Friday, October 7, 2016

Chapter 2 - Delhi

Shailesh had walked back home. The strikes had ensured that no buses would ply even today. Thankfully, he did not live far from his work place unlike many colleagues of his in Delhi. The application for the scooter had not yet been granted. Of course it would not - he had tried to be honest, and not grease palms like a good citizen, only to realize just how empty those ideals sound in the face of a grim reality.

Being a man of the hills meant that he had not piled on a lot of weight, and had long legs. Perhaps it is genetic in nature, this trait often found in the people of the mountains. But it was worrying to see the chaos and anarchy that Delhi was descending into. There were protests everyday; the nation’s politics had ignited sparks people had almost forgotten about. On top of that were the concerns of blasts by terrorists. In moments like these, where an uninterested party gets caught in the crossfire, even these long legs will not take one far, brooded Shailesh, as he rang the bell on the door, only to be greeted by a concerned Neeti, his wife.

“Thank God you’re back,” a worried Neeti said, looking visibly relieved. “Of all the days, you had to go to work today, in the midst of all those protests. I hard someone immolated himself. Is he dead?”

“Well they got him to a hospital, or so I heard,” said Shailesh, seating himself down, observing his wife bring water from the kitchen, a stone’s throw in this tiny city ground floor flat. “Where’s our daughter?”

“Kusum is sleeping. She could not wait any longer. She may have to go to school tomorrow - who knows?” said Neeti, handing over the glass of water. “The food is there on the table. Shall we eat?”

A tired Shailesh nodded in affirmation, as Neeti walked over to the table and removed the lids to reveal chanaa dal and khatta along with rice.There were whole green chillies kept on the side for that extra zing that Shailesh was just not in the mood for tonight. He quietly ate through the plate of rice, observed all the time by a grim Neeti. “By the way,” she mumbled, “Pita has sent a letter.”

Shailesh kept munching on the dal soaked rice. However, the mind started racing towards the past. All he could think of ironically was his dead mother’s body, and that day of revulsion he had experienced, which he had promised his family would never see. He chose not to react, and continued to chew.

“Pita has said that shraadha is approaching in another two weeks. He has requested our presence there. You can read the letter if you want to,” said Neeti, conscious of the twitch Shailesh had on the mention of her father-in-law. It had been long since they had met, but Neeti always remembered him as a simple affable man with very few needs from life. She always admired his bravery in living all alone in an almost-deserted village. As she watched table to wash his hands. She followed suit, and handed him the letter, and saw him read through it. A pensive man, he moved to change and enter bed, observed silently all along by Neeti, unable to read Shailesh’s mind. Kusum had never met her grandfather, and here was a moment she thought, where it could happen. But understanding Shailesh’s mind in this undecipherable moment was proving to be a task. They had often disagreed vehemently to go in the past, with Shailesh often being the one to pour cold water.

But things are different this time around.

“Do you think we should go?” asked Shailesh, surprisingly Neeti.

“Well you know he never leaves home. And your daughter has not even met her grandfather,” said Neeti, nervous as to how he would react. “You know, schools are going to be closed for a while, as there are major security concerns regarding the terror attacks, not to forget the protests.”

Shailesh was fiddling with the table lamp, repeatedly switching it on and off. He seemed distant to Neeti. Something else seemed to preoccupy his mind. Neeti opted for silence, believing that as usual, this conversation was going nowhere. All of a sudden, Shailesh spoke;

“Let us go this time.”
Neeti stared in surprise. Never would she have believed that Shailesh would say anything else but no. This was proving to be impossible to comprehend.

“Baba has said that he wants to see his granddaughter’s face/ He is saying that he believes that he does not have much time left. Perhaps we could go and convince him to move with us to Delhi,” thought Shailesh aloud.

Neeti said, “That is fine Shailesh, but do you think he will want to come?”

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