Whilst in the middle of my shopping at a mall I sat on a bench for a little rest next to an old man. His dishevelled attire and a glum look on his face conveyed a message of sadness about him.

“Hello” I said perfunctorily.

“Hello” he said, nodding his head.

“Nice day”

“What’s nice about it? It won’t last”

“Make the most of it whilst it lasts, winter will soon be upon us” I smiled.

“My winter has arrived” he said with sullenness.

“What do you mean?” I quizzed him.

“That darned gale force, last week, remember? It brought a tree down on my caravan”. His tone was bleak. “I’ve been sleeping on this bench for the last few days”.

“Oh! I am sorry” I said solemnly. “Let me buy you an ice cream. It’s rather warm in here” I chirped, pointing at the parlour across the walkway. “Ice cream helps create a happy feeling”.

He was pensive.

“All will be well soon. Everything works out in the end” I was a little patronising.

After a brief silence he glanced at me and uttered “I guess glass is always half full for you”. There was a touch of disdain in his tone.

“No. Not really. You just have to change your perspective on situations. The glass is neither half full, nor half empty; it’s just the wrong size” I said engagingly.

He smiled with a gentle sparkle in his eyes. I felt happy thinking I was taking his mind off his misery.

“Don’t get me wrong. I am not sad because I lost my caravan. I will soon have another one. My problem is no one understands me, how I feel and what I’ve been going through, no one, not even my doctor.” I was listening intently as he continued “My son died. He was killed in action in Iraq. He was only nineteen, but a fine soldier who gave his life for the country”.

“I am sorry. When did he die?” I interjected.

“Two years ago. He was all I had”. His voice quivered. “No one seems to understand me. No one knows or wants to know the feelings of a father who has lost his only child” There was silence. He wetted his lips with his tongue.

“I miss him a lot. But nobody cares about how I feel”

There was momentary silence as we both sat on the bench in glumness observing the passing gleeful humanity carrying their parcels of newly procured shopping in colourful bags.

“You see” he uttered “how they don’t seem to care that my son has died in a war so they can live securely”. He was bitter and resentful.

It was nearly time for me to leave. He put his hand on my shoulder and leaning towards me whispered gently “Thank you for listening to me and putting up with my clammy spirit”.

I stood up, looked him straight in the eye and said “If you must find someone who can understand you, then go to Iraq and find a man who, like you, has also lost a son in action. He will share your pain and anguish”.

He stared at me quizzically and after a momentary silence, responded with a deep sense of relief “I will have that ice cream now. My perspective on life has changed. Thank you”. He smiled. I smiled.

That was the daintiest ice cream I ever had!

Anil Kumar
October 2018