As my wife and I sat on the flowerbed outside our building last evening, a woman passed by, commenting, "You two remind me of my parents".
She didn't stop. Not even slowed down.
"Do you know her?" I whispered, watching the middle-aged woman move past in her hasty stride.
"No! Perhaps she lives in our building." My wife replied.
I, too, didn't know the woman. Why, then, she passed a comment but didn't stop for our reaction? She definitely didn't want to strike a conversation with us. She appeared to be from the Philippines, and we being Indians, would have certainly not resembled her parents. Her tone was surely not a mocking one, she rather appeared to be melancholic.
And then it struck me. She was missing her parents, who perhaps lived thousands of miles away from her. The words had slipped out of her mouth involuntarily, leaving her with no choice but to quickly walk away in embarrassment. She had perhaps reached the stage when one starts noticing in everyone a glimpse of the person ones misses terribly. Sometimes it is the posture, sometimes it is the voice, sometimes it is a particular mannerism, and sometimes it is something that cannot even be pinpointed. One starts finding an endearing shadow, an endearing fragrance even in complete strangers. And when the cruel reality affirms its ugly presence, little option is left other than to feel embarrassed and make a hasty retreat.
She had seen her parents in us, complete strangers.
I wonder what makes us see our parents in strangers, but become strangers to our own parents? Why does the communication collapse to such an extent that even the basic gestures of greetings and appreciation require an effort to make? What makes us live thousands of miles apart under the same roof? What prevents us from accepting our parents as normal human beings – why do we expect them to confine themselves to play the roles of distinguished baby sitters, butlers, home managers, cooks, demigods, etc?
Did the woman treat her parents in a similar manner, and was repenting now?
I will never know. I don't know her. And even if she crosses my path again, I doubt she will stop by to have a word with me.
She and her parents will remain a mystery.