The Watchman

Mr. Farish is a good man, to put it in a nutshell.

At the wake of dawn, he is up for his early morning prayers. On a dark green mat, he prays facing west in the silence of his room. As the sun begins to rise, he steps out with a glass of hot black tea and rests on top of the stairs leading up to his room, along with his cats, and takes in the view of the horizon as it slowly changes colour from a dark, hazy blue to a vibrant pink and orange and finally to a majestic golden yellow, signaling the start of his day.

He has a lot of work for the day. He inspects the building and decides whether it needs cleaning or not. Some days it’s not so bad and some days it needs a sweeping and a good mopping, which is when I see him as I run to work on most days. He’ll be busy with the broom and never fails to say ‘Namasteji’ as I rush on with a smile, acknowledging him and sometimes telling it back. Sometimes he begins a conversation asking where my mom is and I fumble with the little Hindi I know. Then I feel more foolish because I realize I know a lot more Hindi but fumbled anyway.

He towers over most people and is humble and kind every time I see him. He loves his cats. They are plentiful in my neighbourhood and they survive on garbage and food given to them otherwise. There is always a bowl of catfood and water waiting for any cat that passes by. Most cats stay and keep him company through the loneliness; some others pass by. Then there are the trees he plants. I tell my mom that he has the green thumb. The two neem trees he has planted stand towering and lush right in front of his room. It is a comfort for the eyes to see green when you are surrounded by the desert. I try growing something and it’s dead the next day. He, on the other hand, brings them up easily.

His evenings are mostly spent chatting, over a glass of masala chai, with friends from the neighbourhood. They get sombre at the recent state of affairs back home. Then they laugh at stories of their children. After this, he returns to his solitude for the rest of the evening. He lives simple and is happy. I assume this only because he’s smiling all the time. Everyday he watches the sun slowly go down into the darkness. I see this when I return from work. Another namasteji and I smile once again. I wonder to myself if he wishes he was back in Lahore with his family. Of course he would, I realise. Anyone would.