I willed myself out of the bed. Once you reach an age I guess the body tends to form its own rhythm, normally I would have woken up with a song in my heart and not even realize when I was out of the bed. Today, getting up seemed like an eternal struggle. Aarti and little Sushil will be moving in today and I had to make sure everything is in place.
The Sun was hardly visible behind the dark clouds. I was out for a stroll in the back garden. I still had a couple hours before driving to pickup Aarti. They were coming on the 10 o’ clock train and I had insisted to pick them up. I still had time. It was not a long way to the station but it had been awhile since I drove there, hopeful the roads have remained intact. In fact I hadn’t driven anywhere in the last couple of months. First things first, I wanted to make sure the old bugger was running and it was, however it was not in an condition that I will let my grand son in. The glass was covered in filthy water marks, all the corners of the L-Board where dirty as hell. Fine, I still had enough time to wash it. The car had been a gift from Arjun, shortly after he landed a job. It had been a trusty little thing, never breaking down. Now a days I can’t look at the car without thinking of Arjun, it has been a few months since the accident. I still remember the call from Aarti, such a brave girl. That “hello” was the most dreadful thing I heard. I guess life can never be normal now, too many fond memories making the loss that much harder to digest. Its has been more than 20 years since we lost Raghav, Arjun’s father. But the memories are still as fresh as ever and now Arjun too. May be thats why Aarti wanted to move in here, away from everything.
“Good morning, mam” came greetings from Ruchi, one of my best students as she whizzed past me throwing the newspaper. I no longer teach at the University but she continued to call me ‘mam’. I would have liked having a quick chat with her, I still had time. But looks like she was running late. Ruchi, was in her first year when I retried from the University. Such a confident kid, always giving her 100%. I wish I was like her at that age, God what was I doing at her age, probably already married then. It was because of Raghav, that I had continued my education. We were here for first time for my interview, it was a long journey and I couldn’t help but think how difficult our life would become if I do end up going for my Masters here. It was so far from everyone we knew. The University was notorious for its grueling Physics department, I will have such a hard time.And if we decide to have kids raising one in such a small town was going to be so much work. The more I thought about it, there were hardly any reasons for me to study here. I had decided it was not worth it, and told Raghav that I was not going to the interview. I was sure Raghav was disappointed, but his expression remained the same. He wanted to checkout the Big Banyan Tree, the only thing this place was famous for. We were sitting in the shade and before long I was explaining ‘Wheeler’s delayed choice experiment’, something so complicated that even now I dedicate a couple of classes for it. “So our entire understanding of time, could be wrong”, just the easy with which Raghav could follow me never ceased to amaze me. “Do you remember the first time we met?”.
Of course I did, We had been talking about weather, hobbies, studies etc. Raghav asked “What do you want to do next?”, it was put as simply as that. Something I never entertained myself. It had been made pretty clear that my next phase of life was to get married. Raghav had smiled at my response, “Ok, what do you want to do after getting married?”. It was the sweetest smile I had seen, brimming with life. That smile was all I could remember from that conversation.
“I remember what we were talking about, I had asked you about your college. And you were off, talking non stop. Yammering about Quantum physics and how limited our understanding was” I couldn’t help but chuckle. “And even now, you carry the same passion. Do you remember why we decided to apply here?”. A state of the art lab was being setup here, first of its kind in the country. We were holding hands, “Whatever problems we face, we will overcome them together”.
I could hear the cellphone ringing. “Hello”, whispered Aarti. “We are on time should be there by 10, Aryan is waking up. Bye”. So Aryan it seems, they were still deciding on the name last time I met them. I was rooting for Sushil, Aarti wanted to call him Aryan. I had to get the car cleaned, it was not so bad. Most of the filth was off with the hose. The corners of the L-Board needed scrubbing. I still had time. I could hear Ali arguing with his mom, if there ever was a 5 year old with whom you can argue it was Ali. Too smart for his age. Arjun had been the most troublesome kid at that age. Watching Arjun grow up had been such a fulfilling experience. People still ask me how difficult it was raising Arjun as a single mom. The truth is Arjun was the one who was holding the fort together. Loosing Raghav had wrecked me, Arjun was what 12 years then. But the way he handled himself helped me pull myself up. He was such a pillar of strength, same as Raghav. Now I had lost them both, I could only imagine what Aarti is going through, Sushil is hardly a year old now.
“That’s not how you wash a car”, Ali was on his tricycle looking at my leg. I had forgotten about the car and was letting the soapy water run down my leg.
“Oh, I was just taking a quick bath”.
“How come you are on your cycle so early?”
“I had a fight with mom”.
“Is that so?” I could see an anxious neighbor looking at us. I waved her a good morning.
“Ya, I forgot to eat too. Say, aunty why don’t you fix me something and I will tell you all about the fight”.
“Yes, sir”. We walked into the kitchen.
It seems Ali didn’t want to play the “Road Officer” in the school play “Big Banyan Tree”. I knew all about the story behind the Banyan tree, but there is nothing like hearing it from a 5 year old. Ali explained in great detail the entire play. How they had all painted the banyan tree. What all roles his other friends were playing. How in the end the Road officer has a change of heart and decides to shift the road without cutting the tree down. Not only did he remember his lines but entire play.
“Sounds wonderful, Ali”
“It is will you come to see it”
“Sure, will you be there?”
“I am the Road officer, I will be there”.
We had finished our breakfast and as I was helping Ali off the kitchen countertop. He held on a little longer and whispered “Thank you”.
It was time to pickup Aarti. As I was driving with what remained of the L-Board in my hand, I knew what I had to be for Aarti and Aryan. Their pillar of strength.