Its been 21 years in the same room now. It always runs short of space, even for the people who have been staying there for years. The building is an old stone construction. A verandah runs along the length of the numerous rooms that line every floor.
The fourth floor, which incidently is the topmost floor, is different. The verandah is dotted with different plants. From Tulsi to red-rose to neem, there are atleast a dozen. They have been planted keeping in mind various uses and with meticulous planning of seasons. Different plants bloom in different seasons. It gives a feeling that the mini-garden is complete.
Everyday I wake up in the morning to damp smells of the freshly watered plants. They have a fresh spring in their sway, as if welcoming the face they see everyday. I proceed to examine the plants for new flowers or any parasites troubling them.
There is one man who takes care of all the plants and caters to all their needs. His day starts at 6:00 AM sharp. With drowsy eyes and a bucketful of water he steps out into the chilly morning. He knows the exact amount of water to be poured for every plant. It should be no more; no less.
He knows all the birds that visit his mini-garden. He talks to them in muted words and waves at them when they fly away. Others who wake up early, often stare at him. Some with surprise, others with plain contempt for his self attained tranquility. The guards who pass by every morning are used to his behaviour, so much so that they fail to notice him.
Today I sit on the steps, crying. Those plants they wilt away. I miss my friend. I miss the smell of the damp soil, I woke up with every morning for years. He often told me about how green the world would be. About how the birds would play among those bushes. And speak to you in unheeded words. He always hoped.
Life had been cruel to him, for he never lived to watch the world outside. The world is a different place today. The birds perch in the bushes to avoid the smoke. They chirp in agony and fly away when they can not bear it anymore. Now whenever I think about my friend, I feel strangely satisfied. Atleast he died a happy man. A man content with the way the world was. A man who died in serenity. I’m happy he never reached the day when his parole would be granted.