I crossed a soccer field and a school. Then it dawned on me that it was my school! Years ago, I had moved out of my hometown for a job. My parents still lived here. I hadn’t seen them in a while. My father did not talk to me. He wanted me to join the family business, but I wanted a life of my own. There would always be my younger, much wiser brother to carry on the legacy. Now, walking through those old, familiar places I was reminded of it.
Working for someone else wasn’t considered the epitome of success in my family. The radio silence from my father was just his way of negotiation. Sometimes, I talked to my mother. At the end of our conversations, she always begged me to come back. She would say, ’You know your father. He will welcome you with open arms. Visit us just once.’ I always pretended not to hear her.
Today felt different. I don’t know how but I was home. And I was going to meet them. I crossed the bridge over the little river that was a torrent in monsoon. Everything about this place was like that- unassuming until the right time. Then you’d be surprised by the sheer strength of it. I was bidding my time too. I was due for a promotion at work that would be a big break. There was an opportunity for getting a professional degree sponsored by my firm. I could be someone they’d be proud of.
Lost in my thoughts, I must have walked miles. I saw the white metal gate of the home I hadn’t seen in years. It looked a bit rusty now. It creaked always. That is how we knew that father was home. We would rush to our study tables. He would look at us contently. Then he would have a bath and his evening tea. Sometimes, I wished he would come to us and talk. Ask us how our day was. But communication was not his strong suit. Once in a while, when he got high on a good scotch, he told us how much he loved us. I wished he’d drink more so that we could talk more often.
I walked on the asphalt pavement and through the rose garden.There were several varieties: Bordeaux, Autumn Damask, Bella Donna, Sofie. Red, pink, yellow, white, and bi-colored. There were some award winning bonsais. I hated them. I felt that it was cruel to prune, graft, and reduce trees to miniatures. Why shunt the natural growth of a living thing just to appeal to visual aesthetics? Why should something that could grow to be magnificent, be content to grow in a pot? If they could speak, they would protest vehemently.
I walked through the front porch. A money plant grew next to his rocking chair. No one else had the courage to sit on it. I tried sitting on it once when I was a kid. It rocked so fast, I was almost thrown out of it. It was like a throne that would accept only the worthy king.
I could hear a whimper, like some ancient pain, afraid to cry loudly. It was as cold as a tomb inside. I saw my mother weeping. My younger brother was crying too. I had a sense of unease.I touched my mother lightly, but she seemed unaware of my presence, engrossed in her grief. For once, my father did not look away. He kept staring at emptiness like he had sensed an invisible presence. I sat down on an empty chair and waited for someone to speak up.
My maternal aunt and her husband rushed into the room from outside. She hugged my mother and broke down too. Then she took my mother away to her bedroom, and the men were left in silence. Uncle always had a way with words, but not today. The anguish seemed sacred and necessary.
After what seemed like hours, he asked my brother: When did it happen?
My brother replied: In the morning, on Mumbai-Pune expressway. A truck container fell over; he died on his way to the hospital.