That Sleepless Night

Kamal Kanta Dhungel

An octogenarian with a face full of wrinkles, hairs, beard and mustache looks aged and has turned white. Each and every appendage was shivering. At this age, his face looked serious as if he was very desperate. His face was reflecting his misery.

On that day, the old man couldn’t sleep. He had a lucrative, glossy, well-decorated and highly sophisticated room atop a four-storey, lanky building. But he was sleepless in his luxury apartment.

He got up and looked out through the semi-transparent window glass by sliding the curtains. It was raining heavily and the entire city was sleeping. There was no vehicular movement on the blacktopped road. Only the street lights were doing their job even in such a challenging weather.

He was illiterate. So he couldn’t read time on the digital clock on his smartphone. “What’s the point of carrying such an expensive cellphone? It’s all vain. The world is dark and devoid of education,” he murmured.

He looked for his old trunk and found that it was on the shelf. He took it out and got his decade-old wall clock. It wasn’t working as the battery was dead.

He kept his trunk back, gazed outside and saw dogs barking, jackal howling and some other mid-night type of noises. However, he became happy as he was accustomed to such voices and animals when he was residing in his hut in a far off remote village.

He was here in an affluent city with his son. In the past, he used to live in a village with his beloved wife. As she passed away, he was taken here by his son.

He had everything in his proximity now. However, for him the entire room and the house was worth nothing. The entire city was empty. ‘In the absence of our beloved ones, material things are worthless,’ — a bubble of thought passes through his brain.

He recalled his bygone days when he and his wife ate together. They had no adequate food then. However, they were happy with the little they had. They even shared their food to the hungry stray animals entering their house. They used to listen to the sound of rain as it hit the tin that roofed their hut. It gave heavenly pleasure to them.

He thought that happiness is not merely a material and monetary entities; rather it is a feeling one should develop within. He had nothing then. However he was very happy.  Now, he had every material things but he had lost his happiness.

His son was a busy entrepreneur and barely visited the old man. Though he came at times, he just made a shallow ‘are-you-fine statement’. The old man also nodded in reply and the conversation terminated. ‘Our genetic relation has now shrunk to a formality,’ he thought.

Every bygone day and past moment as hovering over his mind as if he were rewinding a movie. The old man was tormented by his memories. However, he had no one to share in his vicinity. At this juncture, he didn’t need monetary or expensive things from his theoretical son. He only needed time from his biological son. He expected his son to be near him and listen to his feelings. “Time is not just money; it is more than money,” he murmured.

One day, the old man left his son’s house and went back to his dilapidated hut. He left a note to his son. The note said,” My hut is more precious than this skyscraper. It is not just a hut; it is a collection of my struggle, sweat and old memories. I am very happy in my hut, my child!”