Vinit kept his bag down on the old, dirt fed rug and went to the kitchen to fetch a glass of water for his father as the old man, like an impaired soul, sat with a thud on the couch. Vinit appeared before him with a glass of water, a dispirin tablet for him and a chilled bottle of water for himself. His father opened his eyes with great effort. “You still drink straight from the bottle, eh?”, he asked, with a smirk.
“Yes. Some things never change. Like your drinking proportions”, reverted Vinit with a scornful look in his eyes.
The old man understood the intent of the statement and gulped the water in a go.
“Be ready at 11 o’clock sharp in the morning. I am cooking breakfast. Now go to sleep. We will talk tomorrow. When you’ll be sober. Hopefully”, said Vinit.
His father waived his hand in a I-got-it-bruh gesture and fell asleep on the couch himself. While Vinit, on the other hand, felt restless and sleepless. He went to his mother’s room where the family once used to sleep. Only to find to his utter surprise that it has been turned into a store room which lacked of anything that could remind him or his father of his mother. This happens. We leave things behind us hoping to see them the same as we left them. But, everything changes. Iron corrodes with time, people age with time, eatables catch fungi with time, bodies decay with time and even Gods change with time. That is what Mr. Khurrana, Vinit’s father needed. Time. Time from Vinit. While philosophising everything in his sight, Vinit’s eye balls caught hold of the rusty red bicycle which his father gifted when he passed his matriculation exam. He advanced towards it and managed to take it out. He then searched for a cloth to wipe off dirt off of it. The chain gone, the tyres deflated, this too, much like his old father needed some repair. And that is when he realized, things aren’t too well. Sad and tired, Vinit went his bedroom with a plan in his mind for the following day.
The next day, Mr. Khurrana woke up with a heavy head, like every drunkard in the world and saw a box lying on the dining table which read, “Wear this and thank me by paying for the breakfast :P”.
The miserable old man smiled through his eyes and with an unimaginable excitement opened the box. His son had gifted him a Green Khaki kurta and a pyjama. He went to the bathroom, took a bath, got ready and sat at the dining table waiting for his son to arrive. All sorts of questions rose in his mind: “Where would he be?” ; “Where will we heading to?” ; “Is he up to any mischief?”. Parents are like that to be very honest. Everything their kids do is mistaken for a mischief. Finally, breaking the thoughts, an array of wild bells rang in his ears. He swiftly got up and opened the door. It was Vinit.
“Kahan tha bhayi tu?” (Where were you?).
“Arey is sab ka time nahi hai. Chalo mere sath” ( We don’t have time for all this. Come with me).
“Arey achha darwazey par taala laga du” (Okay but let me lock the door).
“Koi zarurat nahi hai Kuber maharaja” (No need, The God of Wealth)
They went downstairs and Mr. Khurrana gave Vinit a stern look when he joined the dots.
“No. Are we really going riding this?”, asked Vinit’s father.
“No. We aren’t. You are! And I’ll sit on the bar. Just like the old times”, said Vinit pleadingly.
“Don’t make that face”
“Which face, dad?”
“The pleading puppy face, Vinit!”
“Okay so grab the seat, Mr. Khurrana”.
The old man once again lost to his beloved son’s stubbornness and sat on Vinit’s old bicycle. Vinit sat on the bar of the frame of the bicycle and ordered, “Madarasi’s Café”. Just like the old times.
The 100 metre was a little bit hard , scary, scandalous, embarrassing and difficult journey for both of them. They were now on the main roads of Dehradun. Half sleepy languid air, roads scarcely kissed by motors and the mild Sun slipping out from the hands the trees’ on the side of the road. Vinit turned his head back to his father and caught him enjoying the peaceful environment with a smile on his face. It has been years that he saw him smile. So many so that it didn’t fit in with the face. Vinit again turned his head towards the road and the father-son duo kept enjoying the journey. Two right turns after a kilometre of journey and they were there. They both got down from the bicycle and looked at each other. Knowing each other’s plight after sitting on a bar and cycling for a kilometre. Yet none of them didn’t let it reflect on their faces. This is how a man to man relationship works. Vinit looked at his father and smiled. He smiled back. They exchanged the I love you- I love you too conversation a dad-son couple is not supposed to have and finally went inside. The waiter being free due to the early hours of the day instantly teleported himself from the cash register to their table. Before the old man could shell a word out of his mouth, Vinit said:
“One Masala Dosa with extra coriander, onion and peas with milk-badaam for the man and One rawa Idli for me”.
Mr. Khurana smiled and astonishingly asked, “How do you know I was going to order that?”
“Some things never change. Just like your food orders”.
It took almost 28 minutes for the order to get served and they talked about just everything- politics, sports, economy, social issues and also the Baba cult in India. As soon as the order arrived, Vinit folded his sleeves up and started munching the food. No matter if he is drinking or eating, he used to do this at the table. Mr. Khurana knew it and kept looking at his left forearm.
“You still have those?”, he asked while pointing to the blade cuts on Vinit’s forearm.
Looking at them Vinit replied, “Yes. Memories haunt you, right?”, with a wink.
His father took the cue and said, “Sheetal. Right?”.
“Haha. You still remember? Yes. Sheetal”.
“How could I forget? I caught you writing that post breakup love letter for her and resolved that you’ll imprint one mark a day which passes without her. Lame!”, mocked Vinit’s father.
“Yeah Yeah. I was 18, Dad. Plus, she was my first love”.
“Love my ass! I called her in front of you, right? Faking that you have attempted suicide. What ever happened let you know that she doesn’t care and we do? She hung up blatantly. Love much?”, said the man pulling off the joke a bit.
“Okay, Dad. Enough. Don’t pull my leg anymore”, said an embarrassed Vinit.
“Haha! Waise you should pay because I saved you from that bitch”, he said winking at his son.
“Such a miser. Bachpan me rawa idli ke baad candy floss nahi aur ab toh bill bhi nahi!”, avenged Vinit taking a dig at his father. Both shared a healthy laugh. Soon enough, silence prevailed.
“The tables have turned”
“What? I didn’t get you, son”
“You are exactly where I was 9 years ago. I cut myself every single day that passed without her and you cut yourself with every sip of that cheap alcohol. I didn’t think of you or mom when I harmed myself and you’re not thinking of me when you do that to yourself. I ran after the wrong person and you are too”, said Vinit.
He played on his strength. Taking the prey by surprise. That makes the enemy clueless and gives him no time to prepare himself thus, spilling out the real thing. His father who was a lively man until he said this, stopped eating and looked at his son. Tears in the eyes and anger, rage and frustration of being cheated, betrayed and used. He said nothing but spoke everything. Vinit took out his mobile phone and dialled his mother’s number.
“C’mon she knows I won’t kill myself”, retorted his father.
“I know. So you talk and take it all out on her. Once and for all. I don’t want you to die every day. You are the man!”
She picked the phone up and Vinit put it on speaker.
“Hello Vinit beta”, said the lady.
“Vinit nahi uska baap” (It is not Vinit, it is his father), replied the man.
“Oh bolo. Is Vinit with you?”
“Yes. And we are not missing you. Actually we are not. You don’t deserve a family. You don’t. What did you say while leaving the house? I am a loser? You are loser! You lost a man who loves you more than anything ;who kept his ass off of the house to meet your demands. So that you could show it off in your kitty parties. You lost a son who is so loving, caring and I am glad that you didn’t. I am glad you went with that filthy rich middle aged guy. I wouldn’t have gotten my son back if it wasn’t for you leaving me for him. Oh sorry not for him but for his money. You are a fucking commodity. NO! Even commodity has a Maximum retail price. You don’t. Fuck off” and he disconnected the call. He didn’t realise that his son watching him, the waiters were watching him and he was all red in anger. And finally the blood pressure came back to normal. Silence prevailed for a few minutes and Mr. Khurrana looked at Vinit and said, “This was so intelligent of you. You opened my eyes. Thank you, son!”.
“Some things never change, Dad. Never! There was a lesson 9 years back and there is a lesson today as well”.