Crossing the Bridge
Life is Similar to the Bridge, cross it with a purpose
Winter finally arrived. It is awfully cold and foggy this morning. I am standing on the narrow footpath of the old masonry bridge on the river that separates the east and west of the town. I have crossed it so many times, taking mostly a hurried walk and sometimes a leisurely one. But today it struck me with an idea taking an urgent dimension.
It just occurred to me this wintry morning that I should cross it with some sort of purpose, beyond covering a mere distance. The bridge, it seemed to me, possesses a span of a few years, not metres. Years that join the two ultimate points of life, birth and death — both beyond anyone’s control. The bridge has piers on both ends — solid, firm, and reassuring. Much unlike the birth at one end, a source and an occasion of joy to parents and family, celebrated each year. At the other end is the most certain, yet most unpredictable event — death. It is not a matter of celebration anyway. Life is similar to the span of the bridge, yet so dissimilar at the two ends!
While crossing the bridge on foot, I felt as if I am reaching my unwanted destination. Must one reach a destination, I ask myself? Is the journey of life in itself not enough? Why can’t we just keep going and enjoy the journey just the way it is? I keep pondering but am unable to find the answer.
Within that domain of uncertainty, lies a vast rainbow that looks like the bridge of life. Colorful, eventful, full of memories, and with ever-present ‘to-do’ lists. There are so many items pending to do in that list — waiting for the right occasion, the right moment. When one is done, another one is added. It never seems to get finished. Remember the perfume that a friend gifted the year before? It is expensive and your favorite but you have been waiting all these months for the ‘right’ occasion — to wear it while going to the music concert or a friend’s wedding party. But why? What if those occasions may not present themselves before one reaches the end of the bridge?
“Don’t wait”, I tell myself. I’ll wear that perfume this evening, grab half a bottle of wine still left in my tiny cellar, switch on the music system, play my most favorite symphony and enjoy all of it together, even if there is no party. This evening is just right.
Last summer I visited my younger brother, who lives in our ancestral home. I found an old black and white photograph of our father, lying dusty, somewhat yellowed, and left in the corner rack of the guest room. I felt something in my heart, longing for my father, whom we had lost nearly a decade ago. My brother probably didn’t share the same feeling as mine. So, I brought back that photograph with a desire to restore it, put in a new frame, and keep it in the living room. That task remains unfinished to this day. I decide with sincerity, to do it “today”. Because tomorrow may not meet me, and my children may not inherit a photograph of their grandpa.
A few months ago, I met an old friend, Bill, at the airport lounge. While chatting about the good old days, he brought up the story of Olivia, who was one year junior to us in the university, and at one point in time, we both were pursuing her! None succeeded but fond memories remained. Bill shared the phone number of Olivia, who is now perhaps a grandmother. I promised Bill that I would call her and give her a pleasant surprise.
Back home, like another item on the to-do list, I kept postponing it. This cold morning raised an urgency inside me to lift the fog out of memory — what if Olivia is sick? What if she is fighting old age and failing memory? No, I must call her today, before it becomes a regret for the rest of my life. Let sweet memories be rekindled before we both fade out in a deep memory box.
Before the pandemic started, my son-in-law visited Colombia on official work. On his return, he gifted me a jar of famous Colombian coffee. I did not open it, thinking let the right occasion come — a gathering of friends or family or such, so we may drink it together and enjoy. That hasn’t happened yet and I am yet to indulge in the taste of that select coffee. It may get spoiled if I keep it any longer.
“Do drink it this afternoon”, I tell myself. After all, it’s me who would enjoy that coffee most. And tomorrow may never arrive or that coffee may get spoiled.
During my last birthday, my son gifted me a silk tie. It had a beautiful paisley design in deep blue. I liked it instantly and put it in the second drawer of my wardrobe with the thought of wearing it on some special occasion. After retirement from work, there have not been many occasions to wear a tie. And the pandemic has taken away all the gathering of friends and ex-colleagues out of our daily lives. But I decide to wear it tomorrow when I go to see my ex-colleague, Henry, who has recovered from a heart ailment and had been asking me to visit him. It can’t wait anymore, I tell myself firmly. Henry and his wife would be happy to see me.
The wind is blowing a little faster, sending a feeling of chill. I adjust my woolen cap and start walking briskly. My gait is now straight with the firmness of a purpose. The sense of purpose has not been lost yet and that gives me some assurance that the end may not be all that near. But even if it is, I must embrace the satisfaction of completing those unfinished tasks and fulfilling all my little wishes, that give me pleasures of the rainbow called life.
The wishes may be little but they are significant. By now it started raining. I pace up because I must not be drenched and must fulfill those little wishes before reaching the end of the bridge and before I fade into oblivion.