The Toothless Smile

Every morning as I unlocked the door of my flat I would greet her with a Namaste and she would nod in return with a bonus toothless smile that I adored. She sat there almost every morning devouring the warmth of the winter sun that loves hide and seek. She always had two set of newspapers. The Hindu and the Indian Express. Her balcony clearly visible from my living room window.

A little later I would be in a hurry clearing up the mess that my house looks before the household help arrives. My cold hands and feet keep tingling and feeling sluggish. A sudden unintentional glance through the window would leave me highly inspired. In these chilly winter mornings too she could be seen lining up her wash on the clothesline after her bath.

I knew she was old. The wrinkles on her face and her hands held her experiences, the many struggles she would have undergone, the battles that she would have had to fight, the tears that she would have shed and the happiest memories cherished by her. I didn’t know she was ninety years old.

The husband who had been down with pneumothorax sometime in November still prefers to cozily cuddle on the couch underneath a quilt now and then. I would show him this Iron Lady of mine and make him feel inspired too.

On 22nd December, her daughter who herself is a senior citizen handed over the keys to me for her daughter-in-law as she rushed to the hospital. My Iron Lady breathed her last sometime on the 23rd of December. Nothing has changed. Everything’s the same. Except the empty chair that still sits in that corner of the balcony and that missing toothless smile.

I spoke with her daughter at length yesterday and came to know that she was a doctor herself. A surgeon. Then it struck.

We knew each other for over two years now. But we hardly spoke. She knew Bengali. I knew Hindi, English and Malayalam. The mistake: I thought she only knew Bengali. I have no idea why I thought a lady who read two English dailies would not know English. We could have shared some good conversations.

Without words too there was a strange camaraderie between us. I adore old people. May be that’s why.

The pic below actually resembles her quite a lot. She was just a little over four feet.


Picture Courtesy :

Rest in Peace!


26 Replies to “The Toothless Smile”

  1. I love the way you take little slices of everyday life and interactions and turn into a melodiously flowing post, Reks. 🙂 As always, enjoyed reading this too.

    1. Thanks Sid! I write what I truly feel about someone or something or some incident. May be that’s why you could flow with it. Glad you enjoy my musings.:-)

  2. Your post reminds me of so many people — the vegetable lady with her pan stained lips and glazed eyes, the old man with a dhoti and a stick who I see regularly close to my house. I often wonder about them but never venture to having a conversation. Staying in the South, I feel even more conscious of my local language skills. Perhaps, next time I would. A post that told so many tales.

    1. Very true Rachna. Because of our self-consciousness and self created apprehensions we tend to ignore and miss out on so many opportunities in life. May be they were the true gems life wanted us to meet. And may be we missed them by chance.

  3. I am in love with your writing. The gentle and easy way of expressing your feelings is very impressive.
    Coming to the post, yeah some people do leave an impact on us, without words but with actions. Beautifully written.

  4. One of those many people who we tend to take for granted as we see them on a daily basis. This post painted quite a nostalgic picture about these ‘everyday characters’ 🙂

  5. They have so much energy, can make us laugh, so much patience and always wise. Old people make memories as they offer us a slice of happiness that belongs to them. Heart-warming post, Rekha:)
    Happy New Year 2015.

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