I’ve been here a while. Still couldn’t say if I like this place or not. It’s hard for me to make up my mind. Don’t judge too quickly, I’m not a weak personality. I am not. I’m physically strong. I was groomed to be. I’ve travelled far and wide. Experience is not what I lack. I haven’t really figured out what it is I lack. I’ve spent many mornings burdened with people and my own thoughts. I have tried to grapple with the futility of life and what my role is in the larger scheme of things. I’m not a philosopher. I have, however, had the privilege of reading Plato’s republic in under 24 hours. I’ve been part of some deep, reflective discussions on life, god, poverty, art, relationships. You could say I have bookish knowledge. My experiences are limited though. I guess that’s because of my immobility.
I don’t get around a lot. I couldn’t, even if I wanted to. So I tell myself I don’t want to. I try to be content with meeting people. I’m lucky people seek me even if I can’t move on my own. I’m glad I get to know them and see them in different persepctives, often in a more personal and intimate way. I have that quality. Even the most wound-up, stuck-up people relax and be themselves with me. Sometimes they even let go and relax so much that it burdens me. The heaviness of it, the weight of it is sometimes overbearing and I feel like I can’t handle people anymore. I think of giving in, giving up, but I almost stop myself. ‘What if I end up hurting them?’. I realise I may be too hard on myself, even vain to think that I could hurt others. But I’ve thought about that too. I’ve pondered long and hard and you know what I realised? I’m not vain. I’m just like my father. He was a giver. He was the epitome of giving, much like the ‘Giving Tree’. He lived in the woods most of his life and had to move to the city much later in life. He was not used to the city. He said he didn’t feel ‘at home’. Even then, he kept giving, even while he was unwell. He was the kind that would make people at ease the moment they saw him. He had that quality to comfort people and help them forget all about their tired day. One fine day he died of a broken heart - seeing the atrocities of things, the brutality of city life and the disconnectedness of it all. I am a lot like him except I have met more people than him. And I know what happened to him won’t happen to me. Unlike him, I came to the city when I was young. He had the luxury of solitude and a quiet life. He was used to it so much that the city life ruined him. He missed the birds, clean air and all the good things that came with a quiet life. He missed having the time to reflect. He missed his roots. It’s hard to realise how important being rooted is until it’s too late. He had his friends, but they always gave each other space. Everyone co-existed. The most burdensome thing about being in the city was the noise and the crowd. He would be in pain by the day’s end, but he kept going. He kept going, knowing he was supporting people in need. But how long can someone keep on going? I didn’t know he was slowly dying. I didn’t know I would be doing the same work as him, until he passed away. I was young when he moved to the city. I didn’t visit him because I was with my mother. All I heard about him was what I heard from his city friends after he passed away. I was in the city for work as well and oh! the stories about him - he was great, majestic and beautiful! Something the city understood about him better than his birthplace. He wasn’t around to see me grow into adulthood but I feel lucky I got to spend my childhood with him, rooted in his values, growing in his shadow of warmth and nurture. Everyone thought he was difficult to live with, hard to talk to, but only I knew he was a delight to be around. He talked a lot about his childhood, how he had a difficult time and how that made him who he was, shaped him into the magnanimous thing he was. I’ve heard my aunt say that he hadn’t shared with anybody, even a tiny fraction of what he shared with me. Maybe she wanted to make me feel special. Maybe it was really true. He had lost his mom as a baby and the family he was with uprooted him and that was probably why he disliked moving. He spent a brief part of his childhood in a city home where he lived with his stepmother. I picture it as a cold and dark part of his childhood. He was swiftly rescued, thanks to some kind-hearted stranger that bought the city house who had the generosity to return him to where he belonged and the rest is all history. As brief as his time was with his stepmother, it had a deep and lasting impact on him. The culture shock, the crude reality that one can become homeless, parentless and baseless anytime, the fragility of life, the flawed design of nature and the cycle of life - it was too much to experience at such a tender age. It terribly overwhelmed him. But the one thing I’m proud of him, beyond any words can express, is that he didn’t let any of it get to him. He didn’t harden or turn numb and cold inside. He was as giving as anyone could possibly be, to the extent that in the end, it turned out to be his doom. I miss him, I do. I can’t deny it. I miss him a lot. I think about him when I’ve had a bad day, when I could use some pat in the back, some cheering up or advice. I think about him when I’ve had a wonderful day and need a familiar hand around my shoulder to make it even more wonderful. I think about him when I’ve had uneventful days wishing he were there next to me, enjoying the cool breeze, sitting in silence without either of us saying a word. Some days, everything reminds me of him: his good deeds, moments where he acted like a jerk, those times where he promised he would spend time but couldn’t make it and how I would be disappointed and how my disappointment would make him feel guilty and pressured and how we both would be disappointed, his generous acts towards strangers, his confrontations and contractions, his simple pleasures, his guarded and hardly expressive love for my mother, his high ideals, his discomfort at talking to children (how he took to only me when he generally disliked the idea of kids, I’ll never know) - are those days more of a curse than a boon, I wonder. Often, when I’m contemplating, I worry about how I came into this job and how much, like it did to my father, the job is killing me slowly. In many ways, I’m already dead. Transformation is death, don’t you think? But it is also new life. My aunt once told me about the ship of Theseus. If each part of you gets molded into something else, are you still the same? If what you were before is gone and you are now made of something else, are you still you? Is the real you still alive? These are my joys, the little joys of wisdom and philosophy that come with being immobile, the kind of wisdom you gain when it may be too late to put it in use for yourself. I don’t have children, I don’t plan to have any. My father and I, we belonged in the woods and it’s natural to expect that’s where my children would thrive as well and I didn’t want to do that injustice knowing very well that I couldn’t offer that for them. I’ve come past the point of being able to have children of my own. So, now what? I’ve been to places, I’ve seen things. I was in a warehouse once. I’ve spent time in a restaurant. I was part of a school for a while. I’ve seen some great projects. Now, I’m in a mall. Who knows, it could be the mall that you frequent with your family! May be we’ve even met and you didn’t even realise it was me. I’d like to think that if you knew it was me, you’d have liked me, admired me, may be even adored me. In any case, I’m glad I have people here who care about me. They do their best. Often, they have their own personal interests in mind and I’m just a tool for them that gets things done. Nevertheless, I’m grateful for the world I get to experience every day. Sure, there are things that are not in my control but I try not to dwell on that much. I know there will be a day when my breath will slow down, my strength will wane. My legs will give in first, then my hips and my hands will weaken. I’ll no longer be able to offer people what I offer now. No one will seek me. I know the reality. I know some places can do that to you more than others. I don’t mean to ramble and I certainly hope I’ve not made you feel blue. I guess I’m just reminiscing. I think I just miss my father. I miss my family and neighborhood. No matter how drudging it was, this place felt like home only because my father was also there. Look at how I’m going on and on, I guess I’m getting old faster than I’d like! Lately, I’ve been feeling incredibly fortunate and thankful to have had a father who cared so much. I’ve been lucky to have a mother who loved me and know will love me forever. I always picture her picnicking in the woods with my half-sisters and half-brothers, telling them stories about my adventures and bravery. I imagine them wondering what kind of a life the city offers and making up stories about me. I would have loved to meet them. They would have adored me too. They would have copied my moves, wanted to be more like me. We would have fought over silly things and important things. We could have lived long lives having all the time to know each other and may be even resent each other over time. But then, when good times come, we’d forget the fights and quarrels and be with each other.
My memories and imagination are my friends, always have been. If I were not who I am, if I could go places, if I were a bird or a bee or even a possum, my life would have been completely different. I will definitely not be in this mall, I’d instead be free and out in the open. But then, I could’ve been in a zoo or a cage too, I wouldn’t know. Whatever the case, I’m glad I had beauty in my life. I’m glad I still have the life I have now, with all its ups and downs. I’m glad you are a part of it now. You may think you don’t know me that well, but you do. Surprisingly, you may know a lot about me that my father didn’t get a chance to know when he was here. Promise me, human, you’ll look for me the next time you go to the mall. That would mean a lot to me.