It was the first free-flowing laugh he'd heard in some time. Even without putting a mouth, a face or crinkly eyes to it, he was envious. And instantly amused at his envy. Had things reached such a nadir that he was jealous of a stranger's happiness ?
Shuffling through the quiet, familiar bylane, the suddenness of that rippling sound had startled him. He was contemplating his Osho's with some vexation as they were just 'that' annoying bit too big for his feet. Shoes never seemed to fit him well, a fact consistent with the rest of his clothing. His body gave the impression of having given up on growing as a thankless task, leaving him to struggle along in clothes that were too big or too small & shoes that were too tight or gave the impression of clown feet. The Osho's though admittedly comfortable, were no better & forced him to move like an arthritic tortoise contemplating it's life with dissatisfaction.
As a force of habit or perhaps to avoid the idea of his lurching gait, his mind wandered along a different path, but one he'd been on before; change. He'd attended a wedding the evening before & found it interesting that he could not picture his friends any differently after the ceremony. To him, it seemed like they had moved on from being casual daters to people just more committed to each other. Marriage ceremonies did not signify the occurrence of anything special to him, unlike in childhood. Back then, there was something solemn & urgent in the air, almost like being in the eye of a hurricane & being unaware of it. As a child, he had viewed weddings as grand, social occasions with a singular event - the actual moment of marriage. Now, being an adult, he was aware of a lot of the back-stories; the gossip, the heartache & the bitten lip, the planning, the deliberate steps & decisions people took... even the blossoming love story, if that be the case. The magician's trick had been explained & no longer seemed extraordinary.
He was making his way back from an old haven in Hong Kong lane & change had caressed that corner of the city also. It used to be impossible for him to leave without at least one book in hand. This day, followed by the disinterested eyes of the owner's crony he had found nothing. He had found nothing on his last four visits. As his back turned on the shelves of the 'latest rages' without a farewell glance, he swallowed the bitterness. Magic was gone from here as well, not deconstructed but fading away. Beauty replaced by convenience.
He turned at the corner & saw her. Resting against a concrete post, she was in classic Puneri winter attire; sari, sweater over it & a hanky tied around her head, protecting her ears from the cold. Except that winters in the city were no longer cold. He could hear her saying something as he approached, heard her laugh again & not finding anyone else around, assumed that she had one of those hands-free gizmos. A heartbeat later, he understood. She was mentally ill. Then, he saw where she had chosen to rest.
It had once been part of a gate-post, the start of a wild garden leading to a house with a small central lobby & to shaded rooms with two cane chairs that defined comfort. A house that meant something intangible to a great many people now scattered around India. Walls & spaces that were valued when they stood & were were now priceless when only the mind's eye could see them. Change had taken the house away, but even the last remaining piece could still make someone laugh without paying for it.
Change was not invincible.
But it was merciless.
Song for the moment: Blowin' in the wind - Bob Dylan
P.S: This is not an argument against change, just a slice of the opinion pie.