“I am still beautiful,” she said, looking up at me wistfully. Her rosy cheeks were withered, under the onslaught of the hot sun. She had been standing there patiently for someone to notice her. But nobody had. And now there were others like her, younger, prettier.
Yes, she is beautiful, I thought. I had never seen her so up close. I picked her up and she turned her face towards me. Soft. Her petals were so soft. This had to be the most beautiful rose in the world.
I looked at the little boy who was standing on Paud Road, trying to sell his roses. The flowers were at least a day old. There was a florist nearby and people were buying flowers from there. Fresh, colourful and pretty.
The little boy looked at me and said, “Paanch rupiya.” He didn’t expect me to buy the roses – he knew they were old. But those were the only flowers he had managed to get.
The rose in my hand looked at me hopefully, seemingly to tell me again: I am still beautiful.
I bought all the roses and took them home. They lit up my whole house, with their rosy hues. The deep red one, the one I had picked up first, told me: “We are thirsty.”
So I got a bucket of water and placed them in it. Most of them had lost the sheen on their outer petals. So I peeled them off, and they all started grinning up at me.
“I told you, we are still beautiful,” Deep Red reminded me.
“Yes, you are.”
I looked at the thorns. They were a dark green. Strong and yet beautiful. And the petals were fascinating. Cuddled together, they seemed to be protecting the heart of the rose, the part which would keep the rose beautiful till the very end.
Deep Red lasted six days. Every day she would ask me to peel off the withered petals. And every day she looked even more beautiful. Not once did her thorns strike me.
“The thorns are not to hurt you. They are a reminder to me that once I am old, I will be forgotten. The thorn is a symbol of my destiny,” she told me one day.
I think human beings are like roses. And the petals are all the inhibitions that hide our inner beauty. As we mature, we learn to shed them, one by one. And while our bodies grow older, our wisdom and beauty shines forth. The thorns are the gap between our children and us.
I miss my grandparents. I miss the warmth of their actions, the beauty of their wizened faces and the wisdom of their words. I miss the pure love in their soft eyes.
And I miss the Rose who reminded that every living being can be beautiful, at every stage of its life.