“How many more?”
“12, Abba. This time, I’ll pass in 8, Inshallah”
came a faint reply from a trembling, overgrown 22-year old.
Abba picked up his lighter and lighted his third Gold Flake.
“Thappu panniten. You weren’t fit for Engineering. I must have put you in Commerce in JMC, right under my nose”. It was 4 years since Abba had begun smoking, and he caught up with chain smokers pretty quickly.

Abba was the HOD, Department of Commerce at JMC. Ammi, was just another Ammi — the typical Indian homemaker from the yesteryears. All she knew was whether or not the inmates of her home were fed.
“Do you smoke? Drink? Loiter with the rich guys bunking college? Why are your grades this bad? I could have bought a few plots in Thillai Nagar instead of spending it on your worthless education”
“No, Pa. Nothing of the sort. I am working on something, and if it works out, we will become rich overnight. Just like that!”
“Your mother can tolerate the nonsense out of your mouth, I can’t. You’ve wasted enough resources. You’re a pain to the family. If only Aisha was ali…”

There was a faint sound of Ammi crying at a corner of the kitchen. He too was in tears. He can’t dare back answer Abba, especially after my accident.
Abba took a few deep breaths to collect himself and a few longer puffs. He knew he had touched the one weak link of his wife and his son. He had never done that before.
“Stop crying, you’re a man Adam. Don’t make me angrier than what I already am”
This time, it wasn’t the Abba dressing down Adam routine. This time, it was more intense, more personal.

Let me rephrase that. Adam is my elder brother, a year older to me. On that fateful 14th March 1990 on the banks of Kauvery river, Adam had playfully tugged me. I lost balance and drowned into the freshly filled seasonal river. My body was found a day after, miles further. From that day, the family was never the same.
My orthdox Ammi always said, “She’s in a better place. We will soon meet her in Jannah”. Adam was never the same after the accident. In the modern times, he would have been diagnosed with Clinical Depression, but has eventually come to terms with it. And as for Abba, he’s the one still not recovered from it. He never will.

“Sir, Post-u”, yelled the mailman. It was always habitual of mailmen to deliver mail in the most terrible timing. Abba took the 2-ply envelope addressed to Adam.
“Congratulations, your arrears are now internationally acclaimed”, he said sarcastically while tossing the envelope on his face. A teary Adam wiped his tears, and opened his envelope. He broke down again, but only this time, it was different. There was a glimmer of happiness in each of his teardrop.
“Read it, Abba”, he said, with the improperly wiped eyes, but with an arrogant-cum-confident smile on his face.

“Dear Adam, We loved your design for the kernel. The scheduling was revolutionary and it increased the throughput by a full 2.3%. Our team, in all its glory, could achieve only 0.7%. But, there’s still a major flaw in the kernel code — you haven’t considered its power consumption. Care to rectify it? The next mailer will contain your appointment order, visa, three tickets to the US. Your family will be housed at the HQ till your accommodation is ready. In anticipation of your reply. Yours, Steven P Jobs”

Abba gently placed the letter on the table and said, “Begum, your son is hungry. Make some Gulab Jamoons for us”

5 May, 2015
“How many more?”
“120 guests, Abba. Today, we will get 80 will arrive in the resort”

It was Adam’s daughter Aisha’s wedding.
And for Abba, it was my wedding, a quarter century after my death.
Had this been told to Abba that day, he would have chuckled and said,

“I’d rather buy a few plots in Thillai Nagar”