Rest In Peace
I sit beside the old man’s grave and reflect upon my smallest ignorance that will certainly lead to my mightiest regret.
I have never had a strong grip over any aspect in life. In between the phases of chaos, I am sometimes gifted with an opportunity to do something worth cherishing. But then, I act like the sea; I eventually tend to let go of my gift at the shore. And mostly, it is not only me who loses.
I sit and think of the old man, my former master. The old man would always take the armchair to be his friend. He would sit there for hours at a stretch, staring ceaselessly at a blank sheet of paper. The paper evidently held nothing that made it worth the attention, but he stared at it with an unusual emotion, something that was too tough to be comprehended by my mind. There were times when I asked him about it, but all he did each time was look up from the sheet and then shift his eyes back to it, without replying. And somewhere within, it served as a burden to my mind, owing to the fact that I was unable to decipher the situation. Things always seem to act as burdens if we can make no sense out of them, don’t they?
One fine day, he gave me an envelope and asked me to get it posted. It was a relief. I assumed that he finally managed to mar the blank sheet with the tough emotion that he directed towards it each day.
Just as I was about to get the task done, I glanced at the envelope and felt that it was devoid of something. On a second glance, I saw that it was unaddressed.
“The old man forgets things,” the entire neighbourhood had whispered to me on my first day. Assuming that he had forgotten to put down the address, I wondered if I should rush back. But then, I was afraid that I would invoke the season of blank stares at the sheet once again.
I opened the letter to check if the content was of any importance. I was appalled at the discovery that followed – the letter was blank. There was not a single mark on it.
To my shallow mind, it felt unnecessary to run back to the old man for this. I took the letter as worth nothing. ‘After all, even after ages of thinking about it, he has forgotten to fill it,’ I thought.
I crumpled it and threw it in the nearby bin. When I went home later that day, the fact that he did not even enquire about the status of the letter made me think that my act was justified.
A few months later, the old man breathed his last. I left the town in search of a new working place.
A year or so later, after finding a permanent job elsewhere, I revisited the town to take all my belongings from the old man’s place. Before stepping out of his house once again, I decided to check his room for one last time. Among all the things that lay unclaimed, gathering dust, his scattered table caught my attention. As I slid my palm across the dirty surface, I found a tiny note. ‘I demand a blank tombstone, I want no epitaph,’ it read. ‘For I have had no connection with words in a long while. I spent months wondering what to write to her. Separation does not always leave one behind with a million things to say; sometimes, it renders one speechless. When I heard that she was dying but was still unable to fill the letter with words, I decided to let it be blank. I did not want to lose time and then lose an opportunity to make her touch something that I have touched so passionately, look at something that I have looked at so intensely, for one last time. And since the blank letter tends to be the closest to my heart, my tombstone too shall be blank.’
Now, I sit beside his grave, my heart aching a bit more with each passing second. If only I had run back to him that day and reminded him to put down the address. If only I had decided to post the blank letter, and made the blankness of his tombstone worth it.
“Rest in peace,” a passerby murmurs, looking at the grave. So many must have muttered the same wish. But only I am aware of the impossibility of its fulfillment.
“Ah, I keep forgetting certain things. But you are here to take care of that. I owe you so much gratitude,” the old man had mumbled on my first day with him, when I found him his glasses.
I did not let my ears convey those words to my heart.
“Of course, you will be paying me, Sir” I had replied.