So he saw me walking towards the taxi stand while he came from the opposite direction, towards a house. He stopped and using his finger counted approximately how long I would take to reach him and be close enough for a smile (three strides) and prepared himself - facing my direction, hand slightly outstretched. Initially I thought he was a neighbour of mine (frankly, unknown people almost look the same) - and I smiled back. At which he started talking. He mistook me for a college student he had met who wanted tuitions in English and some other languages. On telling him I wasnt the person he was looking for, he went ahead and invited me over to learn conversational English or French anyway. The only thing that fazed him was the fact that I was not a college student. Perhaps at that age anyone of a certain age looks 'young' and the same age (like all 5-12yr olds for me) - office clothes notwithstanding.
I was already late and politely refusing his offer I hurried into the only empty cab. But I was left wondering about that old, nice man - with little snatches of white beard on his chin where he could not shave properly, nails unevenly cut, the peering look through his glasses and the uncertain habit of raising his hand to his face as he tried to hide his discomfiture and confusion. He looked like any gentleman born in the British era of India and aged with History - well dressed, thin, frail. He seemed clothed well enough. Yet the board of "Tuitions" for English/ French on one window of a large Bungalow-house (albeit in an expensive area of town) left me wondering what it was that really drove this man to find students? Does he miss his teaching classes? Does he need money? His offer was plain and simple - 'come over any evening, I'm always home in evenings. I teach conversational French and English - you can polish them up for your requirements.' And somewhere in the back of my mind I thought - there was no degree, no guarantee of his pronunciation. English is all very good, but French? Then I wonder - how does this man of 70+ years of age know (and remember) his French? How will he with his fading eyesight teach anyone?
Then I feel a little ashamed of myself. Because I dont know - and Im making assumptions. A nice man he is, perhaps a good teacher too? He may have his brood of students - and wants more. But I'm left wondering why a nice old man would hunt for students off his neighbourhood in his retirement years. And then it strikes me why I will not go to meet him, to see his tuition centre, to find out. I don't want to know the answer. I dont want to register for French with him when I dont need it, just to help him. I don't want to listen to his stories two times a week just because he needs companionship. I reason he will find his group of students - there are bound to be people with genuine requirements in such a well populated place.
And I feel a little bad about myself - but then I look at my phone and at the latest email - and forget about him.