Go on, ask them
He wanted to be an engine driver. Growing up in a house situated a stone’s throw away from the Palayamkottai station, he spent hour upon hour swinging slowly on the big, reluctant iron gates watching stately steam engines come and go. At fourteen, he mustered the courage to talk to one driver he had spent many years observing, and managed to blurt out his secret ambition. A few months and a wonderful friendship later, his boyhood dream came true – he rode with the driver in the engine room, watching in complete awe as the fireman fed and tamed the blaze.
He became a chartered accountant instead.
An elderly man returns home one evening with an impish look on his creased face. His wife has not seen that smile for a score and ten years. It worries her. He reaches into his bag, and pulls out a stethoscope.
“What is that?” asks his wife, convinced that this cannot be a good sign.
“A stethoscope. I’ve always wanted to hear what my heart and insides sound like. I bought it at Jayanthi Pharmacy today. Here, try it!”
Curiosity overcomes skepticism and she puts the instrument into her ears. A slow smile appears on her face. Soon, the two are listening to various parts of their aging anatomies and giggling deliriously.
A young girl wrestles with income tax sums in a numbingly boring maths textbook. Dull, insipid, unvaried, she thinks of strings of adjectives to divert her mind from the tedium of tax calculations. She simply cannot understand how her father could have wanted to be an accountant. When he comes home that evening, she asks him the question. And hears about a boy who dreamt of fiery coals and hissing vapours. But for whom life had other plans.
That generation had all manner of aspirations, but stuck to the well-trodden path. In the indignation of youth I thought they were chicken, not daring enough to be different. That they sought the solace of the familiar. Mellowed by age and my own failures I now know these weren’t surrenders, they were sacrifices. Very often made at the altar of dire financial and social straits.
That man who works in the bank knows a card trick. Or two. That shop lady’s house has the most gorgeous watercolours you ever saw. Go on, ask them to show you.
(Danke, Fraulein Mercury. We bow to your feed reader.)