I too would like to live to be 92 years old.
I went to the hospital to see this 'friend' of mine who is turning ninety-two in a few months. He is surprisingly fit: he can read ordinary print, like in the newspaper or text messages; his stride is nothing short of amazing, almost a bounce, as he takes his evening rounds of the park; and best of all is his ability to communicate, without pulling you down as older people are wont to do, in that whining, almost morbid tone which makes them more respect-worthy they must think, for their age, that is. Or their brave suffering, carrying on inspite of all the world's inequities?
He lay there in a private room in the hospital as I walked in. It was a Sunday afternoon. Looking peaceful, reminding me of some literary English character, with his longish hair and beard cut in french-style. The room was a well kept one too, an armchair near the window placed invitingly where I went and sat down.
I call him simply 'uncle!' as I always have these past twenty years. He usually responds as 'my dear' or often more affectionately as " my dear boy! so good to see you!". And always with a gesture of reaching out to me, as if to put his arms around me. He met me again effusively, but this time he seemed to lack the energy to move his body.
I had texted him the day before asking how it was going in the hospital. He texted back " .. they kept needling me through the night and emptying my meager qty of blood. Got little time to sleep. Wait till my recovery and I will do my best .." He was making light of it of course, and referring to mediating in a personal matter I asked him to help me with, when he said .. 'he would do his best.'
We would meet otherwise in a park near his house in the afternoons. This was after a long break of nearly fifteen years. I had lived in a room at that time, built on a large plot a few houses down from them. He would be walking his dog to a nearby rose garden, as we talked about all kinds of things. A fascination with western ways and ideas and the everyday things around us and even in our lives, I think it was mostly with mine.
Now as we tried to fill the gap, we'd pick up on any subject bringing in other things it reminded us of which had happened during this time. My horizons had broadened and I could follow stories of his younger days. Things I don't remember him talking about earlier. What prompted him to talk of those things now, I wonder. His early days in Pakistan, the violence of partition, and later living in Kulu.
As I sat there now next to him I remembered an incident from the past, and started telling him about it. I saw him making an effort to follow -- as I happy with a chance to chat tried to broaden my story. He lost the thread, or realized he could not exert enough. I saw the interest fading in his eyes, and stopped. He did not prompt me to continue.
And like that we sat for many minutes, I wondering what to talk with him. The nurse came in with his tray of food. Welcoming the activity, I too ordered a lunch. We sat then in the quiet, something unlike how it ever was when we met outside. My lunch arrived and we ate from our respective plates. When we were done I told him I'd meet him now only when he was out of the hospital. He agreed with that.
Overall, I liked your essay. It reminds me of my own grandfather, who is now 95 but is way past the stages of aging that you describe. I think it will have this effect on nearly all of your readers, and it is for that reason that I like it so much. I'm going to point out a few small details that I would change however, that don't really affect content.
First, I don't understand your title, "...a still-life watercolor" If you incorporated some watercolor painting references into your piece, (or maybe just one, towards the end) however, it would make more sense.
You should delete "for their age, that is."
inspite = two words - in spite
In your 5th paragraph, I would refrain from mentioning the personal matter that you had been discussing with him. It only distracts from the focus of the essay.
In general, I like your minimalist writing style. It resembles Hemingway's style - have you read a lot of his work? You don't explicitly state the point of your essay, rather, you leave it up to the reader to infer. That's a mark of a good writer.
Katmandu0071 -- makes me think of Cat Stevens .. I wonder what your reason for choosing this name is?
On your question on the title. If I were an artist and did a painting of this visit, this is what I would have called it. I cannot help thinking of my writing as art. Part of the reason I am able to write short pieces only.
I read 'Old man and the sea' very recently, as well as its literary criticism. I think I would not have appreciated the quality of its writing earlier. I'm sure I assimilated some of that into my own. It was gratifying to hear your comparison with it.
Thank you, Austin..
Always so encouraging, aren't you! I like how you end by saying ..good luck with school... and the other things, of course, too!!
I well know how valuable, genuine criticism is and thank you for yours. I owe it to you, and others on this forum for helping me discover the joy of writing.
Rajiv, I actually copied and pasted your name into my gmail so that some day when I see your name on a book at Barnes and Noble, I can tell people I read your work and encouraged you when you were just starting out! I hope you don't think I say it lightly, as I want a signed copy of your first book!
I am both awed and humbled by your kind words
I self published a book, 'Writings from a Village' two years back. It's available in softcover now, and its ebook version will also be out very soon. Yes, the book had its beginnings on this forum.
I'll try to bring out another when I have enough material together for it. The forum is fortunate to have you helping here.
Oh! You're already a professional! I did not know I'd been chatting with a book author, I'm suddenly shy and have gone all silly! Rajiv I just found your book on Advanced Book Exchange and feel so weirdly proud of you! If I order one there, will you be paid for it? Can I buy a copy from you? I don't know if I'm allowed to give my email address here, but are you on facebook? I'm so excited for you, and also quite jealous! :)
well no one ever told me not to, so here's my email address; email@example.com (my dad was a diver)
Maybe you aren't so aware about self publishing. Anyone can do it, if they have enough material to make up a book .. and it wouldn't make them a professional writer by a long shot.
I thought the softcover copy of the book over priced and the ebook more balanced for the ordinary reader. But since it owes its existence to essayforum, that might be an additional angle of interest. I would love to know what you think -- and it might even be the first proper review I have of it. Thank you so much Susan.
Nice essay, Rajiv. Its very encouraging for those guys who don't respect their grandparents. [suspended for spamming]
That's a nice story. I can tell your book has to be interesting to read! The sad truth is that children respect their parents less than before, and they disrespect their grandparents... I read a book about child-parent relationships in the 18th century and I was shocked. Although the methods of bringing children up was a very strict one, still there was a great sense of respect to older people. I wish those times were back...
By the way, my grandfather is 87, and he's in high spirits. We always joke when we meet each other. He's my role model!