Saturday, 21 March 2015

Taking the time

Dear readers, 

I am sorry I haven't updated my blog in a long time. Procrastination being my middle name  life always got in the way! But here I am, with a new short story I wrote a few months ago in India. Let me know what you think and I promise to keep writing more (posting it is another thing) :P


Taking the time...

     “Chalo, let’s go for a walk” says the grandfather to his little grandson. He takes him by the hand and off they go exploring…A new building is being built on this huge street. The building is called Fergusson College. "May be you’ll study here one day”, says ajoba to Mahesh. But the 5 year old is more interested in picking out flowers! He follows a bee that is hovering over the pretty purple blooms . The bee sits on a flower. Mahesh is mesmerised by its colours and the buzzing sound it makes. He stretches his finger out to touch it!  “Don’t touch it, yells ajoba!”. One smack with newspaper in his hand and the bee falls dead to the ground. 
          Mahesh is awoken by the sound of a nurse who dashes into the room. "Wake up kaka! Your daughter just messaged - You have a healthy baby grandson!" Mahesh rubs the sleep out of his eyes and sits up. He looks at the yellow walls around him. The strong smell of phenol fills his nostrils, a sharp reminder of his present abode - Astitva, an old age home. 

He is filled with happiness. He has a grandson. He wishes he could go see his daughter, hug her and tell her that he is proud of her. Sometimes when somethings are not said or done at the right time they assume such heavy proportions that it becomes more and more difficult to say them. So difficult, that sometimes they remain unsaid. 
His eyes are filled with tears as he looks down at his legs. They lie there limp reminding him of the fateful day in the cold mountains of Kanchanjunga, the single bullet in his left knee that ended life as he knew it. 

He was filled with so much anger . His daughter 15 years old when he came back home, a paralysed man. He was never really around to see her turn into a beautiful young woman. Always away at some corner of the country, protecting borders, from an imagined enemy. He came home only three times in 10 years. And every time for a very short time. 

Leela, would look at him with timid eyes from behind the dining table. Too afraid to run up to her daddy and hug him. She had asked her mother once why he was so strict.

 “He is an army man Leela, he is used to being tough. But he loves you, you know that!”

She had thought about this on many nights, as she lay in her bed wondering - would it be any different if she was a boy? May be then she could one day be in the army and make her father proud. She knew that the army was his life. Every time he left she would cry for a week, she never knew why. She would see her friend’s fathers dropping them to school and saying goodbye with a hug, sometimes she would imagine that her dad did the same. 

        Old age had gotten the better of his already poor memory. He remembered bits of the past now that came and went like ripples in a pond. He remembered how angry he was after he came back home. The constant frustration and pain. He wanted to be there for his country! Especially when they were fighting such an important war! He heard news about his battalion braving it at Kargil. Many of his friends had died. He felt so helpless. His wife kept urging him to talk to her about it. But what could he say to her? He had been injured in times of peace, in a trivial tiff with a colleague! He was no war hero! 

Years passed by, the pain went away but the anger remained.He hated this dependency on his wife. He hated the look of the stub which served as a daily reminder of this dependency. The doctors kept encouraging him to try walking again, he could use a prosthetic limb, but what was the point! It was not like he could go back onto the field! 
He would just sit in his room and reminisce about the old days. Would his life be any better if he had not been injured? He would probably be dead by now. What was the point of war anyway? He had fought a few wars himself. He had put himself in the line of fire. He had killed one too many ‘enemies'. What good had come out of that? Here the country was, at war once again. Bathing in the blood of young men to satisfy the egos of the nation states. His hands were stained with the blood of so many men. Men who were somebody’s husbands, somebody’s fathers. He had deprived his own daughter of a father’s love. He hardly knew her. The nation was his only love and now forced to take the time, he had begun to wonder if it was worth it? 


          After her mother passed away Leela tried for one whole year to take care of her father. He had closed himself into a shell. He refused to let her in. The wall that had always been there, seemed to have hardened. So when her admission letter from the School of Beaux Arts came along, she moved to France .There was no point in her staying around here anymore. 

Years passed by and Leela made a life of her own. She became a renowned artist whose work was appreciated all over the world. She married her college sweetheart and now they even had their first baby! She was finally happy, but this happiness seemed tainted. She wished her parents were here with her. How she missed her mother! Oh! She would have been so thrilled! 

But what about her father. He had diligently called and congratulated her on the day Aditya was born. It had been so formal and awkward. But what did he feel? Was he happy? Would she ever know? She sighed and dismissed these thoughts. Today was an important day and she wasn’t going to let herself get distracted. It was Aditya’s first day of school already! How time flies by! It seemed just like yesterday that he was a tiny helpless baby cooing in her arms and now he was already 5!

              One day he came back from school and asked “is my grandfather dead?' She was surprised at his question and asked him why he thought so. "Myra said, she cannot see her grandpa anymore because he is dead. I have never seen mine. Is he dead as well?”

Leela’s heart sank! How could she explain to her son why he had never seen his ajoba, even though he was still alive. The boy’s questioning eyes broke her heart. She decided that may be it was time for another try. Aditya deserved to know his grandfather. Would his grandfather want to know him, she did not know, but it was worth a try. 
           “Chalo, let’s go for a walk” says the little boy to his grandfather. He takes him by the hand and they start walking slowly along the footpath. Mahesh looks around the street, it has changed so much, but so has his life. 

He thinks back to the day when he woke up to a knock on his door. There she was, with her son, his grandson! The boy ran up to him and whole heartedly hugged him. This was the moment when life as he knew it has changed. Sometimes when somethings are not said or done at the right time they assume such heavy proportions that it becomes more and more difficult to say them. So difficult, that sometimes they remain unsaid. But, this one gesture by this innocent child made it possible. A volcano of emotions erupted inside his soul that stirred his whole being. He looked into his daughters eyes and saw that something had changed in her as well. 

Over the next few months, as the wounds of the past slowly began to heal and he began to walk again.He was filled with a revived rigour for life. He has had a reason to put on that prosthetic limb and give life a second chance. 

I see him now. Here he is with his gorgeous miracle worker. Sighing with happiness he waits patiently while Aditya admires the myriad colours of nail polish at one of the street shops. When satisfied Aditya comes over and holds his ajoba’s hand. And they continue their stroll. Taking the time  to explore the many things that this new street has to offer...

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