Monday, July 02, 2007

The Homecoming

She stood in the doorway, every night around this time. Night had not yet fallen, neither could it be called daylight. Little girls hurried back, while their brothers, a bit less concerned, dragged their cricket bats home, as though a day’s work had been finished in the fields. She had none to call her own, she sighed. Just some memories.

She remembered that once there had been a few, two actually. Her daughter, now a doctor far away in America, would scamper home, and dive straight into her books. While her son, that little devil, dragged himself home, only to watch the most useless program on Doordardshan. She remembered how he wouldn’t drink his milk, had a terrible memory for tables, and homework, and an immaculate one for the TV schedule. Impeccable.

Now, he too was gone. Gone to faraway Tokyo. She didn’t understand what he did for a living, but her husband kept mentioning something called an investment bank. She kept his visiting card in her bedside drawer. It said “Vice President”, and on the reverse was a scribble which apparently meant the same in Japanese, he had said. It made her feel kind of important. It had been so much easier to tell all the relatives what he did when he worked as an engineer in the nearby car factory. Everyone knew what an engineer does, and everyone saw the cars he made.

She realized that her children had turned out exactly as she wanted. Daughter doctor, son engineer, once. Daughter married with a baby, son, married, once. But they hardly ever came home.

She remembered the one time she had gone visiting her daughter in America. After the initial euphoria had died down, she realized that this was not a big city. Not even close. Nothing compared to her Delhi. Or Calcutta where she had lived a long time back. She realized that small towns were all the same, whether in America or India. Even then, there was no way of getting from point A to B, unless she walked. In fact there was neither point A nor B. Just her daughter’s house. And when she did go for those long walks, she got stares from passers by. Probably it was her saree. Or perhaps, as her daughter told her later, that nobody walked on the streets in Wisconsin. She remembered how irate her husband had been on seeing her son-in-law’s well stocked bar. And what a difficult time she had keeping him quiet.

She remembered the time she had gone visiting her son when he was in Bombay. How detached he seemed from them. There was no connection, nothing. He came home most evenings, not drunk, but with alcohol on his breath. Client meetings he said. His work hours were treacherous, and on weekends, if he was home, he slept. He had no time for them. No time. They cut their trip short, and never went back. And then news arrived that he had married. They wondered why they hadn’t been told of it before. Then when they were ready to go and visit him, to mend fences, they were informed that she had gone away, for very long. She never came back. He too went away to Tokyo. Alone. Briefly, quietly, stopping over at home. Recently, he started coming again, on work, but rarely, briefly. There apparently was a lot of interest in India suddenly, he told his father.

She felt a tug at her saree, and saw two children- a boy and a girl, probably aged no more than five or six. They had freckled faces and runny noses, which probably had been carelessly rubbed on their sweater sleeves. The boy dragged a cricket bat. The girl, carried a school bag. She knew them well. They belonged to the neighbour’s servant. She knew what they wanted. They had been coming every day for the last six months. She went into her son’s room, and pulled out a little racing car card. It said Pinnfarina Quattro- a fine green coloured sports car, 2100cc, 1974. She had been dreading this day. The card was the last one.


santu said...

I like people who are uncanny and write candidly with no illusions and pretences of coming across as being a milen kundera or sounding like jagjit singh.. waxing eloquent is easy but cynicism is a brew hardly everybody can ejaculate or consume.. u remind me of oscar wilde somehow.. loved ur work..

Anonymous said...

why is there so much nostalgia in what you write

The One said...

Santu: Pleasantly surprised!
Anon: Because I lack imagination...

Anonymous said...