“Learning palmistry?” Lulu, my parrot, asked me as he came in from the window. I was closely looking at the lines on my palm when Lulu asked this question in Sherlock Holmes style.
“When I was going through the immigration, I was asked to press my index finger against the ‘reader’, but it did not read. Then the passport officer asked me to press my thumb. No effect!”
“I understand what happened, old man.” Parrots with their language skills can be as offending as Amit Shah or Rahul Gandhi. I suspect that soon Lulu may be hired by one of the political parties. Rumour has it that Mamata Banerjee has already sent him a feeler.
“Don’t call me ‘old man.’ I do not like it. And what did you understand?”
“I understand what happened in your case. The lines or finger prints must have got blurred. Faded as they say. When people get old, lines get blurred. Sorry to refer you as old man again.” Lulu said this with the wink of Rahul Gandhi, the old man or Priya Prakash the young woman. Winking is the national pastime of we Indians. Be that as it may, this old age obliterating finger prints was amusing, and interesting.
“By the time you are old, and feel like committing a few sins which you always desired but dared not, before you proverbially kick the bucket, here is an opportunity. With no finger prints police can’t track you.”
“What the timid could not do in their young days they will not be able to do in their old age. Forget it. Do you realise that it is as good as losing your identity?” I had not thought of that possibility. I mean, when the police ask who are you, or worse still, when they determine who you are through finger printing, and you hold a slate mentioning your name and prisoner number waiting for the mugshot, they establish your identity by due process of law, if I am allowed to use that term. But what if there are no finger prints?
“The police will go crazy!” I said. “I am aware of the identity theft, but here is a loss of identity and nobody can be blamed – you blame yourself for getting old.”
“When you get old, and I have seen many old men, they drop their so-called identity. Nobody recognises them as a manager or a banker or by his position.”
“True. There is an old Doctor who stays in our building. Nobody remembers he was a doctor. He is simply an ‘uncle’ to many.”
“The corporate position is just a hat you wear. It is not your identity. Many make that mistake and lose authenticity. To call a corporate title as identity is like to mistake a hanger for a shirt. When your children grow up, and you grow old, you cease to be a father to them.”
“That is another identity we lose when we grow old? Never really thought of it.”
“Everything changes. Relations change, roles change, and so does identity. Work gives you identity, but old men stop working too.”
“So, you must not stop working. And when old, you must find meaningful work. That’s my take.”
“You are right. The most meaningful work an old man can do is to mentor a worthy person. Don’t you remember what the Australian nurse discovered?”
“She spoke this about the people on the death bed: ‘All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.’ Your finger prints have faded but you can still leave imprints on the lives of people.” Lulu moved closer. He hopped and perched on my palm which I held like the Mughal prince holding a parrot. “Get going Prince, you have lot of work to do,” Lulu said as we laughed.
Vivek S Patwardhan
“What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.”