8 a.m. on a weekday morning. Mumbai’s crankiest best. Sweepers shuffling dust into the air with a vengeance, cars spelling out “Eat my dust” in their fumes, people shuffling to work. I stood at the bus stop frowning into thin air, waiting for a bus that was always late on days of important appointments. It wasn’t where I expected to see an illustration of happy.
A little boy and his grandmother walked past me. The boy in a pair of faded trousers and shirt hanging out in a state of shabbiness only little boys can perfect. The grandmother was little, white-haired, bespectacled and slightly bent in that endearing ‘grandmommy’ way. Both were holding hands tightly. For a moment I wondered, who was escorting who?
The kid was pointing out various sights on the road, nodding his head vigorously while granny shuffled along slow as molasses, only lips moving in some semblance of speed and revealing tooth-free gums. One bursting with all the exuberance and energy of childhood and the other living the calm, sedate slowness of old age…..oddly enough they were walking together and at the same speed.
As they passed me, I heard them both chuckle at some shared, private joke….childish laughter ringing out and intermingling with the shrill, cackly gurgle of a granny so old, she could only be described as ‘cute’.
I always imagined that the ‘prime of life’…after 20 and somewhere before 60ish…was the time of really living life. Of bearing responsibility, of making decisions for everyone in the other two stages, of driving the world. But watching this pair, so complete in themselves, so content in a picture where even the dust on the road looked agitated made me think….perhaps we are born wise and we grow down…and then up again.