Monday, July 25, 2005

Beatrice

It was a fine Saturday morning, the day was clear and sunny, and I headed out to buy myself some cupcakes from the wonderful Cupcake Royale in Ballard. I was enjoying the bus ride and observing the menagerie of people populating the bus. There was a pleasant looking and garrulous middle-aged couple sitting behind me.

The bus stops along the way, and an old (make that really old) lady gets in. She is dressed in her Saturday finest, a spotless white shirt, and black trousers, a little red hat, a feather scarf around her neck, a walking stick in her hand and a smile on her face. She plodders up to the seat, and is going to sit down when she sees the middle-aged couple sitting behind me.

She looks at the lady, and suddenly yells excitedly;

"Beatrice! You're Beatrice!"

The lady smiles back at her, and says

"No sweetie, I'm not Beatrice. Do I look like Beatrice?"

The old lady continues, unable to control her excitement,

"You must be Beatrice. Well I never! She looks just like you. Do you have any sisters? A twin sister perhaps?"

The lady is smiling now, and tells the old lady that she does not have any twin sisters, and asks "Who's Beatrice? Is she a friend of yours?"

The old lady says she used to teach Beatrice to play the piano years ago. Then she says

"Don't think I'm senile. I'm not senile. You DO look just like Beatrice. My mind is still ok. I can't hear too good, but I can still hear myself play the piano."

The lady and her companion reach their stop. The lady smiles at the old lady, shakes her frail and skeletal hand, and waves goodbye.

The old lady continued talking to herself "Well I never, that was Beatrice! I saw Beatrice!"

Old age.

When I was in school, I was in the NCC during my 7th, 8th and 9th grade years. Once a year, we would all go down to the "Little sisters of the poor- home for the aged" (right next to Baldwin Boys School, Bangalore), with pastries, presents, a song and dance show, and good humor, and talk to the inmates. Most of them would be in their seventies, but many were in their eighties, and even nineties. They would all be frail, but smiling, dressed in their Saturday finest. Their smiles would be tinged with a little sadness. They would always be delighted to see us, and loved to talk to us. They would talk about their children and grand children. Many hadn't seen their children in decades.

Next to most of their beds, there would be a photograph of their big, smiling, happy family. A distant happy memory.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

That’s a very sad account, with an underlying tinge of poignant happiness. Ponderable indeed.

Amrit said...

Sometimes a very old (well above 80) Sikh carpenter comes to our house with his young son whenever we need some wood work. He is fitter than the 40-year-olds and works more than his son who is perhaps in his 30s (then may be he is the grandson -- I don't know). I would like to grow old like him. Since I, along with my wife, don't want to end up inactive in my old age (if miraculously I reach old age), I'm already making some plans with my wife.

Amrit
http://www.writingcave.com

Sunil said...

Anonymous....when i saw this a tinge of sadness rushed through me.

Amrit...I wish you and your wife all the best....but there's a good bit of time for that :-)

uma said...

oh god yes, i've gone to that home. the little sisters of the poor. supw? they loved our visits.. "a distant happy memory" - so true.

remember 36 chowringhee lane?

Sunil said...

Ya....I believe you girls went there on supw.....the boys though went only if they were in NCC, and once Kulkarni took the scouts there.

I thought of 36 chowringee lane when I saw this old women on the bus. She looked like Jennifer Kendal! She was all smiling and happy, but I felt a tinge of sadness....

Michael Higgins said...

Hi Sunil
Years ago, I worked in an apartment building for seniors. Some were there in body only. I remember once an old man came down in the middle of the night clothed only in his jetti asking, "Where is my wife?" His wife had died years before. He had Alzheimer's.

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