I have never seen Mr Patel without his long beard and flying locks. He flaunts them like a teenage girl. His hair is sort of a patchwork alternating with patches of grey and black. I suppose it never occurred to him to dye his hair. He just accepted it as one accepts the sun and the moon.
He is not someone important, but that does not bother him in the least. As far as he is concerned there is no work better than gardening. I can’t ever imagine him without his gardening tools. He must have started gardening as soon as he was out of his mother’s womb. I don’t doubt it for a second. He’ll mend the gardens of people, irrespective whether or not they asked him to. He’ll bring saplings and plant them in gardens without so much as informing the owner. Initially it used to irk people, but as they got to know him better they didn’t mind. His siblings have long since flown away from their nest. They send him money from time to time and he manages not to starve. He loves telling stories to kids. As a child I used to sit on his lap and beg him to tell a story. Even now nothing has changed. My daughter now sits on his lap instead of me. And the stories are getting more interesting as the days pass. Each and every child in our village receives flowers from him on their birthday. He’ll show the children a bud about to blossom, the nest where the cuckoo has laid her eggs. He will proudly show the flowers in the gardens he has been mending. Paper boats will be made and launched in local puddles. As the skies clear he’ll fly kites with them. He loves children and they adore him. He’s always game for a cricket match. I think he is a child himself and
I don’t think he’ll outgrow it even if it’s time to lay him in his coffin. He is a happy combination of man and child. No man could dare to live his life as he does and no child can take tasks he takes on.
Even today his eyes twinkle with the same spirit that must have made his mother smile, the first time she held him. And they’ll twinkle with the same spirit as long as he has gardens to mend and a story to tell.