Like every Sunday, yesterday too I had gone for my usual round of morning walk at the Rabindra Sarovar Lake.
I enjoy the clear blue water of the lake, the different shades of green of the huge trees , the cool breeze and the serene ambiance of the place.
But the best thing I like about the place are the people there. People of different size and shape. Range of age anywhere between 2 years to 80 plus years. Senior people siting on semicircular cemented benches, enjoying their doze of "adda" (Bengali word for chit chat and gossip). Young people huffing and puffing , measuring their sprints around the lake. Groups of females, young mothers , a few elderly ones , talking, sharing their experiences, smiling and laughing.
It is a happy place and I love to stroll there, observing people and their activities , enjoying the scenery, the birds and the breeze.
Yesterday, I saw a group of people sitting under a huge tree in a circle and reading aloud. a book reading group. I sat down with them. They had just finished reading out an excerpt on Socrates and Plato. It was very interesting. There was a dignified lady sitting beside me. She took out a tattered piece of cloth and opened it very very carefully and lovingly. It was a cross stitch cloth , and the Alphabets A to Z were stitched on it . It was a bit torn and frayed and faded at the edges. The creases of the folds were flaky.
Her eyes were moist when she spoke.
"My father passed away last year . He was 87 years old. Last week I was rummaging through his belongings and I came across this piece of cloth. I was just about to throw it away, when my neighbor's 6 year old daughter came inside the room. She was my father's friend. They enjoyed each other's company and would share stories with each other till his last day. The little one does not know yet that her Grandpa is no more. She believes that he has gone to his friend's place and should be back soon. So she comes to his room everyday, fiddles about with his chair, his pipe, his spectacles . She misses him.
She saw this piece of cloth in my hands and she exclaimed - "Oh ! That is Grandpa's !!"
"This is Grandpa's ? But this is a cross stitch work . He did not know how to embroider " I exclaimed.
"No, no... Dadu knew cross stitch. He had told me ! He had promised that he will show me a handkerchief which he had made when he was in class 1 . This is that handkerchief ! Show me , show me ! " She danced in glee .
I suddenly recollected that my father had studied till class 1 in an Anglo Indian girl's school, along with his sisters. Boys were allowed till the age of 5 - 6 years in the school. He was the only male in a class of 25 girls.
In the needlework class, he had learnt and made these alphabets using pale pink thread on this lemon coloured cloth using cross stitches.
And I am sure he was proud about this as he had talked about the handkerchief to his small friend.
This tattered piece suddenly became precious to me. It was about 80 years old, in the British era ! And more than that, I came to know something obscure about my father even when he is not there in this world.
Maybe this was his way of keeping his promise to his sweet little grand child ! "
Her voice wavered. Her salt and pepper hair shone in the rays of sunlight which fell on her face through the creeks of the leaves of the tree.
She passed the precious piece around the group.
My fingers trembled when I held it in my hands. His little friend had given a gem of a remembrance to his daughter.
Cheers to the bonding between the 87 year old and the 6 year old child .