The Empty Bench….



The empty bench…
Succor for the tired knees….
Playground for lonely hearts…
Heaven for the holding hands…
Forum for the hard talkers…
Refuge for the odd couple…
And yet…
When the day’s over, everyone’s moved, it is left to its fate…
To tide over the elements and secure it’s life for the next day…

I had written this stanza addressing the theme of this picture on Instagram, little did I know that an unlikely incident would suddenly render my focus back to this empty bench and redraw my thinking, to the extent that suddenly I find the motivation that I had been lacking for quite sometime to write and touch upon everyday life.

There is this uncanny old man, part of my team…a stout old guy with impressive mustache and somewhat an irritating demeanor. He has served in my team for the past few years and I would not like to define my relationship with him as a very healthy one. Differences of opinion cropped up every now & then and sometimes egos & perceptions got the better of logic and reasoning. Yet the unspoken consensus was that if activities are on an even keel, put the other aspects to rest.Years have gone by and the uneasiness exists, I often spoke to myself that I wouldn’t probably be the guy to bemoan if he leaves.

One fine morning, I hear that he is dead….cardiac arrest the previous night, everyone at his home gave their best shot but he wasn’t to be resurrected back. I am suddenly engulfed by this dilemma….

“Good riddance, one less irritant in my job…”, this should have been my ideal reaction!!! In a way it was!!! I am a corporate professional meant to ‘get things done’….remorse, feelings & silly melodrama does not weigh much against ground reality, pragmatism, efficiency, work needs & professional responsibilities….

Yes!!! I know I would fill up this vacant position, some other guy would eventually replace this old man, life at the site would resume like every other day…. Few people would inquire for a few days and then everything falls silent & in-place; the new guy adjusts, the people needing his services adjust, I would adjust my responses….the whole world would adjust….

What’s the fuss about writing? Why even this discussion of guilt/dilemma? Why this self induced melodrama? There’s no logic and there’s no point….dragging an eventuality & postmortem of thoughts is idiocy!!! You do what you can, ensure the guy gets his financial dues, the family knows that an honest & impartial effort was made to provide what the guy owed….that’s it, where & how do you figure anymore then that??!! Your job is done buddy….

Guess, life & thoughts are never that simple. I kept thinking about the old man for quite sometime; asked my assistant about the guy’s family, turns out that he had a lively family of wife, two son’s, their families & scores of grandchildren; every basic requirement of life met and a little more; nothing that the old man struggled for at this age but a willingness pitted against his health to stay active, the soldier in him still defeating his heart and knees to go on….

The next day, I am sending an activity report of the previous week with photos and the old man figures out in each of them. Pausing for a moment, I take a walk to the office where he sat. As I stood I saw an empty bench, the exact location where he would sit for his tea breaks…all encompassed in his sip, often a question asked between the sip would go unanswered coupled with a terse expression. I kinda felt the terse expression as if imprinted in the wall right behind (boy!!! did I hate it….) but the bench was empty….

Life is a great leveller but then death is even a bigger one….draws back to the empty bench, so many similarities….

it’s been sometime…

– I just sat down on the bench looking at the gate ahead….every job was just going on in the exact same manner as it had been for weeks, months and years, nothing had stopped, just the bench was empty….

– The concluding rites being performed, few of my team members attended it, everyone reported that it went off great, to everyone’s satisfaction, the family members are alright; the sons (both in the army) are reporting back in a week, grand kids ask about their grandpa but school & frolic pretty much occupied their mind-space in the last two days….and yet that terse expression with the sip is missing from the bench….the wall is just plain white again….

– Evening before I leave, I crossed the gate towards my residence, that grumpy old man waltzing along the perimeter is just an after thought now…I stare at the road, a different guy walks…I turn and keep going…

Everybody can be replaced, I will be too….somebody else would sit on the empty bench, the bench would have a new story to witness….

I had sat on the bench for a while but got up, it’s getting late, have to move for dinner and home….tomorrow I have a new day at office, tons of work awaits….


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