Walking up the gentle slopes of the Talzai hill near my house, my husband and I would see her-fair and petite, running up the hill in her 'navvari' sari and slippers. She would be singing aloud and waving her hands about and was an inspiration to all of us who regularly climbed the hill as part of our daily exercise regimen.
One day on the way down, I decided to speak to her. 'Aji, how old are you?' I asked in Marathi.
Without missing a step she replied in English, '85 years.' And then she revealed the secret to her exuberant health-'I run up and down the hill every day, do six surya namaskars and eat everything!'
I smiled. She had forgotten to add the main ingredient-her positive attitude.
We crossed each other every day after that and she would smile and wave at us until one day she wasn't there anymore. I had grown so used to seeing her that at every bend of the hill my eyes would eagerly scan the road ahead, seeking her. But the days stretched to months and she did not return.
Then after three months I spotted her on a bench. I immediately went and sat next to her. I had come alone for the walk that day. 'Where have you been, aji? We missed you!'
A beautiful smile spread across her face. 'Complete your walk and then come and join me here-I'll tell you.'
My curiosity was aroused, but I obediently finished my trek and on the way down joined her on the bench.
'Please tell me what happened?' I noticed the crutches resting under the bench.
'One evening I decided to take a short cut down the hill, slipped, and fell very hard. I was unable to get up as I had fractured my leg. A few well-wishers took me to a hospital and I had to be operated on and a rod inserted into the main bone in my left leg. The people were kind and took care of me till I was discharged from the hospital.'
What about your family, they must have been there with you too?'
'No, I have five children but they are all abroad. They called and wanted to come, but I told them I could manage with the help of my maid.'
'And what about your husband?' I asked gently.
'He passed away five years ago-,' She paused. 'Would you like to hear my story?'
I really did not have the time but some force held me back. 'Yes,' I said. 'I'd love to.'