Life is beautiful for this ten year old dark mahagony colored wooden bench placed in the public park about eight years back. It was brought here after the park opened for public, and since then it’s been around day and night, through scorching summers and chilly winters.
Over time, the bench has had many a buddies, who come and sit on it while visiting the park. But ask the bench to pick five to six of its most favorable buddies and it doesn’t hesitate one bit to describe them.
Dr. and Mrs. Kapoor are the firsts to visit the park for their morning walk at 5.45 am every day. Dr. Kapoor is a renowned physician in town, and after their walk, every single day Mrs. Kapoor inquires to him about his schedule for the day. Every now and then Dr. Kapoor has an operation scheduled. Today he tells Mrs. Kapoor he has a major operation scheduled and that he’s tensed up whether it would go well. He sits on the bench and discusses about his anxiety with her. The bench quietly wishes the doctor ‘all the best’.
Then at 7.30 sharp enters Mrs. Rustomjee and her cousin Sally. They are associated with an NGO and have almost devoted their life to service. Dreaming about a clean city is what Mrs. Rustomjee believes and fights for, day in and day out. For her mission close to her heart, her NGO organizes several rallies and drives to bring home the importance of clean and healthy cities to urbanites at large. Be it schools, hospitals or slums, they organize the awareness drives across the board to seek maximum involvement and people participation. Every day when they perch on the wooden bench in the morning, the bench comes to know how the women’s day would be unfolding, and what all chores they have in store for the day. And thus the bench feels nice and fulfilling from inside, to have such a workaholic person as its buddy.
At 8.00 am walks in Mr. Pujari, a senior citizen, retired judge accompanied by his dear friend Shri Kher. After a brief walk around the park, they settle down on the wooden bench and discuss everything there is to discuss under the sun- whether it is affecting or not affecting their lives directly or indirectly. They talk politics, law and order, about busy lives, about the changing societal patterns, about how these days even to visit a close nephew or niece they need to call up before hand and then visit, they talk about the latest books each one of them has recently read and the conversations just drift on and on till 8.30, when usually it is Mr. Kher who peeks into the watch and remarks it is time for them to get going….Sometimes the bench wonders why it is very fond of these two senior citizens and then it convinces itself that it is because of these two gentlemen that the bench stays up-to-date on the happenings and events around the country/ world at large. So in a way, the two buddies are the bench’s information bank!
As the day advances, the bench sits all alone amid the scorching heat, sulking and waiting for the evening….because it is only in the evenings, that it gets to meet three of its last set of buddies.
Jay enters the park at 6.30 pm. After a brisk round of the meadows, with an i-pod stuck to him constantly, the fellow halts for a while and perches on the bench. To the bench, he seems to be a confused guy. Actually he is well educated and all, and he has also begun work recently. But the bench somehow feels that he isn’t enjoying his job. It isn’t giving him the kind of kick and push he’s perhaps yearning for. Although the bench doesn’t know where the problem lies. And then, every single day, slowly, he dials a number from his mobile handset, only to disconnect the number….until some day he musters some courage and dials the number again. This time he speaks to the person on the other end. He addresses her as Priya, and then slowly but surely the bench comes to know part of Jay’s confused life….girlfriend, less paid & stuck up job, zero job satisfaction, rising parental expectations….But something about the guy tells the bench that he’ll someday come out of his issues and pangs surely. There is one glitter and twinkle in the eyes of Jay, which the bench is very fond of, which tells him, that this boy will surely find his path. And the bench waits for that day curiously….
Exactly one hour after Jay leaves, a lady walks in, completes her daily 10 rounds of brisk walks and silently sits down on the bench. She’s been a visitor of this park for a longer time than the bench has been around. Till as recent as the bench could remember, this lady used to exude a sense of confidence in her walk, in her demeanor, and in general in her attitude. But it’s as recent as the past year, that she’s appearing to be kind of clumsy, irritant, absent minded and angry in general. Nowadays, every once in a while she forgets something or the other on the bench. One day, it’s her purse, some day it’s her vegetable bag. And then the bench wonders how a person can age so fast and how it could affect that person’s daily life….Then one day it is from his information buddy Mr. Pujari that the bench came to know a term dementia, and then it struck the bench that perhaps the lady is precisely suffering from this kind of similar disorder. Like a tree laden with fruit and flowers on one day, and then other day having shed all its flowers and having become dry and worthless, the bench has seen the journey of this lady transform from confidence and charm to the uninviting corridors of memory loss and dementia. And the bench’s heart reaches out to the lady….if only it could help her in her agony…
The last buddy whose story the bench wishes to share is a fifteen year old girl name Meera. She stands outside the park every day in the evening, selling flowers and garlands. As the sun sets and the park becomes a desolate place, she enters the premises, and quietly perches on the bench, opens her tiny yellow colored pouch, which is her money bag and sits to count her day’s earning. The bench doesn’t know about the whereabouts of Meera’s parents, or whether she does even have any family to go home to. Because right after finishing the money count, she heads out of the park to a stall, gets herself some quick bite and continues sitting on the bench for a long time. She just looks up into the star studded sky with eyes wide open. Perhaps there’s no one to tell her any stories about stars, perhaps she wonders about the universe or about her destiny….or perhaps the bench wonders she gathers dreams in her eyes and watches the stars awestruck. Her earnings are meager, the bench understands. It’s just herself that she’s supporting, the bench guesses. As night falls, her sleepy eyelids grow closer and in a moment she falls to sleep, like a child in the lap of the bench, under the envelope of the night sky to take care of her and to sing her a quiet lullaby. It’s been almost three years that Meera is going on with the same schedule, and then bench is more than her buddy. It’s her care taker.
So for this eight year old mahagony bench, this is life. Those who come and sit on it, all those special ones whose stories it shares heartily are its mirrors to the outside world. With their experiences and stories the bench realizes and comes to know how bad or sometimes good the world can be. Their anguishes and hopes ignite a curiosity in the mind of the bench, as it keeps on sitting where it always has, though quietly praying for each of its buddies; hoping that wherever they are, they stay happy and contented, and hoping that its friendship with all of those continues for years on….
For the wooden bench, this is life and life is beautiful, just like the scented flowers grown on the tree right beside it, the fragrance of which the bench keeps getting as seasons move on. Sometimes the fragrance is maximum, sometimes minimum, but the bliss stays etched in its memory until next year when the blossom would come back in full swing. Until then, it’s just the bench and its six close buddies.