Santa Claus brought me a special something this Christmas. Instead of stocking my stockings with chocolates (he placed those near the tree instead) he took me for a ride: and we landed straight in the dustbin!
Madhav Narayan may have retired. But the dustbin trip sure becomes the new Boost for My Energy. Thank you!
D.ustb.in is down for maintenance. In the meanwhile, P&P brings you the story right here: 😀
Madhav Narayan grinned as he saw his friend Sukumar argue with the chai-wallah and wave his frayed black umbrella in front of his face. It had been years since he had known Sukumar – they used to work in Kolkata together – and the man hadn’t changed a bit. Yes, his skin had sagged and wrinkles deepened, his hereditary hypertension problem now quite a severe threat. But then he was in no state of great health either. His arthritis was too loyal a companion and he often had bouts of severe pain in the joints.
“What’s the deal Sukumar?” He asked out loud as he took a place on one of the white plastic chairs in the lawn.
The chai-wallah jumped on the distraction to save himself from the umbrella attack and murmured something about fixing Madhav Narayan a cup of tea.
“Oh don’t get me started.” Sukumar sighed and shook his head. “You tell me, since when has sugar started costing forty rupees a kilo? And this ignoramus of a chai-wallah claims that tea for ten a cup is only too fair a price!”
Madhav Narayan rolled back his heed and laughed, his silvery white hair delighting in the morning breeze. “In fact my dear Sukumar,” he whispered into his friend’s ear, “Sugar now costs forty five a kilo. You are far removed from the world of today.”
“Look my friend,” Madhav Narayan continued in his naturally peremptory voice, “the times have changed. You need to be in synch with them. Now for instance, I am sure that you will walk home from here and coop up into your room or your verandah with a newspaper. There you will remain till you emerge for a silent lunch and you’ll follow it up with a nap until late evening. Am I not right?”
Sukumar hesitated. “So what else do you suggest I should do? Post retirement, I think-”
“Hush, this is the attitude that’s wrong. You should take an interest in your son’s business, your granddaughter’s studies, your family’s day to day life for God sake. Or have you retired from all that too?”
They were nearing the little detour toward the end of the park, where they parted ways.
“I haven’t Madhav, but…” Sukumar eased a crease in his off-white kurta. “I don’t want them to feel I am interfering.”
Madhav gave him a what-an-utter-fool glance. “Sukumar, stop being such a doormat. You should visit me sometime. There isn’t a single decision in the house that isn’t approved from me. Have I retired from my authority just because I have retired from work? Think about it.”
Sukumar stared at his receding figure a long while after they had said goodbye.
“For the hundredth time Mamma, I detest this white mixture that tastes like thermocol!” Sulabh banged a spoon on the table and grimaced.
Maya made a face too. She hated the tantrums he had begun to throw. Typical teenage rebellion, her husband had carelessly remarked.
“What’s all the ruckus about young boy?” Madhav Narayan slipped off his brown footwear and wiped his feet on the foot mat. “Why are you troubling your Ma?”
Sulabh continued to look out of the window, sulking.
“Oh it’s nothing Babuji, he is just tensed about this class test…”
“Stop lying Ma.” Sulabh suddenly sprung into action. “Dadajee, why must I have this – what do you call it – dahi for breakfast? Why can’t I have cornflakes like my friends?”
Madhav Narayan sneered. “You too are getting affected by these stupid television advertisements. Don’t you know dahi is a must in this family? How many times have I-”
Maya rushed to help him take off his overcoat. Though it was almost spring, Madhav never left home without it. “Don’t worry Babuji, he’s just a kid. I will make sure he doesn’t leave without dahi.”
Though Sulabh glared at her, Madhav Narayan smiled. “I have a good little daughter in law, one who abides by my every word.” Maya smiled back.
Anuj was late from work. It was Friday evening and time for the family dinner. Madhav Narayan was strolling in the balcony when his eyes fell on a pair of blue jeans on the washing line. They were too big to be Sulabh’s and Anuj never wore jeans. He scowled as he went looking for Maya.
She was in the living room, watching what looked like an English sitcom on television. She sat up straight when she heard Madhav approach.
“What is it Babuji? Did you need something?”
He glanced at her plastered white face and his scowl deepened. He needed to do something about the kind of television she watched. He didn’t want Anuj’s hard earned money squandered on her exotic cosmetics.
“I need to know bahu, what is a pair of blue jeans doing on our washing line? It isn’t Sulabh’s and you know I don’t like you wearing jeans.”
Maya bit her lower lip. “Actually Babuji,” she began, “it’s my friend’s… got left over from the last time she was here…”
“Listen Maya. I don’t want you wearing anything but proper Indian clothes. It’s bad enough that Sulabh has those Americanized idiots for friends. I don’t want a blonde headed Mom as well.” “That will do Babuji.” Anuj’s indignant voice called out from behind.
Anuj worked in a software company, his office housed in one of the many high-rises in Gurgaon. “I get home slogging all day and all I see is an argument. Maya has a right to wear what she likes.”
“Anuj please. Babuji is right. We don’t want Sulabh to grow up like your NRI colleague’s spoilt son.” She took his briefcase and with an apologetic glance at Madhav, went into the kitchen.
Madhav Narayan sniggered. It was a hard time managing house.
“Why Papa, since when did you stop eating mango pickle?” Sulabh looked at his Dad with an astonished expression.
They were gathered around the dining table and the fragrance of steaming hot rajma was all over the place.
Anuj cleared his throat. “Since the day your Mom stopped making any.”
“Why Mom, since when did you stop making mango pickle?” Sulabh parroted back instantly.
“It’s bad for the throat Sulabh. And didn’t I tell you to keep silent during dinner?” Madhav Narayan put his spoon down to pour himself some water from the jug.Sulabh stared at his Mom and Dad, hoping for a counter argument but found none. He stamped out and went straight into his bedroom, his plate unfinished.
Eleven at night was bedtime for Madhav Narayan. He liked leaving for his morning walk latest by five and an early night ensured he got sufficient sleep. But tonight, he felt restless. Uncomfortable even. Sulabh, drat the lad! He hoped he wasn’t too angry with him. Madhav was fond of his grandson. But lately he was getting a bit unruly. He even snapped when enquired about school.
“You don’t know an ounce of what we are being taught Grandpa. Why bother with an explanation?” Sulabh had dared to say.
“I know enough young lad. Much more than you can hope to learn in a lifetime. Don’t you ever dare to talk to me like that again.”
Maya had arrived at the scene just then and lashed out at Sulabh for insolence.
Madhav Narayan suddenly noticed his glass of milk on the mantelpiece. It was cold by now. He sighed. It was hard work keeping track of all that went about in the house. But he prided himself in his authority. He didn’t want to end up like Sukumar, frog in the well, fly on the wall…
So where was he? Yes, Maya. Now she was a good daughter in law…He had a sudden brainwave as he sat on his arm chair reflecting.
Fifteen minutes later, armed with a red jewel case under his arm, Madhav climbed up the stairs to his son’s bedroom. He knew they were awake for he could hear voices. He didn’t want to eavesdrop but the voices were already loud enough.
“I am clueless darling. How on earth do you even endure him?” Anuj was saying. “He’s getting beyond all human tolerance.”
Drat that Sehgal boy in office, Madhav Narayan thought. Anuj must be miffed with him again. But how was Maya affected?
“We have to be patient Anuj. It’s just a matter of a week more…”
“Yes, the much awaited week of the will. I fervently wish your efforts pay off.”
Madhav stopped in his tracks, rooted to the spot. It couldn’t be.
There came a stream of laughter from Maya. “Oh they will. In any case, we are better off than that fat headed brother of yours. Jeans wearing, dahi-hating family of his… there’s no way they are getting the ancestral land.”
“But you do an excellent job of it Maya. Babuji this, Babuji that.” Anuj’s footsteps crept up nearer to the door as it suddenly opened. He was stunned into silence until Maya piped in.
“Did you need something Babuji?”
Madhav Narayan glanced at the red jewel case, which held his deceased wife’s best loved set of pearls. He shook his head and started back down the stairs.