Little man where are you going?

Now that I have started to work in the newspaper, I pass more time in the subway. I usually don't read anything to give my eyes a break, so I have time to watch people or the city as it moves gradually behind the window from one valley to the other. Usually I forget the faces of the people, even if I try hard to remember some of them. It's like a game. Will you be able to remember this face that you'll see probably just once in your life? Sometimes I do remember. Like yesterday there was a very tiny old man sitting next to me. He wore a turtle neck pullover, made of beige wool that looked very itchy but of such robustness that it must endure at least for forty years. His jacket was navy blue. He looked a bit like a fisher man, his very short hair was white and he had one thick black hair coming out on the top of his nose. I would not have noticed all these details if he had not caught my attention because of a specific thing he was doing . He was bending down to a small pack of index cards that had German vocabulary on it. "Gnade" - "mercy" it said on one of the cards and when he turned the card around it had the translation in his mother tongue. The letters looked Greek or Cyrillic. So how come this old man is learning German? Has he lived here for a long time and decided to learn the language better? Or has he come here recently? As a refugee? Or because his kids live here and they want to take better care of him? Maybe he even fell in love with a German lady and wants to understand her language better? For some reason this old little man almost moved me to tears, because I felt he expressed something very humble, something from which I am very far away most of the time. Maybe I long for the innocence of very basic learning, maybe I long for the piece of paper that you hold in your hand and it has just one or two words on it and you memorize them while flipping the card over. Maybe I would not have been so touched if some kid had learnt vocabulary next to me. In the end it gives also hope to see an old person learning a new language, doesn't it? To see that it is never too late to acquire knowledge you either never had time or patience for or that simply was out of your focus. I wonder what the journey of that old little man has been and is going to be.

Another little man crossed my way. He was in a book ("Namesake" by Jhumpa Lahiri) that I borrowed from the library. I got the book one day before leaving to Turkey and I found it funny to find this blond little boy with a suitcase almost as big as himself. He seems quite ready for travelling, I wonder who was behind the lense. Maybe the grandparents? When I look at that old cart, it looks like from the epoch of my grandparents. When I reached the middle of the book - the main character, an Indian boy named Nikhil, recently moved from Cambridge to NY to work as and architect and reflects about that strange expression of American-Born Confused Desi - another note fell into my hands and I was not able to decode all the handwritten letters, but it sounded like a  poem. I wonder if the picture and the note belong both to the reader who forgot to take them out when giving back the book. There is a certain beauty in borrowed things because they become little archives of personal history that is carried on to the next lender who in turn can speculate about the origin of lost or forgotten documents as he pleases to. Maybe that little boy is a grown man by now, maybe he is just one year or several months older, maybe the first trip in his life lies behind him, maybe he is allergic to hazelnut, maybe he likes the color "red". Here is the poem, translated from German as far as I understood it:
The pond
in which depth my being is moving
fathom, fathom deep
let it become alive
bring it to the surface
bring it to the light


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