ever notice how a dream that wakes you up all agitated and disturbed at 5AM proceeds to get completely wiped out from your conscious thoughts within moments of you waking up….
He was in town with his wife to visit the boy and his wife….. at 72 years of age this was quite the journey. At this age it was something he never did anymore…. all his life he had travelled the world, his job had taken him to the remotest of places and the two soul mates had gone without complaining in fact actually enjoyed their travels…. but now in the twilight years travel was something which might as well be spelt as “travail“! It was not easy to visit this boy either. He was the thankless black sheep the one who had inherited the hardiness, the angst, the cynicism and the utter disrespect for authority of his father while at the same time he had imbibed the tenacity, resourcefulness and never say die attitude of his mother…. in short he was their worst nightmare. When he was a toddler they had often wondered what it would be like if this boy ended up being the rebel without a cause, a veritable non conformist that broke traditions. No real reason just the intuitiveness of a parent. The boy had grown up moved out and never really looked back…. maybe because he felt he had to take responsibility of his own self in a self righteous manner that was not common to the rest of the human species maybe because he just got caught up in the taking responsibility part and couldn’t look back with any degree of peace…. maybe he did not seem to appear as if he needed any help given the stiff spine he had inherited… or maybe it was the space he was providing his parents to focus on the other two kids…. whatever it was it was an ordeal interacting with this boy at 72 years of age…. leave alone the travel and the hot humid weather. It was vaguely explained as some form of cancer which would go away after this procedure and then everything would be perfectly fine…. the phone call as usual had been cryptic, uncomfortable and well as usual inadequate. But the old mans wife had insisted that if he did not go he could rot but she was going, to be with the girl…. the boy was her first born and dearer to her than the other two… that he didn’t speak much or that he never visited was no reason to not be there for him…. after all the only way to bring up kids is to lead by example and what example were they setting by not being there for him when he needed their support…. “the boy is 50 not exactly a child anymore” thought the old man “all the leading he needed had been given to him…. there was no reason to spend all the scarce energy and resources on an idiot who didn’t care….. anyway he gave in… conflict was not something one entered into willingly and then again there was that secret desire to go meet the boy see what had become of that 2 year old who used to travel the world on his broad shoulders not too long back….
So here they were in a hospital, the girl was in the OT getting the procedure done. The wife was with the girl inside the OT holding her hand. Those two had been always close as if a covenant had been struck between mother-in-law and daughter-in-law that they would work to keep the earth spinning west to east however much the boy and his dad tried to reverse the spin. So outside on irritatingly soft couches placed across the corridor from each other sat the boy and his dad….. across not beside. Both of them staring at the stark white ceiling with no features on it to demand such stretched out prolonged observation. The old man cleared his throat as if to say something…. that was it… he didn’t say anything just cleared his throat. There was someone coming out of the OT. The boy got onto his feet and walked over to the doctor as it seemed he too wished to say something, maybe an update. The doctor informed them that it would take another couple of hours and that the ladies were perfectly fine inside. This time the boy settled down next to the father on the sofa next to his.
“You want to come out for a walk?”… Well “No! I have never understood why the hell you have to run and walk so much.” thought the dad but when he spoke he surprised himself…. and maybe the boy as well “yeah lets go these seats are not meant for long term usage”. So they went. Walked down to the lobby, out the doors and into the sunny day. Even for their ages there was no awkward shuffling or stooping or any lack of sureness of step. They walked slowly observing. The hospital grounds were almost manicured… one could almost see how all the insurance money was flowing into well maintained gardens, huge trees which filtered the sunlight, cobbled sidewalks, coffee shops and so much more that gave it the feel of a resort town in Tuscany quite unlike the rest of the city that they were in. They passed by a signboard that said “way to helipad”….. of course! In a bit they came to the gate of the hospital…. this was where the hospital ended and the real world started. They stepped out. The stark contrast hit both of them…. starkly. Outside it was filthy, unhygienic, unhealthy even…. of course all in comparison to the sterilized surroundings they had been ensconced in for the past three hours. The thought of those ridiculously soft sofas made them not want to turn back. They kept walking… after a while it was not so bad after all. Yes it was crowded, people everywhere but people with purpose, which meant they were disciplined about getting on with their own selves rather than get in your way. The filth on the streets ceased to exist if you chose to not look at it (Well unless you stepped on it ie. but then you could let loose the choicest of filthy language and move on)… they kept walking without incident. They came upon a mall looked at each other “nyaaah”…. smiled kept walking… a Railway station…. “lets see”
An hour later the duo now talking stepped out of another station…. they had hopped onto a local train and taken a 15 minute ride. The dad was telling the boy about how he used to live in this place 45-50 years back, how much a full meal used to cost (it sounded unbelievable for as long as it took to correlate the price to how much was the average salary in those times)…. how they would go all over town on a borrowed motor bike with the boy in his moms arms as he was too small to balance on the seat…. of movies at cinema halls of visits to the parks, beaches…. of… well they were talking for a change and still walking. The boy suddenly started walking faster as if following someone now almost running. The dad wasn’t able to keep up so he let him go.
The boy was running after a woman… she had this bread in her hands. A bread the boy vaguely remembered having loved to eat in his childhood. A bread that he had lost touch with over the years. It was almost not even a memory the taste of that bread a very very vague idea the thought of the bread…. a hard crust and a mildly sweet countenance. He finally caught up with the woman near the bus stop. She had a child with her. He asked her “excuse me, but can you tell me where you got that bread?”. “What this, kadak pao? you get it in any Irani bakery…” “OK. is there one nearby?” “Yes just opposite Minara masjid”…… at that moment some jerk standing behind them at the bus stop observing the interaction butted in “kyaa saab are you looking for some good booty? I can get you some really good maal”….. the boy realized he was looking and sounding desperate maybe randy too at the prospect of laying his hands on good bread….. he apologized to the lady for having accosted her and started walking back to where he had left the dad….
There he was looking at a train schedule, probably feeling abandoned and planning his trip back to the hospital. The boy walked up behind him and a little out of breath exclaimed “I think I found kadak pao”…. “where?” exclaimed the old man.. part relieved, part excited. “There’s an Irani bakery opposite Minara masjid…. oh damn I don’t know where that is!” The dad smiled a benevolent smile “I do”. He led the way, they walked. 45 almost 50 years back he had walked these streets when they were clean, not as crowded and well immensely more walkable. The boy spotted the bakery first. They walked up to the counter which was being manned by a kid in his early teens probably. “That bread, can we have ten, no twenty of those…. actually make it 4 packets”…. the boy looked at these two reasonably decent looking old men and mentally scratched his head “really uncle itnaa khaa paoge? and how do you plan to carry it all?”…. Anyway so here they were standing across the counter grinning like cheshire cats after having had their fill of that bread with warm mildly sweetened milk and holding onto their four packets of well… bread.
No one knows for sure how the fight started. Some say it was the huge packets that the two men were trying to fit in through the doorway of a town bus. Some say it was the younger man throwing hot soup on the sales boy for refusing to give him change for a thousand bucks. Either ways…. here they were the two of them…. checking into the hospital in the room next to where the girl was. Broken bones but hearty laughter. They had almost started a riot. Well they were still clutching onto the bread. Confinement for the next two months in the same room……. at least they had started talking.