A man's worth must be measured by the number of people who come for his funeral. Not the ones who come out of courtesy. Or those who are fulfilling a formal obligation by coming. But the ones who have the urge to look at him one last time. The obscure ones whose presence is largely ignored. The tailor from the street corner. The cycle shop owner two streets away. The mechanic who always mended his struggling scooter. They did not enter his home and offer condolensces. But they were all there during the cremation. Scores of them. Standing in random nooks. Unnoticed. Paying their respects. And leaving as silently as they arrived. He had never realized that his Father had touched so many lives. The gravity of what he had lost would come to the surface much later. He was far removed from the catastrophy he was in the middle of. Insensitive, if you may. But life would change irreversibly. The bridge across to his sister would be broken. His fault. He was an escapist coward. Hiding away in the safety of his hostel. While his sister picked up the pieces, confronted the demons, and held things together. The bridge has been mended since. Bonds re-established. But some mistakes don't deserve a second chance. He was fortunate to have one.
It would be quite a while before he realized the enormity of the loss. He would do it alone, in his hostel room. He would find unlikely allies in P and N. The guys who included him in their fold when he was at the point of losing it. It is strange how the toughest of times forge these strong bonds. Or break seemingly strong ones.
It has been over ten years now. Some snapshots keep coming back. Bicycle lessons on a rented bicycle, 50 paise per hour, two siblings quarreling over whether a 10-minute slot was over, and a fair dad playing judge. An unexpected Hero-Unibike gift to two very delighted kids. Cricket on the terrace. Cricket in the Hall. Dips in Cauvery marked by failed swimming lessons. Early morning scooter lessons, and how his dad wouldn't panic or let him panic when the gravest of mistakes were made on the road. Shuttle in the garden with Mom's saree for a net. Home grown chillies and tomatoes, and at one particular time, even maize. There were no fancy shoes or expensive clothes. No birthday parties and other such frills. But he and his sis would go to the best of schools. Live in nice homes. However bad business was, however tight finances were. His dad always knew what was more important and what wasn't. Always neatly dressed, hair neatly combed, a battered sandal colore suitcase in hand, an asthmatic sneeze as accompaniment, his dad was so full of energy and life, a compulsive optimist, a dreamer who shielded his kids from reality. He would think back of his dad with fondness and a sense of pride. And guilt. And bestow upon him the kindof respect he deserved. A little too late.
This one, all grown up!
11 months ago