The umbilical chord

It is the usual monsoon morning. Dogs walked by 6 am, the morning cup of coffee in hand, I slip out of the house in my sandals, not even bending down to buckle the straps around the ankles. The freshly mown grass on the neighbouring open plot glistens , beckons, a sirens song in green.

I tread daintily initially on the wet green carpet, glance back and see my footprints in a darker shade. Footprints on the grass of time ? I chuckle at my own wit and then dare to jog up and down the length of the plot. A few years back, I would have been determined, not noticed anything other than the tree at the other end, not heard anything but the thud of my heart. Today, I notice the mynahs, the parrots, even the humble sparrows, as they flit away from my ponderous tread, only to come back and peck at the insects in the grass. Yes, much water has flown in various rivers.

Back home, I play tunes from old classics on the music system, freshen up and join my son and daughter-in-law at the breakfast table. I mentally slap myself to be alert, to be aware of the “new” news, the “trending” twitter snippets, not to lead in breaking my fast .

It is my sons first day in a new job. I have one eye on the clock, enquire whether he has found the correct combination of clothes, the matching socks, the polish for the shoes, all without opening my mouth. She approves his attire with her eyes , they communicate in a manner only recently married couples can do. I force myself to eat, not show concern. My days in that “fathers” role is over. Amongst my racing thoughts, umpteen questions , I think I hear her say that he needs to be dropped in his office as Uber is not available in quick time. The car keys near her hand convince me that I have heard correctly. He jokes that his new office would also become familiar from today. Hearing that, I feel a tinge of nostalgia. The mad rush to school each day, then to the examination centres, the various interviews, the first day of his first job, the rather tense drive to meet his future wife, the early morning ride to various marathons, to drop him for his first international flight , all slide through my mind as I had been fortunate enough to have him with me for many years. Also being first born, we had shared many adventures as I had slowly moved from local transport to motorbike to own car. But I also felt relieved that the mantle which was slipping from my shoulders had been deftly caught and was now being worn by her.

I am almost through with my plate when she looks at the clock, then tells me to hurry up as otherwise he would be late on his first day. I look up sharply, the years slip away, my nostrils flare. Yes, I have heard correctly. I am to drive him to office ! I smile meekly to cover up for being slow on the uptake, curse myself for not being attentive. I rush out to the car, checking my pockets for wallet, phone, and try to recollect what the various dials on the dashboard mean, the purpose of the indicator rods on either side of the steering wheel. The drive to his office through a now unfamiliar highway, swings between comfortable and mild irritation as he insists that I drive his car the way he would have driven ! I merrily use the indicators incorrectly, tend not to shift to lower gears even when the diesel SUV groans in protest . I act younger than him, play music loudly, swear at other drivers, blame the authorities for not providing decent roads….finally reach his office. He forgives the hard braking, takes his bag from the rear seat and says bye through the car window. I….I swallow a lump in my throat, tell him to…….I realise I am giving the same advice I had given him on his first day in school, college, job…I have not aged !

Cars honk behind me, I watch him stride away into the office block. I shake my head, squeeze my eyes and then gently ease into the traffic to return home. Then it hits me ! They had role-played at the breakfast table. She knew that he desired the unspoken family tradition to continue, knew that despite my present stay at home life style, I would wake up like a war horse hearing a bugle again.

Umbilical chord ? I always associated it with mothers , home towns. I guess it can also mean a complex cable between Father and son, wherein the strands are bundles of emotions, experiences, feelings in multi coloured hues and strengths.

I suddenly don’t seem to mind the bad traffic, the fact that I am actually lost , that I may be heading to the wrong suburb. I am cool, ask for directions, change gears without them clashing.

I have a phone, I have a wallet, I am definitely a senior citizen. I am a kite, loving the experience of soaring to higher levels, happy I have a close partner holding my kite string.

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