The lake was glistening in the afternoon sun like the belly of a water animal on land.
He walked through the pavement separating the lake from the road. Finally he sat on a bench.
The old tree with its feet soaking in the water stooped to look at him. ‘You don’t look happy,’ it said.
He smiled. ‘Its not that.’
The old tree passed fingers through its slowly shrivelling mane.
‘No one comes to Nainital unhappy,’ the tree said.
‘I didn’t come to Nainital unhappy.’
Tree didn’t say anything. A couple passed by. Wrapped around each other, giggling.
He hesistated, ‘I am unhappy because I see too much happiness in people around here.’
The old tree smiled.
‘Its just that…its foolish. it appears too good to be true,’ he tried to explain.
‘You want to be wise or you want to be happy?,’ tree asked.
‘I don’t want to be ambushed by truth one day. I want to be ready.’
The old tree fed a flock of birds with its hands.
The tree said,’ K. I will tell you what I see. Its been around 200 years for me. I see people coming here as friends or couples. Happy, believing that people cannot spring a surprise on them. Some times they come back again, may be another 5 years later. A little wiser. Most of them by then have realised that they cannot entirely depend upon another person for their happiness. Then they disappear for a long time. Immersing themselves in something to convince their mind that they are doing something meaningful. Then they come back for a last time when they are very old. Having realised their foolishness. Thinking that they will be happy at least when they relive their past here. But those memories of the happy past make them more miserable. Miserable about time that has gone by. Then they disappear forever. New people come. Unaware of the fact that Nainital is a frozen tomb where they have come to preserve some happiness. For future perusal. To say ‘once we were happy.’
‘So…,’He said, ‘What are you doing here?’
The old tree smiled, like a wind through the leaves.
It said, ‘do you know what is more sad than the inevitability of an end?’
‘Waiting for a slow death…that too when lives flash past you, beginning and ending in the blink of an eye…That’s the most lonely thing to happen. That’s why every stone in Nainital is so sad.’
They sat there till the sun started blinking due to red shot eye.
In the end he walked back to his room after patting the tree once. The old tree opted to sit a little longer. In search of death.