Shrinking world of the elderly

Both looked well in their eighties. The gentleman held his companion’s hand firmly. She was probably his wife. Though both looked frail and frightened, she appeared to be the source of support. While everybody around moved briskly and seemed in a hurry, the two in contrast took small steps. Safety and not speed appeared their concern. The uneven pavement stones and the rain soaked earth had  further reduced their pace and level of confidence. She seemed to be continuously talking to him comforting and assuring him that he would be alright. He seemed to move entirely by her persuasion and the firmness of her support.    

Both stood at the edge of the zebra crossing waiting for the traffic to ease when they could hurry across. Not more than few steps to get to the other side. Yet it seemed so far. Each time the lady tried to take a step forward, a car or a two wheeler blared their horns forcing them to retreat.

The lady was further shaken when one of the motorists screamed at her for coming in the path of his vehicle. The aged and the infirm appeared to have lost their right to use the public spaces!

The traffic that raced by resembled the rush of the great migrating herds on the prairie. Instead of the hooves of a sea of Bison, antelopes and the zebra, it was the roar of the engines and the hooting of the horns. Keep pace with the herd or be bumped from behind or even be run over seemed the unwritten law of the road.

The level of concern for the other may have been more in the animal world compared to the humans on their motor machines. In the helmeted heads of the two wheel riders and in the minds of the men and women behind the steering wheels, there was  a single agenda,  get ahead. Find an open space to nudge through. Squeeze ahead. Beat the red lights. Niceties be damned!

For a moment the lady left her companion’s hand to protect her eyes against the dust that rose as the vehicles passed. In spite of her efforts to protect her eyes, some particles appeared to enter her eyes. Pain was evident on the face. The gentleman did all he could to help her to ease her discomfort. She laid her head on his shoulder perhaps for some comfort. He gently raised his companions head and tried to blow the dust off her eyes. The faint smile that touched her lips was more in acknowledgment of a loving gesture than a physical relief.

Though this human drama was played amidst a sea of humanity all round, the helplessness and agony of age was felt by only the two in a bid to survive on their own. Discretion seemed to prevail over valor as the couple turned back tracing their steps from where they came with a will dented. Perhaps their world had suddenly shrunk up to the road they could not cross.  

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