Noel

(Sept 2005) Two days ago, I made a new friend. 31 years older than me. Will probably never see him again in my life – as he lives in a different country and is not in the best of health. But, I have never met a more alive person. Living alone at 71. And looking forward passionately to the next 71. Firebrand personality - casting light with his cheerfulness and vigour. We had recently moved to Mumbai and I had brought along my maid who was from Philipines. One morning we went out for a walk along the sea and that's when we bumped into this cheerful silver haired man. We were chatting and walking and people watching and came upon a silver haired man, too perfectly dressed, armed with a walking stick and a huge sunshine smile, chatting up a friendly pariah dog.  His cheerful presence as too attractive and inviting to ignore, and so, though this is not the norm at all, we stopped to talk to him. He smiled at me, but spoke directly to Leida.  His opening statements acted as an introduction to himself : "I once had a filipina wife who had dumped him to marry my brother"! Combined with a huge smile this introductory cocktail of positive and negative ( must have been a negative memory for him I thought)  left us speechless . But his twinkling eyes and his general benevolence said a thousand things to put us at ease and the conversation continued. The walk which was meant to be half an hour long turned into a 2 hour chat session - he was too interesting to let go of! From the beaming sunshine in his smile, it would be easy to believe that he had seen only good times and had been presented with opportunity every step of the way. That destiny had smiled all the way upon him.  But his eyes told a different story. They spoke of the all the millions of experiences his soul had been through. That he had not hidden his soul away and kept in safe places and preserved his comfort. They spoke of the kite ventures of his heart and mind. They spoke of all the adversity his choices had led him to face. They spoke of the pain of the consequences of his choices. And they spoke of the resurrection of his spirit a million times over. Strong core. Beautiful soul stories. He talked of his two marriages, his estranged grown up children, his life living alone in an old age home.  He talked of stories as a pilot and his challenges with his travel. He talked about the recently acquired old piano and how he was restoring it himself. He had just recently begun learning to play it for the first time in his life and was quite confident of mastering it in due course. He sat and played a few pieces jointly with my children when he visited for dinner 2 days later. A man who had lived fully and faced life with strength. Sturdy, not from the knowledge that he would not get hurt. But strong in the knowledge that he would heal again.  He knew. He was afraid of nothing. Not because nothing could hurt him. But because even if it hurt, he would be able to recover. The big thing about him, was his spirit at 71 still burning bright. He was roaring to go after each new day and fill it up with unforgettable memories. Lived long enough to have given up on the unimportant artificial impositions of life.  And lived long enough to treasure moments and their sources.  He had let go of the bitternesses that ultimately lead to so many floating dead people among the living. He had given up on the angers that poison the ability to cherish the next coming moment. His struggle, his obvious victory shone in his face as twinkling eyes all full of sparkles of the joys he had received from life.  Joys that he’d received by letting his soul go off on wandering adventures. And the eyes also had the shadows of sweet sadness – in memory of the things he’d let go of, very consciously but still loved them to death. What a man. What a life.




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