I was sitting in a forlorn cafe outside the Prague castle when I saw this old man crossing the road. There was nothing unusual in it. I focused back on my black tea. Within a split second, I was lost in my euphoria regarding my first solo trip to Europe when suddenly my eyes caught hold of the man again. He was in the middle of the zebra crossing and his legs were dwindling. It appeared his legs were losing strength and he was on the verge of falling down.
I immediately sprung to action. I pushed my chair back and rushed towards the man. However before I could reach him he tripped and stumbled and within a matter of seconds he was down in the middle of the road. An approaching car thankfully halted just in the nick of time or else it could have turned fatal. When I reached he was on the road and his hands were bleeding. His bag and groceries were scattered around. I held his hand and tried to lift him up but he was too heavy for me. He was trying to tell me something in Czech language which I was completely unable to comprehend. What I somehow understood was that he was trying to tell me that he would manage on his own. By now, the driver of the car also joined me. Both of us lifted the man and took him to the same cafe where I had left my tea.
We made the man sit. The driver left and I was now alone with the man. I gave him my water bottle to drink water. I carefully looked at the man now. He was around the age of my father, he was as tall and fat like my father. He also had arthritic legs and wore a similar glass frame like my father. The man was trying to tell me a lot of things in Czech however when he realised I was not understanding a single word, he just held my hand and said ‘Thank you’. He was looking in my eyes and I was looking at him through tears. In a distant land, an unknown stranger was speaking to me in a foreign language, but I was feeling a sense of déjà vu. I felt as if my father was speaking to me through a stranger.
I lost my father exactly a year back. In his last days he had lost control of his legs and used to fall frequently. Most of the days I used to pick him up however there were also days when he was too heavy to be picked and I had to wait for the building watchmen, my maid, my driver or some kind neighbour to help me in picking him up. The Czech stranger reminded me of all those. My helplessness, my dad’s shame in being picked up, his gratitude and my irritation at the whole situation was almost replayed once again.
I sat down next to the man. A part of me actually wanted to hug him. I could almost feel my dad’s presence through him. The man was by the time little perplexed and embarrassed at my reaction. He was trying to understand why I was getting so emotional. He probably thought I was disturbed after seeing his blood. He started cleaning the blood that was coming out of his finger with a tissue paper. He was trying to explain me that there was nothing to worry and it was not a serious wound. I am just assuming because I did not understand a single word. However, I could understand he was trying to assure me that he was fine and I should not get upset. My dad also used to keep telling me not to worry or feel upset when he knew I was upset. Once when my dad had fallen down in the bathroom he had got a deep cut that he did not show to me till the next day because he did not want to bother me.
I sat there looking at the old man. A smile came through my tears. Sitting next to that man, I felt a strange sense of peace, the peace and calmness that I used to feel with my dad. I do not remember how long I sat there but I felt the man was there just to me remind me that my Dad is still with me.