Of old age, 'hunting accidents' and unresolved issues

There could be nothing worse than having an unresolved issue in one’s old age

lizard Representational image

In school, I always played in the full-back position on the hockey team. So, I never got an opportunity to score a goal – something that I desperately yearned for. On one occasion, I begged our team captain to let me play as a forward – at least for part of one inconsequential match. He reluctantly agreed - and I was thrilled! Oh, that glorious feeling of running to get ‘unmarked’, receiving a long pass, dribbling past the last defender, and then scoring a goal. But even as I got to shoot at the goal a few times, the burly goalkeeper blocked every attempt. The two teams remained goalless, till almost the final whistle when I got a pass right in front of the goal. I was about to realise my lifelong dream. The goalie came charging out, even as I ran at full speed and flicked the ball towards the goal. Other players later said that the very earth seemed to shake when the goalkeeper and I collided.

I had no recollection of what happened after that, because the keeper and I both fell unconscious. We were taken to the hospital, where I received 10 stitches on my eyebrow and the goalkeeper got as many on his head. When I came to, I eagerly enquired, “Was it a goal?” Surprisingly, no one seemed to know. Everyone was concerned about the fallen gladiators and not one of the players had cared to note whether I had scored a goal.

The 10 stitches on my brow left an ugly scar, which I carry to this day – more than 60 years on. I used to look at this scar when I shaved and, every morning, I wondered whether I had scored that goal or not. And I remained convinced that there could be nothing worse than having an unresolved issue in one’s old age. Till I had that hunting accident last year.

But let me explain. We old people are not stupid, and that is why we do not refer to our shenanigans and indiscretions as foolish actions. We call them ‘hunting accidents’. Furthermore, contrary to popular belief, chivalry is not altogether dead. If a lady shrieks or screams, it behoves a gentleman to come to her succour and aid, even if the said lady is his wife. Whether the little woman screamed or she shrieked that afternoon was, however, of only academic interest – jolted as I was to total wakefulness from the absolute catalepsy of my afternoon siesta. I heard the shriek again from the general direction of the kitchen and I, the ever gallant husband, sprang to defend the dear wife.

I rushed to the kitchen where the little woman stood in a corner, frozen with fear. She looked the classic damsel in distress, straight out of some illustrated fairytale book. The fire-breathing dragon that had scared her was a medium-sized lizard sitting on the floor, moving its head from the left to right. Then again left to right. Menacingly. On seeing that wild reptile, the dormant knight within me came to life. With great alacrity I seized a lance-like broom lying nearby and lunged at that monster with a savage war cry. Sadly, as I pounced, the ground slipped away from under my feet, and I landed on the floor with all the 90 kilogrammes that I have at my command. But even as I fell, I managed a mighty swipe at the dangerous reptile.

The next thing that I remember was my wife bending solicitously over me, trying to wake me up. “Did I manage to kill the blighter?” I asked. The little woman looked nonplussed. “Oh, you must have. I think it scuttled away behind that shelf. But look, there is the tail!” Now, I love my wife dearly, but I will never forgive her for failing to observe whether I had killed the lizard or not. To point to a wriggling tail on the kitchen floor and inveigle me into believing that the ferocious reptile had been killed was simply not acceptable. I needed conclusive proof; like seeing the villain lying dead. I would certainly not have mounted the squished carcass of the reptile as a trophy, but I was equally averse to passing off a thin strand of something as proof of a ‘kill’. However, the corpse was conspicuous by its absence and all that I could see was a frantically wriggling tail, a few inches from my nose.

I sat up gingerly, and then with a scream collapsed to the floor. There was an excruciating pain in my ribs, my left knee, and my right hand! A few X-rays in the neighbourhood hospital confirmed that old men are fragile commodities. We returned home with a plaster cast on my hand, a taped-up chest, and a bandaged knee. Over the past few months, the plaster cast, the tape and the bandages have gone away, but the pain in my fingers remains.

Now, when I shave in the mornings, I see the scar on my brow, and I wonder whether I had indeed scored that goal. Then I feel the pain in the fingers with which I grip the razor, and I wonder if I had indeed killed that lizard. And I realise that having two unresolved issues in one’s old age is worse than having just one.

Verma is a former civil servant and can be reached at k.c.verma@hotmail.com.

Join our WhatsApp Channel to get the latest news, exclusives and videos on WhatsApp