The Old Man is No More

Papa suddenly died on a Friday morning. A day very convenient for us. It was a long weekend and all the formalities could be completed without taking leave from office. But I would have to take a leave on terahin, as it would fall on a Wednesday. Papa was like that. He had always been accommodating.

Mumma cried a lot, which nearly convinced me that she loved him. But I believe he would have lived at least couple of years more but for her nagging. Lot of people turned up and most of them were sad. Ahuja uncle came, Shukla uncle and aunty came; all had moist eyes. Rosalyn aunty looked as if she had cried. But Bunty chor was smiling; he is a rascal. I cannot fathom, if one cannot be somber in such a situation why should one come to pay a visit. Look at me, I am not particularly sad but I am serious. Death is a serious business. Even I can die like Papa someday, gone in sleep. It was like him to die such a silent death; he was the most docile person I have known.

But I cannot stand the post death rituals. Apparently you cannot cook any food in the house where the death took place. So what are we supposed to eat - grass? But it is ok; I can bear few uncomfortable days for Papa. After all he was my Papa. But I will not shave my head. Not too much of hair is left anyway. But if I let go of it today, it will never come back.

Mumma is fussing over the preparation for the last rites. So is my wife. They do not understand how much arrangement it involves. After all this is not like marriage celebrations. I think we should just provide good food for terahin. We should also give a small bowl of ghee with the meals to the brahmins. Papa liked ghee, his soul would not find peace if we do not serve it. But look at my wife, she has started nagging me about the difficulties she has to face because of all this. As if I had any role to play. Now, I am convinced that nagging is not genetic but hormonal; otherwise how come all women are infected by it and all men are affected.

It is good that finally day got over without much problem. The pandit performing the last rites, tried to coerce me to give him a cow, but he couldn't get that out of me. I say that these pandits will get the cow butchered and eat its meat. Beef eaters!

I must confess house looked a lot larger since Papa has left. He occupied a third of this three bedroom house, Mumma and Munna in one and me and my wife in what was left. But I am not sure what I will do with the extra room that I have now. Probably Papa's presence was good, his silent prayers on his rosary.

I do not know what caused this major rift between Mumma and Papa, but it was much like this since I remember. She nagged, he remained silent and aloof. But was adjusting and never exerted him. He did not earn well, but what he did he spend on my education and mother's treatment. Mumma has been ill since when I cannot even remember. My wife is good that ways. But then she is so huge what can happen to her.

Apart from the house Papa didn't leave a paisa for me. Not literally, I found 5000/- rupees below his pillow. But he had this aluminum box which he never allowed anyone to touch, leave alone open it. The key always safely tucked in this janeyun. But now since I have it I can finally open it. Though I do not expect to find anything interesting but my curiosity will be quenched.

But what is there inside -  a bunch of old damp papers, some of them half eaten by termites, his college certificates, papers for this house and pension and  a passbook. And here is that last stack. It looks like letters.

Dear Rosalyn,

I love you. I do not know if it is right or not but I cannot help being attracted. Your beautiful face and lovely hair have destroyed me. I keep warning myself that I am falling in love. Especially after what has happened yesterday afternoon, I like to lose myself with you, within you. But we must be discreet.

- Love Bhanu.


More by :  Shekhar Misra

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