The number one speaks not only of a start but also a star. Ace. Something to be remembered when we reach the hundreds. Speaking of hundreds, let me introduce you to Mehta ma’am – the almost century old epitome of words and worth.
Hidden by the white picket fence of her cozy cottage at Highfield, her head and eyes shone immediately as we reached the gates. “Wonderful Kamal, this is the loveliest gift you could’ve brought me!” Only age could bring about that grace about her wrinkled, shiny frame. And only agelessness could have kept a spirit as alive as hers.
A resident of Coonoor for about 30 years now (and a loyal customer of Variety Hall and Tulsi Mall for nearly as long 🙂 ), Silloo Mehta is a treasure that was waiting for me to reach and revel at. She’s been writing for almost all the English national dailies for well over 60 years. One has to only glimpse through her “album” of articles and feedback to know how big she has made it on the journalism front. Mostly the Op-Ed type articles, with cheeky Keshav illustrations and catchy titles. I love.
All through I kept expecting her to talk about a blog, a website of some sort or at least a type writer that is her aide and connection this long. “I have an inbuilt resistance to all things technological. Even the most basic Nikon camera is beyond me – I have to go to your uncle down at the shop to give me the simplest camera.”
“I still sit on my comfortable chair with a notepad and write. My eyes are getting feeble and ill health gets to me sometimes, but my spirit is strong.” That expression, the strength in her eyes and words caught me off guard in their intensity. 95 years of age to me remains a mere legal statistic and Mehta ma’am an epitome of youth.
“As a writer, I love to peek into other people’s lives. Tell me…” She asked of our education, house, family… ambitions, obligations, expectations. I don’t know about my cousins but I was absolutely at ease with this inquisitive lady. Maybe because she was genuinely interested or because I embrace any opportunity to talk about myself. Thus the evening passed on, pleasant banter floating as quickly as the hands of the clock.
As expected from the moody weather forces of Coonoor, large grey clouds and heavy thunder started. The peak of summer and this is what we get. A little reluctantly we said goodbye and touched her feet once more. I said, “I’ll come back.”
“I’d love to have you over anytime.” The smile and those eyes again.
Perhaps the bond was secured the moment she said “Ah! I dropped out of college too.”
Knowing, naughty smile. The Dropout Smile.
The kind I identify with immediately, awesomely.
Or slowly, through the course of our happy conversation, as the clouds piled in the Highfield sky.
Possibly even before I met her! 🙂