My Indian Neighbour

I've lived in San Andres all my life and since my teen years, our family has been neighbors with an Indian family. They were a well-to-do family from Calcutta who were blessed with a son and a daughter.

Over the years, we saw how their family fell apart leaving the father, whom our neighbors affectionately referred to as 'Kabayan' (which, in Filipino, means 'fellowman'), living despondently by himself.
Years passed and it became apparent that he developed a fondness for drinking alcohol. More years passed and the next thing we heard was that he was being treated for liver problems. By this time, I was already working and I would always say "Hello" whenever I would see him.

It was an October afternoon and as I was attending a call, I saw Kabayan waving at me from our gate. I smiled and gestured for him to wait for me to finish. When I was done, I approached him and asked if he needed something. He then asked me if he could borrow a small amount of money and promised that he would repay me when he got back. It wasn't really a huge amount so I decided to give him more than he asked for. I went on to tell him that he didn't really needed to pay up because it was a gift. Still, he insisted that he would indeed pay up. Months passed since then and I had actually forgotten about it. It was now almost Christmas. On one of my rest days, as I was closing our front door, I saw Kabayan making a right (our house is opposite another street). I simply smiled and I remember thinking that he looked better than the last time I saw him. I didn't think much about it at the time.

A week later, before leaving for work, I saw another neighbor and casually asked her how Kabayan was doing. She looked puzzled and asked "Why? Didn't you know?" I stood there dumfounded as she told me that Kabayan had died mid of November. I even told her that it couldn't be possible because I saw him walking by THE WEEK BEFORE. I felt a chill running down my spine. It was then that I recalled that when I saw him that October afternoon, he was wearing a white collared shirt and he had this blank look on his face. I suddenly recalled how he insisted on paying me up when he 'got back'. I then loudly muttered that if he was so worried about the money, it was TRULY a heartfelt gift so he didn't really need to think much of it.

I never saw him since.

Thank you so much for reading this.

Submitted by Anne, Philippines