On Living Too Well



We walked down Marine Drive, he panting behind me; “Maybe it’s your shoes,” I told him.

“Yes it’s my shoes,” he said as he downed two whiskeys straight at the club we’d walked to. “Next time we walk I’ll get my walking shoes. Good ones. I brought them from Germany!”

I’d chided him a little late on his weight: You’ve grown fat,” I’d told him, “You need to exercise!”

“No time,” he’d said, “My work is such. I have to look after Maharashtra and Goa!”

“There’s always time to exercise!” I’d told him, and as we got into his jeep, he’d told his driver, “Stop! Now just drive to the club, we’ll walk!”

“Are you sure?” I’d asked him looking at the heavy suit he wore and then gazing at the sun.

“You said there’s always time to exercise, didn’t you? So let’s make time now!”

He struggled, but kept up. He was younger than me, energetic, full of life and once when I’d written and directed a play, could fill a hall, with the people he knew.

But as he walked I’d known it was not the fault of the shoe.

He’d seen tough days that had kept him trim, you have to be trim when you sometimes eat only a meal a day or sometimes two. But then he’d jot this job, maybe hectic but which paid well, and I’d seen the flushed red of a good life spreading through his face.

The alcohol didn’t help.

He came back from Goa, successful trip he told me, and then he went into hospital, into coma and then passed away.

I walked behind the coffin. There were hundreds who walked beside me that day, but very few knew him as I did.

Gone was the redness of his flushed face, gone his cheerful smile, and in its stead a deathly pallor.

I couldn’t see his shoes and I wondered whether they were the same pair.

“Hope you’re wearing your walking shoes!” I said, “Because heaven’s high up and you’ll need a good pair of shoes to climb those golden stairs.

The man next to me looked startled as I talked to the body.

“You knew him?” he asked me.

“Yes,” I said, “very well!”

“What d’ you think he died of?”

“Good living..!” I said and wondered how it sounded, “There lies a man who lived too well..!”

Maybe a warning for you and me.

Clarion India - News, Views and Insights about Indian Muslims, Dalits, Minorities, Women and Other Marginalised and Dispossessed Communities.


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