Autumn

When autumn, glorious autumn with its russet coloured leaves, bare vulnerable branches and bleak rays of sunlight comes to visit, my mind makes its annual journey to a time and place now hazy. For hidden in the vivid but tired foliage is a story about a very old man and the lessons he taught a very young girl about watching and applauding while nature’s cycle ran her course.

For someone who grew up largely without the presence of indulgent grandparents around, my first meeting with the old man confirmed the idea that he could be a candidate for the probable post. And so we became buddies, the septuagenarian from down the road and five year old who latched on to him and his magical world of tales and anecdotes. That summer and for the many more that were to follow we roamed the neighbourhood and watched the heat take its toll on the sleepy side walks. Together we attempted to interpret our surroundings; we welcomed the profusion of flowers that arrived gaudily on the scene in spring, we stopped at one of the many little road side bonfires on cold wintry mornings during our meanderings, we watched the cottony clouds chase each other across the skies on languid days. We shared stories under the cornflower blue skies and watched the old mango trees down the road ready themselves for the first onslaught of the monsoons

He waited patiently in his rocking chair while I raced about in his front yard to collect the hail stones from the first hail storm of the year so that we could have our own special ice-cream. He cheered with me as we watched the muddy rivulets whisk away our paper boats and they disappeared around the bend in the road. He was there in his little balcony when I got back from school and when I had escaped from out of my Mum’s hands and presented myself at his door often in my school uniform with my shoe laces trailing behind me, he filled me in on the details of the day. The whole world seemed magical and as we went on our daily walks, sometimes to pick up the newspaper from the store across the main road, sometimes to see a local football match at the park down the road, he would firmly hold my smooth small palm in his old weather beaten and rough one and warn me about not letting go. Not that I complained for there was so much to talk and so much to see that I wouldn’t have gone away even if he would have asked me to.

On one such autumn day as I explored his sun dappled garden and ran my hand over the moss growing soft on the old whitewashed compound walls, he pointed out the bare trees to me with their brave golden yellow leaves. “Try pulling off one”, he suggested and I happily obliged. “Do you know why it comes off so easily?”, he asked and even before I answered, he continued “It has no resistance left, it is willing to go wherever it will be taken, it knows it needs to make way”. This didn’t sound nice at all, never before had I seen him so sombre and I didn’t like it. I let go of the leaf and it drifted to a pile of gold at the bottom of the tree. Till that point I hadn’t known that this cycle of seasons and colours had an element of finality in it and I wasn’t sure I liked this revelation. He must have seen my confused downcast face, because he gently put his arm around me and smiled and said “It has had its place in the sun, and unless it moves elsewhere, how else will you see new shoots and new beginnings?”.

I didn’t learn the lesson right away, I wasn’t even sure I wanted to accept something that didn’t sound very pleasant. It took me years to realize that though the seasons are cyclic, their effects on all things around us are cumulative. He died on a cold autumn day a few years after he told me this and strangely while trying to deal with his death, I found myself in front of the same tree again, perhaps trying to re-learn one of life’s hardest lessons.

And while this season still brings back memories and makes me introspect on the finality of it all, I have come to realize that what he really taught me on that day many years ago was not that winters are for saying good byes but that you cannot welcome spring in your life till you accept the realities about autumn.

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  1. Trackback: Linked to a Tag.. « The Heart Monologues

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