The Painted Peacock

By Lakshay Nanda

 It was the onset of monsoon in the Indian capital city New Delhi and the school students were having an opulent time to enjoy the remaining one month of their summer vacations. It is a small incident that occurred a few years ago and it often resurfaces from the core of my heart when I see the peacocks dancing in the monsoon season.

Early morning walk in the lush green farms of Pusa Institute in Delhi is one of the most soothing places where a nearby resident can explore the inner peace and tranquility. The serene path which walks amidst the green blooming farms and gardens is a blessing in itself to the eyes of the passerby’s. No wonder, this place is a hub for morning and evening walks as well as a pass time for the kids who come to play with each other exclusively during the vacation days.

“Is this a parrot’s feather?” One of the kids asked to another in the group who had probably come to play cricket early morning.

“Yes it seems to be. It is green.” The other kid in the group replied.

While the group of kids, who were aged in between nine to ten probably were discussing about the small feather in hand, there sat an old aged wrinkled man at the corner of the park where the kids played their game. The old man had prominent spectacles with dense glasses, pure white strands of hair on the corners of head, a walking stick supported in one hand and a white kurta-pyjama was a part of his attire. Any typical Indian old aged man in late eighties or early nineties could be imagined as an example from the man as described.

“Children, do you know why these parrots are green?” The old man asked the kids with his half-toothed smile and an old aged matured innocence.

“No Baba,” replied one of the kids calling him with the Hindi elderly word “Baba” with respect.

“Maybe he lives on a tree. Is it so?” The other kid replied in the group.

Soon, all kids sat near the old man who started telling anecdotes about the birds in the area. “Parrots are green because you are wearing green today.” The man pointed his finger to one of the kids who was wearing a green t-shirt. “And this is his way to say that he likes you.”

“What if I wear a black tomorrow?” The kid asked inquisitively.

“Won’t crows like you too?” The old man replied.

The kids started laughing on the childish humour of the old man. Along with the kids, the old man laughed too. His childlike subtle laughter seemed so appeasing that his half-toothed grin made an image in my mind forever.

After the small incident, the old man stood with great difficulty with help of his stick and walked away at a snail’s pace. The kids, who had probably fallen in love with him at their first rendezvous, bade their new friend Baba goodbye.

This became a routine and while jogging early in the morning, I started taking rest to stretch myself at a place where the kids and the old man took their break. It used to be a new topic everyday and each day the kids asked something unusual. Baba always had a ready to serve answer which could end up with the kids laughing and cheering the new joke every day. With each session of interaction between the kids and the old man, the old man used to ask a question at end of the day, for which he told the answers on the next morning. A few questions which I can recall were like ‘Why rainbow has only seven colours and not eight or six?’, ‘Why do squirrels run so fast with their tails bouncing?’, ‘Why do peacocks dance?’ and etcetera. The usual answers were always unusual the next morning; like ‘Today you seven kids are playing, that is why the colours are seven.’, ‘Squirrels run because they play cricket on trees and come down to field quickly.’, ‘Peacocks don’t go to school so they have the right to dance.’ All these answers ended in a laughter which in the later hour after the kids had played turned with a new question. The question that was put was to be answered in the next morning meet. The bondage between the kids and their Baba became very significant.

Of all this daily show, the most painful part which I could witness was when the old man got up and walked his way back home. I didn’t know where he came from and where he destined to, but I could see that torment of the old age when he walked at a very slow pace and that too with great difficulty. The walking stick trembled in his hand and each step he took felt like a feat achieved. I often felt that each morning I could see the old man wither away and get older day by day. It was probably a month or so and I could make out the inevitable loss of strength in Baba.

 The last incident I saw was when it had rained early in the morning and a peacock was dancing in the lush green gardens of Pusa. To the kids’ surprise that had probably seen a dancing peacock for the first time, were too excited with the nature’s beauty. While they discussed this with their Baba, a new question popped up from the old man, which was to be answered the next day.

“Why is the peacock painted so beautifully?” The old man asked with a smile.

The conversation always meant end of the day with the answer to the question on the next day. With the old faded body, the old man walked to his destination trembling and wobbling. Those slow steps taken in utter wreckage of remaining life are far too difficult to describe.

The next morning was clear. The sun was shining and no shadows of clouds shrouded the city. I sat on the bench where the kids used to play. But that day there were only kids and no sign of the old man. Something was missing in my mornings I had been accustomed to past one month. The eyes of the kids too searched for their Baba but no trace of his was found. I wondered what could have happened and left for the day. Another uneventful day passed with no sign of the old man and the same continued for the entire week. By then, some evil thoughts about the inevitable loss had already enveloped my mind. The searching eyes of kids couldn’t be answered. I had accepted what I couldn’t describe to the little kids there.

It was probably the last week of summer vacation in schools and the weekend was quite rainy that day. I sat at the bench I had been habituated to after completing my quota of jog and tried to stretch myself. The kids were playing and far away I could see a peacock dancing. The pleasant weather struck cold winds on my face, when one of the kids came near me and asked, “Bhaiya, do you have any idea where that Baba who used to sit here gone?”

I couldn’t find any answer for their question. All I could do was to reply some vague answer.“O! He might have been busy with some work. Didn’t he tell you that he was busy painting all the peacocks beautiful?”

About the Author: Author was born and brought up in Delhi. He is currently pursuing MBA at IIM Indore. He has keen interests in reading and writing and has written a fictional novel which is awaiting publication. He is currently working on his second novel.

One Comment

  1. Nice story