Sendhil dusted the ash of his seventh cigarette of the evening. He was sitting in the middle of his dry garden and was using the flower pot as his ashtray, which once had roses blossoming on it. He was holding a set of divorce papers and was in deep thought. He kept thinking about how unpredictable life is and how little he can do anything about it.
He thought about the happy days when he and his wife Priya were in love and how their life took u-turn after the marriage. It was their love for plants that had brought them together for the first time at a plant nursery unit. Later their passion for plants had turned into a love for each other.
When they decided to buy a house for themselves, the first decision they both made together was to have a big garden. More time had gone into the planning of the garden rather than the house itself. The garden which was once blossoming with flowers is now reduced to an empty land with weeds and stones.
Sendhil decided nothing good is going to happen anymore as he believed that things have reached to the point of no return and the only good thing that can happen now is a mutually benefitting divorce settlement. He kept thinking about what would happen to Dhruv, his one year kid. He wanted to have him after the divorce; however, he very well knew that Priya would not make it easy for him.
Lighting his eighth cigarette, he started to walk around his empty garden with a loaded mind. During his walk, he heard the sound of the gates opening. He anticipated it to be his wife returning from her job; however, he saw an old man entering the house, limping his leg.
The old man, despite his age, possessed a young divine grace in his eyes. Sendhil could not avoid noticing this; however, he was sceptical just like the way he would be with any stranger.
“Who are you?” asked Sendhil, looking at the old man.
“Sir, my name is Subbu. I have been working as a gardener in the nearby park, but they have sacked me as they found a young replacement.” said the old man.
“So what can I do for you?” asked Sendhil, unable to understand what Subbu was trying to arrive at.
“Sir, plants are my life. I have spent most of my life growing them, caring for them and speaking to them. Today when I am out of my job, I feel lost. When I was crossing your house, I saw this huge piece of vacant land on the side of your home. I felt this place could become an amazing garden, and I wanted to build it for you. That is the reason I came here asking for this job” said Subbu in a humble tone.
Feeling annoyed by this unexpected request, Sendhil said, “I don’t have any plans for a garden now. I will call you when I decide to have one.”
“But Sir, I don’t want any salary for my job. All I need is little food and some utilities to create the garden.” pleaded Subbu trying harder to convince.
“Why will anybody work for no salary? I smell something fishy here,” commented Sendhil with a trace of guilt inside him for saying that to Subbu.
“Well Sir, I have no family to depend on or to live for. All my life, I have been working as a gardener at various places. This is the only thing I know, and it makes me immensely happy. So if you can give me this job, I promise to serve you more than just a gardener.” explained Subbu.
Sendhil gave a thought for a while and asked Subbu, “If I give you this job, then where will you stay? I cannot afford to let you sleep in my house.”
“That’s alright, Sir. If you allow me, I will make a small tent here in the garden and shall live in it,” answered Subbu.
“Are you serious? Are you sure you will be ok with it?” asked Sendhil. “I am serious, Sir. I love living in a tent” answered Subbu.
“Ok then, you will be my Gardener from now on. But remember I can guarantee your job only for three months, and after that even I am not sure if I will be living in this house or not” said Sendhil.
“Why Sir?” asked Subbu, disappointed by Sendhil’s words.
“I can’t answer you that now,” said Sendhil avoiding to reveal that his divorce hearing will be in three months.
Trying not to get into that topic, Subbu said: “Fine, Sir, I shall start my work today by building up my tent first.”
“Go ahead,” said Sendhil and moved inside his house. He already felt a little respect for Subbu by his humility and grace.
Subbu carried his things from the previous workplace and started making his tent at a corner of the garden. He stopped for a while, looked all around the garden, gave a smile and again went back to his job. While Subbu was fixing an iron rod into the ground for supporting his tent, he heard a lady voice at the back of him.
“Who are you, and what are you doing here?” asked Priya looking at an unexpected visitor in her garden.
“Madam, I am Subbu. I have been hired as a gardener here,” answered Subbu in a humble tone.
“But who hired you when I am the one who makes decisions here,” asked Priya, annoyed.
“Madam I am here to make this place beautiful, so please give me a chance to do it. I assure you that if you are not happy with my job, I shall leave this place at once,” said Subbu respectfully.
Priya did not expect such a humble answer. She asked, “What did my husband say?” “He had allowed me to work here for a three months time Madam,” said Subbu.
Understanding the relevance of three months, Priya remained silent and went inside the house, allowing Subbu to continue with his work.
Subbu continued to make his little hut. He took a tiny battery-operated music player and played calm, soothing music during his course of work. He completed making his tent before the night could sink in and had deposited all his things inside his beautiful little tent.
The next day morning, Subbu woke up before the dawn and started walking all around the garden in barefoot. He was smiling all the while during his walk. After walking for an hour, he went into his tent and took a bag which contained biscuits and rice in it.
He also took a water bottle and few coconut shells which he carries with him. The first thing he did was to go on to the street and look for some stray dogs. There he witnessed two weak dogs sleeping at the corner of the road; he went near them and started to feed them the biscuits. More dogs began to join the free breakfast session.
After emptying his biscuits, Subbu poured water from his bottle into the coconut shell and left it near the dogs for them to drink. He walked back to the house and started calling the birds with a unique voice. Slowly he started throwing rice all over the garden, which soon got the attention of birds. Much to the surprise of Subbu, different types of birds rush to get their share of rice. They also took a sip of water from the coconut shells which got placed at all over the garden.
Subbu took out his little music player and played a soothing violin recording. The music of the flute followed the violin music. The dry garden suddenly became a bird sanctuary with birds of all kinds entering from all the corners adding more life to the otherwise empty lifeless garden.
Continuing to feed the birds, Subbu saw a small old man entering the house with a packet of milk to deliver at the house’s entrance.
“Gopi, wait a second. Don’t go away” shouted Subbu signalling at the milkman. Gopi saw his old gardener friend waving to him and instantly got surprised. “Hey, How come you are here?” Gopi asked in surprise.
“This is my new office” smiled Subbu walking towards Gopi.
“So you finally got your dream job. Is it not?” said Gopi keeping the milk packet at the doorsteps.
Subbu smiled without commenting to the question and asked Gopi, “So how is your son? Has he quit drinking?”
“Thanks to you Subbu, he is out of his addiction. He even started coaching football to the school kids in the evening. He helps me in my nursery whenever he finds time” said Gopi in an excited voice.
“That’s nice to hear. But remember it is your job to keep Siva motivated and prevent him from getting back to solitude” advised Subbu.
“Sure, all your words are still fresh in my minds,” Gopi replied.
The discussion continued for some more time when Sendhil opened the front door to find out who was talking at this early hour of the morning. He saw Subbu chatting with the milkman and got annoyed.
“Subbu, why are wasting time in the morning?” he said, picking up the milk packet from the doorstep.
Gopi, without any further talk, left the place immediately riding on his bicycle. “You don’t like him, do you?” Subbu asked, looking at Sendhil.
“He is a little man with a big ego. I can’t tolerate people like him” answered Sendhil.
“Why, Sir, What Happened?” continued Subbu trying to gain more reason for this hatred?
“This man had not provided milk for a couple of days last month, and I could not trace him.
Then the very next day I saw him riding his bicycle in front of my house. I called him; however, he did even bother to acknowledge” said Sendhil pouring out his anger for Gopi.
Listening quietly for some time, Subbu said: “This must have happened two months back.” “So what difference does it make?” asked Sendhil with an annoyed look.
“Because during that time his son had attempted suicide,” answered Subbu trying to calm down Sendhil.
“Suicide? But Why?” asked Sendhil again with a perplexed look.
“His son was a state-level football player, and he was training hard for the nationals’ selection when one day he lost one of his legs in a dreadful road accident. He was sitting at the back of the bike when his friend, who fully intoxicated with alcohol, was driving. His friend lost the balance, and they both ended up crashing on a moving truck.” explained Subbu.
“Oh, that’s horrible!” Sendhil exclaimed.
“The Kid lost all his future hope of playing for the nation and got into depression. He started to find solace with alcohol, and finally one day, he decided to quit his life.” continued Subbu.
“So much has happened with him and yet he did not tell me anything.”
“That’s his nature, Sir. He never troubles others with his problem as he believes that it cannot lessen his pain,” said Subbu.
“Mmm, Today’s Kids are not taking life seriously. One person’s mistake has almost cost another’s life,” said Sendhil.
“True Sir, but the kid deserved the fate owing to the one bad company he kept,” said Subbu and continued, “It's true when they say; a chain is as strong as its weakest link. The weakest link of the kid had costed his dream.”
Trying not to accept what Subbu has said, Sendhil reciprocated, “Maybe not. His companionship could have helped him before. That could be the wanted network he had built. You never know.”
Subbu smiled at Sendhil and asked him “Sir, What according to you is a helping network?”
Understanding that Subbu was trying to make a point here, he replied, “Well, in my opinion, a good network is the one which helps me grow.”
Subbu asked him again, “So do you mean to say that all your influential friends, your colleagues, your business companions are your important network?”
“Yes, Why not? “asked Sendhil.
“Well Sir, I am not saying that this network is bad, but all I wanted to say is that this network is something which expects something back from you and anything that thrives on expectations is short-lived,” said Subbu.
Realizing that the topic had gone far away from the central theme and yet not trying to give away his stand, Sendhil asked Subbu,” So do you want me to make network with the milkman and the fruit sellers?”
“Why not Sir, they don’t have the expectations like the network of yours and yet they help you with your needs for a small price to thrive. In fact, I can go beyond this and tell you that it is these little connections which can make your life comfortable. As far as the rest of your network is concerned, it is always a win-lose battle.” explained Subbu.
After maintaining silence for a minute, Sendhil asked Subbu, “So tell me how your network with Gopi helps you?”
“Well Sir, Gopi is running a small plant nursery in his house. I came to know about that from him when he delivered milk packet during the first day of my previous job. He was the one who helped me to understand the intricacies in making natural manure for plants from our daily wastes.” explained Subbu.
Understanding that he cannot win this argument, Sendhil said “Anyways I understand your point, but I still don’t feel comfortable with that guy. I don’t know why?”
“That may be because he too might feel the same way about you. Maybe that’s how nature works. You don’t like somebody; he too reciprocates like a mirror to you. Anyway, Sir, Life is too short to spend it on hating somebody” smiled Subbu.
“Maybe your life is short,” said Sendhil trying to ridicule Subbu’s statement.
“Yeah, mine is little. But I still know how much productive years are left in me” sublimely answered Subbu trying not to kindle Sendhil’s emotions.
“Do you mean to say I don’t?” asked Sendhil.
“I probably think you might not have given thought on this” answered Subbu.
“Then you tell me how much life do I have left in me,” asked Sendhil looking directly at Subbu.
Not deterred by Sendhil’s reaction, Subbu continued, “Well Sir, considering your rest of life, half of your active life will be spent in rest and work, and the most of the remaining will get spent dealing with old age and disease. Finally, you will be left with few active months for yourself provided you are still healthy to lead it purposefully.”
Hearing that month’s time is all that he has for himself, Sendhil tried to calculate mentally and found that Subbu was almost right in his calculation.
He slowed down his temper and asked Subbu, “Ok, I admit it finally. You tell me now what should I do with it then?”
“Well Sir, It is better you start loving people, loving life and everything around. You will start to love yourself. Like someone rightly said love is the only rational act a human possess.”
Sendhil gave a little thought and got back into the house, abruptly snapping the conversation.
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