Dining Table

* Dining Table *

It’s lunchtime. I know it when I see the people walking out of the building, when I hear the sound of their footsteps and when I hear the persistent beeps of the ID Card Swipe machines.

I go to my spot. I take my mop and bucket along. My job is to make the floors look squeaky clean.

I go to the place where I have my lunch everyday. It’s under the staircase; pretty secluded to give me some privacy and save me and my lunchbox from the sympathetic glances of the people with ID cards who work in this place.

I sit on the floor and untie the towel tied around my tiffinbox. I look at the lunch that my wife has packed for me. Today, I’ve got four chapattis and dal. I eat my lunch in solitude and doze off for an hour under the staircase.

I wake up, mop some more floors and walk back to my home at 10pm. My son opens the door for me. I smile at him. He runs ahead of me, singing, “Pa’s here, Pa’s here.”

I won’t deny that I feel special. At the building where I mop the floors, I am just a shadow whom everyone deliberately ignores. At my home, I am no longer a shadow; I am a crucial member of the family, I am special.

I walk in and see that my son has assembled some bricks and laid one of my wife’s saree neatly over them.

“What is that for?” I ask my wife.

“Today, he had gone with me to the houses where I work. He saw dining tables in each one of them. He came home and made this for us,” my wife says with a smile.

My wife works as a maid in the locality closer to my home. My son goes with her sometimes.

My wife serves dinner for us. We sit crosslegged at the dining table made of bricks. I pull my son on my lap and feed him from my plate.

“You know, this table is way better than the one I eat at during my work,” I tell him.

He smiles.

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Fifty vs. Seven

* Fifty vs. Seven *

I have been sitting on my bed, sulking since hours. My hair is a mess and my stomach rumbles; both a grim reminder of my anger directed at him.

The person I am angry at is my boyfriend. Ours is a long-distance relationship and he has come to my city after a good four months. He has come for just three days, though.

Sixty hours, to be precise. Yes, I’d counted.

We have met a couple of times after he has come here and the meetings have been brief. He had promised that we would spend a good fifty-something hours together. I had a well prepared to-do list for that.

But then, he had to meet others too. That had taken up most of his time.

“I won’t even talk to him,” I mutter to myself.

“Let him call. I won’t even answer,” I say again.

“Even if he texts, I won’t reply,” I add.

My phone beeps and hour later. It’s a text from him.

“Sorry,” it reads.

I bite my lip to supress my anger.

“No problem. Just tell me if I should wait up for you or if I should have my dinner and go to bed,” I reply.

“We’ll eat together. I will be there soon. Wait up for me, please?” he texts me back.

“Fine,” I reply.

I can never not yield to a ‘Sorry’ or a ‘Please’ from him. Nevertheless, I remind myself that I am angry.

An hour later, he shows up to meet me.

“When is your flight tomorrow?” I ask.

“At eight in the morning,” he says.

“You’ll have to leave for the airport at six, then,” I say.

I do a mental math and realise that we only have seven more hours together. I almost tear up.

In those three and half years of our relationship, I have never been able to not cry while seeing him off. My anger dies somewhere inside me.

I reach out and take his hand in mine.

“I am sorry. I lost my temper,” I said.

“I am sorry I couldn’t spend more time with you,” he said as I hugged him.

And in the comparison between fifty-something-hours and seven hours, it was the lesser number of hours that turned out to be more precious.

Google Maps

“Bhaiya, you have to drop me off first,” were the first words which fell on my ears as I got into the Uber which I had booked to return home that monsoon evening.

I looked at the girl sitting beside me, barking orders at the Uber driver.

I looked at the Uber driver. He was a man of about my father’s age. He was struggling to get used to Google Maps app.

The girl sighed, mumbled something and said, “Left. Then right.”

I sat back and watched it all.

The girl seemed way too frustrated with the cab driver. The driver, in turn, was way too nervous.

Despite my drop location being en route to the girl’s drop location, I sat quietly. She had insisted on being dropped off sooner.

She got down at her location. The driver looked at her and said, “Sorry, Ma’am.”

“Learn to use Google Maps. What good are you as a driver otherwise?” she said and walked away.

The driver wiped the corner of his eye with his finger, smiled and asked me, “Where do I drop you off, Ma’am?”

I guided him to my location.

“Thank you,” I said and walked away.

I found my phone and dialled my father’s number.

Two rings later, I heard a “Hello, beta!” on the other end.

“Papa, I’ll teach you how to use Google Maps. I’ll teach you how to use any other app which you are unable to use, too. You don’t have to worry. You’ll be way better at it than I am. I love you, Papa,” I said in a single go.

“Haha, sure, beta. First tell me, who had a problem with Google Maps today?” he said.

I smiled.

Google Maps would show that he is approximately a thousand kilometers away from where I am.

My heart says that he is somewhere much closer to me always.

Envelope

“Hello? How are you?” I ask.

“Fine, Dad,” he replies.

“We are fine, too. How are things at home? The network here is really poor. The roof was leaking last night. But I have managed to find a solution for it. Your mother misses you. When will you come?” I ask him.

“One question at a time, Dad. I even forgot what you’d asked earlier. We will come the next time I avail a holiday. This time we are going to Singapore,” he says.

“Okay. Have fun. Let me know in case I can help with anything,” I say to him like I have been saying all along.

“Yeah, yeah. Like you could,” he says and scoffs.

“Did you say anything, son?” I ask, pretending not to be able to hear his words.

“Nothing, Dad. Goodnight,” he says and disconnects the call.

I hobble back to the room where my wife is adjusting her hearing-aid. She asks if I had a chat with my son. I nod. She asks about his well-being. I tell her that he is fine.

I read her eyes which wait for me to tell her when he’d be coming. I know that she reads in my eyes that it wouldn’t be anytime soon.

And somehow like this, we have shared twenty years together.

The next afternoon, a postman with an envelope appears on my doorstep. I adjust my spectacles as I read the address it is from. It’s from my son.

I tear it open and find money. I don’t even bother to count it.

‘For the leaking roof,’ a note reads.

I smile.

The roof in my house is just fine. Little did my son realise that I needed no envelope. All I needed was his presence.

The death of butterflies

Butterfly – noun

Plural noun: butterflies

1. A nectar-feeding insect with two pairs of large, typically brightly coloured wings that are covered with microscopic scales. Butterflies are distinguished from moths by having clubbed or dilated antennae, holding their wings erect when at rest, and being active by day. Having a two-lobed shape resembling the spread wings of a butterfly.

Modifier noun: butterfly

A showy or frivolous person.

“a social butterfly”

2. A fluttering and nauseous sensation felt in the stomach when one is nervous.

3. A stroke in swimming in which both arms are raised out of the water and lifted forwards together.

Tell me now,

when you saw him for the first time,

did you feel what is written

in point 2 above?

Did the butterflies in your belly

do a little dance

when you touched for the first time

or when you kissed for the first time?

You see, the butterflies always flutter in your belly

only during the firsts of all times.

They reduce slowly;

They die.

And somehow, you kill your love

with their death.

No butterflies;

No love.

Isn’t it simple?

But then,

read point 2 again, and again,

and again.

Read how the word ‘nervous’ is used.

Notice the absence of ‘love’.

Realise that we aren’t nervous

around the ones we love.

Realise why the butterflies die

and why the death of butterflies

means the birth of love.

And, love.

Isn’t it simpler?

Love the moments, the person, the feel;

Travel with them, scream and squeal.

Love the imperfections, the future, the past;

Love the present for as long as it lasts.

Love the way the butterflies die,

and keep loving till the last one of them bids goodbye;

Who knew, love could live with the death of butterflies?

Two knocks

This afternoon, I was reading a book when I heard two knocks on my window.
Two knocks, just like old times.

Two knocks, just like that of a friend of mine.

Two knocks, just to assure me that everything is going to be fine.

I rushed to the window and I opened it. An old friend was waiting there; waiting to hug me.

And I stood there, feeling the winds on my face, hearing the sweet whispers of what I had missed.

I stood there, waiting for the thunder to roar, feeling my calm in the storm.

I stood there, watching the lightening rip the sky apart, watching beauty form from a silver, jagged line.

I stood there, feeling the raindrops cleanse me, making me realise what I still love the most.

I stood there, meeting my oldest, best friend.

Two knocks was all it took and the rains had found me again.

Father’s Day

The doorbell rings. I wince as I stand up from my armchair. My knees have been troubling me since long.

“Coming,” I say when the doorbell rings a second time.

I reach out to grab my walking stick and I walk to the door.

It’s the postman. He hands me a courier, gets my signature and leaves.

I make my way back to the living room as I inspect the immaculately wrapped thing in my hand. It is a rectangular thing wrapped in brown paper.

I read the sender’s address and I smile.

I sit on my armchair and tear the wrapper carefully.

“Is it my birthday? Or maybe some festival which I might have missed?” I wonder as I lay the wrapper aside neatly, treating it like it is something way more precious than just brown paper.

There is a card, and a letter and a box.

I open the letter first.

It reads, “I know you might not have even the slightest idea why you are receiving this and I don’t blame you for forgetting this occassion every year. But this is the day when I get to thank you for all that you have done for me. So, Happy Father’s Day!

You held my finger and taught me to walk. You burnt your fingers while trying to cook, but you never let me sleep with an empty stomach.   You saved up and bought me the pencil box that I had long coveted for. You knew that I used to lose my pencils at school, but you never lost your patience with me.

I was slow in my studies. I hated every subject. You made those interesting and you made me excel in academics. You dealt with the children who were bullying me. You finally learnt to tie my long hair up in neat braids after failing numerous times at it.

You scared the boy off who used to follow me back from college. You saved your earnings up for my education. You never let my wishes go unhindered. You made sure that I got the best of everything.

And you knew it when I was in love with a guy. You knew he was from a different caste, yet you stood beside me against our relatives who were vehemently opposing my desire to marry him. You arranged my marriage which such pomp and show that left everyone spellbound.

You ensured that I lived well. You ensured that I was well educated. You ensured my well being. You ensured that I had a family and that I was happy.

You sacrificed your happiness for mine. You found a family for me, but you never bothered to make one for yourself.

After the death of our parents, you brought me up single-handedly from the time I was a baby. You were only ten. And honestly, I don’t remember our parents at all. When I think of a parent, only one face comes to my mind and that is you.

Thank you for everything.

And here is a box of your favourite fruit cake. I made it myself. Your sister has finally learnt how to bake at the ripe old age of fifty, and you better tell me that the cake was good. I could use some encouragement and I could use a big smile on your face.

Happy Father’s Day again, Bhaiya!

With love,

Your Chhoti.”

I grin at her words and at her childish handwriting and I make a mental note to gift my fifty-year-old sister a Cursive Writing Book on her upcoming birthday.

I nibble a piece of the cake and pull my phone towards me to call her and tell her how good it is, while the card with the image of a father and a daughter sits proudly on my lap.