“Raghav”, I spoke over the phone.
Sunday was usually a routine of sorts. I’d have a lazy breakfast, watch the telly for a while. I’d wait for the time to get to 10:30 in the UK and then make that weekly call to my son. It was the one day of the week where I continued to have a sense of purpose over my life. Things were pretty dull for an old geezer like me. I was pushing 70s and there were not a lot of things to keep me enticed and excited anyways. Sunday was the one day when I sprang back to life. It was an hour worth waiting the entire week for.
I spoke to Niru. Nirupama. My sweet grand daughter who was super pumped and excited about her first dance recital. Raghav had sent me the pictures of her in that light blue tutu. I chuckled over the pawning of the pink tutu stereotype! He had also sent me a short video of her dancing. She was elegant and graceful. I wished I was there with them to see it.
Not that I’d blame either Raghav or Rukmani about it. She was the best daughter-in- law that anybody could ask for. My wife loved her a lot. Rukmani was around during my wife’s last days. She was a daughter to us. I used to often tease Priya about how lousy a mother in law she was. She had denied all of us the opportunity to spectate a miserable mother-in-law daughter-in-law fights.
Niru was everything her mother was. Lovely, well mannered, a golden heart, a life filled with enthusiasm and energy. I couldn’t bring myself to leave this house. For years, I kept turning down the offer to move with them. Raghav and I often fought about it. He did once say that had we moved to the UK, Priya might have still been with us. It hurt. That accusation hurt. I knew there wasn’t much truth to it. Priya knew that too. It wasn’t guilt that offended me. I wished, and still do wish that she was still with us. I do miss her at times.
Through the years, I had refused to budge from the place I called my home. It was not a pride thing. It was a house that I inherited from my father. My father built it through blood, sweat , determination and love. Each brick was a testament to how hard my dad struggled through life to be a wonderful husband to my mother and be an exceptional father to me. It was not my love for my father that kept me from moving away from that house. My dad was a broad minded bloke. He never encouraged me to wrap chains around my ankles and stay riveted to sentiments and emotional boulders. He was everything pragmatic. God bless his soul.
“Raghav”, I continued. “I’m selling the house da. I think it’s time for me to move on. I’m done staying attached to it now”. I concluded.
This caught my son by surprise. I’m sure he’d have never seen such a moment coming his way. Heck, I never imagined a day when I’d choose to sell the house and leave.
Raghav patiently heard me out. He didn’t protest much that day. He didn’t like the decision of mine to not live with him. I guess after the years of fighting about it, he had quite made his peace with the fact that I’d probably not spend my last days with him in the UK. He wasn’t enthusiastic about my plans for the future. He didn’t understand. He couldn’t understand. I didn’t blame him for that.
“I’m an old man Raghav. I’ve lived a life striving hard to keep your mother happy. I did my best in trying to be a good father to you. I have very little to keep me motivated for living the rest of my years now. I have a lot more to look forward to in the beyond than I do here in the land of the living! I don’t expect you to understand this. All I want you to know is that I can’t die with a regret in my heart. I’m doing this for me. Deal with it, for me please” , I said.
The phone went silent for a while. I guess he understood things in bits and pieces. He promised to visit soon. That was that.
The next two weeks were hectic. Selling a property was a tough business. I was glad that two weeks was all that it took. I called in the old age home and booked myself a cottage. It was not a lap of luxury, but was pleasant of sorts. A wonderful garden, an artificial pond. It was more of a hermit-like recluse than a house for affordable old.
‘SIR’, a concerned voice called out from a distance. It was Muthu. He was part of the team that took care of us. Helpers, if you may. Muthu was a young kid, enthusiastic and he believed in helping out the old. Care oozed through all his actions. It was never about money or the boundaries of a job to him. He loved spending time with us. I had learnt from others that Muthu had lost his parents to a nasty incident. He made a choice to see his parents in rest of us. His love reflected the love and warmth that shone bright from his heart.
“We’ll be fine, Muthu”, I replied. He shook his head and walked away. I knew he’d probably give us twenty odd minutes before he came back and dragged us back to the hall. Two old geezers sitting with their feet plunged in the pond was something that Muthu didn’t approve. He was worried that we’d catch the cold. He still gave us time to enjoy the moment. The sun was setting in slowly and gently. It would be a while before the chill winds to set in.
“We should really head back”, she said. Her gaze was fixed on the sinking sun.
So there we were. Two old folks catching up on life and the sinking sun. The large round ball of orange was slowly vanishing into the black that was unravelling itself for the night.
“Ignore him. What’s he going to do, tell our mothers about it!!!”, I giggled.
She shot me a disapproving look. She did find it a little funny. She’d have stood up and walked had she not found it funny. Maybe it was the relaxing moment. I decided against thinking about it and trying to understand the whys and motives to the moment. I enjoyed the moment.
“I have something for you”, I said as I reached into my pocket.
“Remember the time we were kids? Probably 8 or something. Remember , we both wrote each other a note, put it in a box and buried it on the backyard of my house? ” , I asked her enthusiastically.
She put her head back to jog her memory. She smiled and nodded her head. It was a sweet shot of sudden nostalgia. Renuka had moved in as our neighbour when I was just about 7. We both were thick as thieves. We were friends for life I guess. We were almost together as one for the longest while. She left when we hit 17. We stayed in touch ever since. About four months ago, things got ‘Challenging’ for her. Her kid checked her into this home. Heaven’s blossom – Old age home.
I made that call to check in to the house and spend the reminder of the days I had by her side. A lifetime worth of memories vs memories waiting to be made for whatever time that was left in life. It was one of the hardest decision I had to ever make. I think I made the right one. She was pleasantly surprised and secretly glad that I was now around again. It felt like the good old days when we were young and there was a life ahead of us. I had shouldered her smiles and tears alike. Now, nothing had really changed. We still sat and spoke of tears and smiles like we had always done.
I handed her the folded note that I had marked as the one that I wrote. I retained the one that she had written. Decades later, we both were set to read into the secret message that we had left behind those many years ago.
‘Forever yours’, she called out. Yeah, that’s so corny and original she teased me.
‘Yours Forever’ , I read from the note that was in my hand.
We both sat and watched the sun vanish. It was a beautiful routine of sorts now.
“So did you really sell that house after so many years, only to spend time with me!!! why bother?” , she asked turning towards me.
I shrugged my shoulder. “I guess I really did mean it when I wrote forever yours” , I said.
“75, and still filmy as hell. You never did change did you”, she joked.
“Nope!!!!, some things never do change sweetheart”, I said.
She gently punched my shoulder and rested her head on that a little later.
The brilliance of the moon overshadowed the ball of white decked away in the sky.
And so finally they all lived happily ever after.