I was on my way to the nearby gift store to buy a gift for my mother - it was her birthday the next day. It was also my grandfather’s death anniversary. I had seen many childhood photos of Mumma and him. She never really liked to talk much about him. I had never seen him and didn't even know much about him. Amongst the very few things that I did know was the fact that he had passed away twenty-five years ago due to smoking.
Anyway, I entered the shop keeping in mind Mumma’s small range of likes and my budget of Rs. ₹300 in mind. As I was browsing through the shelves, I saw amongst the photo-frames an elegant and decorous watch. It had a broad coral coloured strap and a big round dial with a slight and sober golden hue. But more than anything, what attracted me to it was a strange glow that appeared to linger about it. The tag on it said, “MADE IN INDIA, MFG: 1990, MRP: 350/-”
I was putting it back, considering the price - I’m terrible at bargaining - when suddenly, a low, gentle voice said from behind - “Take it. She’ll like it.”
I turned behind and saw a man with salt-and-pepper hair, draped in a white shawl. His loving eyes sparkled through the black square-framed glasses. He smiled and said, “I mean, whoever you’re buying it for will definitely like it.”
His face seemed familiar, though I couldn't really put my finger on it. “I…..uh….I’m not carrying enough money”, I said to the vague man when suddenly it struck me - this man bore an uncanny resemblance to my grandfather.
I was wondering whether I should say this to the stranger or not, and whether I should ask for a photo with him to show mum, when he said in a brittle voice, “I had bought a watch like this many years ago for my daughter the day before her birthday, but could never give it to her….”
It looked like he was going to say something else, but stopped himself. Instead, he looked over my shoulder at someone and sighed. I turned behind and saw a young man dressed shabbily, smoking a cigarette. I heard the old man say from behind me, “Please don’t smoke son. You’ll regret it one day - as I am...”
The moment the implication of his words hit me, I swung behind and was surprised to see no one there - just a crumpled fifty-rupee note.
Author: Shashmita Sanyal
Editor: Anubhi Srivastava