infectious laughter. You could hear the quips and the guffaws from afar! (Mr.Portly)
The other was an individual of normal height, wearing shades (even if it was not sunny), a Fidel Castro kind of cap and army fatigues for the bottoms everyday. Nodding his head every now and then and making the occasional quip (Mr. Castro).
The third was short and lean individual who walked faster than his companions. I would see him rushing ahead and waiting every now and then for his companions to catch him (Mr. Shorty).
3 isn’t a crowd as the popular saying goes — consider yourself lucky if you have 2 others whom you can count on, no matter what.
I have been seeing them for months now. They follow a strict time regimen — 6:30 AM on the way up the road. I normally saw their backs while riding up and while cruising down the slope on my way back, would watch them from afar. Joking, slapping each other’s backs and the occasional sprints of catch-me-if-you-can. They were all in their late 50s/early 60s, but behaved as if they had been just let out of a boring day at school!
Unable to contain my curiosity, i stopped to say Hi! one day and then enquired. They were all retired from their businesses/Jobs. Mr. Portly had a daughter in UK, Mr. Shorty was childless and Mr. Castro was ex-Army who lived with his wife who was terminally ill. Mr. Castro’s son was doing well in the US of A. Hmm..smiles, playfulness and a spring in their step despite everything that was going on in their life — that was quite a revelation.
For some days, i noticed that the Mr. Portly was sullen and and withdrawn. The trio was on their daily walks, but the gaiety was missing. After some days, it was just Mr. Shorty and Mr. Castro.
I had some work related travel that took me away for a couple of months.
Serviced my bicycle by oiling the moving parts and filled-in air to resume my cycling. Was a bit late the first day, so thought i probably missed the trio. The next day, i saw Mr. Castro strolling alone. A defiant looking visage but with a hint of sadness. I turned around and got down. Started wheeling the cycle while walking along-with.
Mr. Portly was dead, he had traveled to the UK. Suffered a Multi-organ failure within a week of landing there. Mr Shorty had an myocardial infarction (heart-attack) and was gone in a couple of days after Mr. Portly.
We hardly spoke for the rest of the walk. At the base of the mountain, i bade him goodbye.
He nodded and continued his walk. Goodbyes weren’t new to him — closer people had left without a proper one.