It’s been a while. For a variety of things.
The Mumbai skyline is grey. Odd for a March morning. But it is. Or atleast, so it seems. The breakfast has been missed a few times sunk in aimless walks and sullen stares into the sky. So have dinners. The snacks haven’t been missed. Infact, they have more than compensated.
I think of the last time I spoke to her. It is a long while ago. I pick up the phone and dial. The phone rings. Rings. And rings again. I hang up. A message pops on the phone, ‘We just spoke 28 minutes ago! All fine here. Let me know if urgent. Will call later’.
I sigh. Get on to do other things. For a long time, I shuffle in bed with protracted motions of a drunken caterpillar. Sleep hits me in fits.
Early in the morning, I run. The feet pound the pavement waking up irritated dogs and the odd tea seller. My thoughts are with her. Would she have woken up by now? I wonder. Maybe she is shifting in bed. Would she even think of me, I wonder.
My run isn’t going too well. It is taking me forever to complete a small distance. I don’t mind. I hurry home. Pick up the phone and send out two text messages. ‘Hope everything is ok’.
The silence that comes back as a reply reminds me that this time of day is called ‘wee hours of the morning’. I stretch. And as I lift my head my eyes catch her photograph on the side table. Those eyes. Those keen eyes reeking mischief and a boundless love speak to me. The eyes that lift my mood and warm my heart.
I look into the phone. No messages yet.
In a short while I assemble all the assorted paraphernalia a modern work day holds and head out lugging the laptop bag. It is still early for the world to hit the road. The RJs blabber in the background. I realise I am immune to any pain like their blabber when my thoughts are about the pretty little thing in my life. I reach office quickly. I park.
I look into the phone. No messages yet.
As I stow the sunglasses in the glove compartment, my fingers find something that I haven’t seen in a while: Her hairclip. A broken hairclip from the past. The hairclip that used to sit on her head and hold her hair pretty. I sigh. The hairclip nestles in my palm for a brief while. The RJ is saying something inconsequential in the background. As usual.
I sit there in the car park. The hairclip nestling in my palm. It catches the security guards attention. To see me park, stay inside the car and stare emptily into the sky with a hairclip in hand. ‘All ok sir?’ he asks. I smile. And nod.
I look into the phone. No messages yet. Silence rings louder than the loudest ringtone in town.
I amble to my desk. The janitors are still at work. I open the laptop and voila, the blank dark screen has her finger prints. Eight in all. For some reason, some weeks ago, she saw me working intently on some inane mail, came over and planted eight fingers on the screen. Keeping her thumbs to herself.
I sigh. I look into the phone. No response yet.
The missus picks up the phone. “WHAT?” She asks. I mean, it isn’t this bad, usually. But today it seems like Princess Diana shouting at the stalking Paparazzi!
“How is she?” is all I can muster.
“She is fine. She is fine. She is fine. She is fast asleep now. She was awake the whole night and she’s just slept an hour back. Don’t keep calling. Ok?”
I am silent.
She calms down. I realise am talking to a sleep deprived lady. And a wife too.
“Are you at office already? Its just 7.30” she says.
I am silent.
“Get on with work” she says. ”And don’t behave like a smitten teenager ok? Your daughter is just fine. And she isn’t thinking about you”.
“Smitten teenager?” I ask. But the missus is long gone. That was an insult. I think. But I couldn’t care less.
The next couple of weeks, my days go by slowly. Thinking of her. The missus and the daughter are away. With my parents. I spend my time preserving her fingerprints on the laptop monitor and nestling the broken hair clip for company.
Work helps. For there are a ton to things to finish. I have to earn the bread.
I speak to them on the phone now and then. I am often told that she is fine. That she goes around showing my picture and shouting ‘papa papa’. The heart twitches more whenever I hear that.
After what seems like the time Sachin Tendulkar has been playing cricket, finally it is time for them to head back home.
I hurry to the airport. On that day, if there was an “Eagerest beaver” award, amongst all the eager beavers awaiting people landing in the airports of the world, I would have won it. Hands down.
In some time, I spot her. She sees me. Doesn’t say a word. I extend my hand. She still clings on to the missus. I extend my hands again.
She keeps looking at me. Tears well up in her eyes. Not a sound escapes her lips. Her sixteen month old cheeks witness a torrential downpour of tears. No crying. Not a sound escapes. No wailing. Just tears. I don’t know how to handle this.
In some time, she clings to me.
I look at the missus. Who smiles. I want to tell her, that the ‘smitten teenager’ comment was inappropriate. ‘Lost lover’ would work with me. I think.
But today, nothing matters. The missus hands me her handkerchief. It catches the first tear that overflows my eye that has been filled to the brim.
This post was first published on www.parentous.com