He was 70 year old, tall and handsome. He wore a striped blue sweater, cotton pants and striking white tennis shoes. The first evening I saw him; he was walking briskly and sweating profusely. He held a dark brown handkerchief with checks on it and wiped off the sweat from his forehead every now and then.
Every time I left for home from work, on my way back I enjoyed watching him struggle as he reminded me of Darwin’s theory “survival of the fittest”. The gravity to remain young, healthy and fit emanated from his personality and the extraordinary spirit to embark on a journey to stay healthy along with strange backaches, ugly wrinkles, false teeth, stiff joints and a poor eyesight is applaud able.
I had been working on a research project at a hospital. The hospital is constructed beautifully with a charming lake right across the patient ward where I work. My area of interest was pediatrics (children _ 18 years of age). Every day I used to take a quiet walk across the lake; in the grounds that are well manicured with oak trees. And during the walk I had no worries from my everyday life cluttered in my head, just the thought of children in the ward confined to highly efficacious medical treatments, which claim to add years to their lives.
This Monday morning I noticed the same old man sitting beside a pretty little girl who lost all her hair to a battle against cancer. When I went up to her side of the bed I wanted to ask the old man who he was but before I could say anything. The little girl held my hand and touched a strand of my hair and told me that I have beautiful hair. I was spell bound! It is so easy for me to claim that I am having a bad day. Stuck in traffic for hours, a fight with my best friend and a headache are reasons enough to label my day as ‘bad’ but this little girl reminded me that life is precious and we shall embrace it no matter how bad it seems.
Looking at my white coat, the old man asks “How is Bushra doing now? “Will she be able to go home in the coming week?” I tell him that I am not her doctor but I hope for her speedy recovery and a bright smile. The old man was Bushra’ s grandfather , he brought her a velvety soft scarf that she loved so much and covered her bald head with it right away. I helped her tie the scarf and she smiled at me and requested her grandfather to bring some more colorful headscarves for her other new friends in the ward. And so the other day, he brought 5 scarves of different colors and I helped the girls wear it.
They all looked so happy and excited to wear it together; we clicked pictures with them and shared different stories. Sometimes he would bring different color pencils and ask them to draw a picture they like. Bushra’s grandfather was a children magnet, it was a tremendous sight to watch all the girls getting along with an old man so well. He managed to change the aura of this ward room and so all the girls waited for him to visit them every day.
This week he did not show up. He was sick with meningitis. Now he himself was in a battle against a lethal disease and therefore he was also a part of Bushra’s army now. The girls made colorful drawings with wishes to get well soon but his condition kept getting worse. It was heart wrenching to see a man who filled little girls lives with colors, hopes and glee, lay down on the hospital bed helpless and sick. During a few weeks of treatment; he passed away. It was hard to decide which was more painful; his last breath or the little girl’s tears. The Cheerfulness that he brought to their lives was so palpable that one could reach out to and touch it.
When we are young, we want to change the world, as we grow older we settle for a change in the system and therefore in that critical process we grow old and ultimately realize that it would have been easier if we started by changing ourselves. There is a child in each one of us, which shall always live in order for us to live our lives to the fullest.
My project ended but I visit the pretty girls sometimes and I think of Bushra’s grandfather, I never knew his name but I see him standing there walking energetically wiping off sweat and smiling.