I thought about him for an hour before I started writing this down. I wanted to find a word that describes him perfectly. It is then when I realised that perhaps I do not know him too well for describing him in even one sentence let alone a single word. Infact, I think nobody knew him well enough to say something about him conclusively. For the sake of completing my objective and at the same time not being wrong about him, I would say that he was an elusive man. He is like a person who meets you everyday, greets you, asks about your health, gives his best wishes and leaves; without giving you a chance to get interested in his life. Everybody can recall one such person around them, this incident is about mine.
During my various encounters with him, I got curious. What troubled me most was his smile. I had never seen him not smiling. How could a person always be happy? I wanted to find more about him, but was not sure how to catch him. We were not friends, so obviously asking straight questions would have been weird. As the days passed, I became obsessed with finding out what kept him happy. My efforts of following him went in vain. He kept on greeting and meeting people. It seemed that he did not have any friends. Each evening after college, he used to leave straight for home leaving no scope for any social interaction. Just when I was about to give up, one day I saw him sitting alone in cafeteria. I gathered courage and at the risk of being snubbed, I walked upto him and asked if could join him. He nodded. After some niceties, I could not control any longer and asked him about his life. At first he did not open much, but then I told him my obsession and he agreed to tell me about his life if I promised not to tell anyone about it. Obviously I agreed.
He started “I was eight when I lost my father. He is not dead, it’s just that I don’t know where he is. Not only do I not know where he is, also that who is my father. I vaguely remember his face. I don’t remember actually seeing him, so maybe the face I remember is actually my imagination. I would have asked my mom, and believe me I wanted to ask many times. But there is no point asking her. It is not as if she would not tell me, it’s just that she cannot tell me. She has not spoken with me for last fifteen years; not only with me but with anybody. She lost ability to speak, the night my father left. Sometimes I feel she wants to tell something but then she does not. She would have written if she could, but she is paralysed for many years now. I could have asked other family members but I do not know of any. When my father left us, she had moved here to get away from everybody and now here I am, with my mom and nobody else. And that’s why I keep smiling because I know that it possibly cannot get any worse.”
I kept thinking about him and his life. I was troubled with his smile and now I was cursing myself for thinking being jealous of his happiness. I knew what I had to do. I was to become the friend he never had, the brother he never had and the family he never had. But I decided to take it slow so that he does not feel that I am doing this out of sympathy for him. So I greeted him with smile whenever I met him, asked him how he was and wished him well. I kept going to cafeteria several times a day hoping to find him there.
After seven days and forty visits to cafeteria, I finally saw him sitting with somebody else. I sat behind him waiting for the other person to leave so that I can turn and exclaim at what coincidence it was that we were again meeting in cafeteria. Since it was taking time, I decided to eavesdrop the conversation. I could not hear what the other person said, but I cannot forget till day what he answered.
“Ok. I will tell you, but only if you promise you never to tell anyone else. I was born into a middle class family. My father had an insane obsession of buying lottery tickets. My mother used to fight with him a lot on this habit, but only till he got a $1 mn as first prize. He never bought another lottery ticket. He invested in stock markets and quadrupled the sum in one year. He then invested in real estate and commodities and in ten years’ time, he now runs the fifth largest commodity fund in the country. A year back he gave me $0.1mn and told me to start investing in my area of interest. One year will be over next week. The sum is $1mn today. I keep smiling because it cannot get any better”