Part 2 is here.
Recap: A bus journey transforms into a storytelling session as a young scriptwriter going through a difficult period meets an old man on the bus who tells him a love story.
“It was 1968. Summer, I think. That was when Vaijja went missing. We had gone to this new park that opened then, in Anna Nagar. They were showing films and all throughout the day. We were all quite excited. But Vaijja hated crowds. Saro held her hand all the way and kept Vaijja close to her.”
“About half an hour after we entered the park, Saro looked behind only to find our daughter missing. She was overwrought. She looked back at me guiltily. I asked to her to stay with the other children and went looking for Vaijja. I’d done an entire round of the park, but I couldn’t find her. I came back to Saro. She had tears in her eyes.”
“She said, “I’m sorry. Forgive me. I’ll go look for her now”. She didn’t even wait for my reply as she ran from the spot. I sat there waiting, thinking how it must be for her, losing a child. I held the children close to me. Lakshmi did not understand what was wrong. She just kept asking me where Amma and Akka were. I did not know what to tell her. Jaggu, on the other hand, told me more than once that him being the man in the family, he should go and look for his sister.”
“At this point, Lakshmi looked up at me and asked, “What if Amma also does not come back?” I was pained that a nine year old could actually think about not seeing her mother again. I was also shaken realizing that the possibility actually existed. I started frantically searching the crowd for Saro, thinking she might have gone missing too.”
“A few minutes later, Saro reappeared with Vaijja in tow. It was quite evident that she had been crying. Lakshmi ran to her mother and hugged her, while Jaggu kept muttering something under his breath about women and sentiment. I was beginning to wonder if Jaggu was becoming like my father. Saro had already admonished Vaijja for slipping away like that.”
“We all quietly walked out of the park, took a taxi and went back home. Saro was quiet throughout the journey. I did not want to ask her what it was that she was still worried about in front of the children. Once we got home I went to the kitchen to see Saro. I asked her, “What are you still thinking about?”, to which she answered, “I was wondering what if she had actually gotten lost. If we never saw her again what would we do. I know it’s not like in those films we see, where the son or daughter is always reunited with the parents. We could have seen her for the last time today.”
“I did not know what to tell her. She went on, “At a point of time, I really thought we had lost her. When I was looking for her, I decided that if I couldn’t find her, I would just turn back and go somewhere. I could not have faced you and the other children without her. I sat down and started crying. That’s when she found me. She found me. I did not find her.”
“I was seething with anger by this time. I asked her, “So you thought you would just leave us like that. If you lose one child, you would leave the other two and a husband behind and go off? Stupid woman.” I turned away from her and walked out of the kitchen, muttering under my breath. I realized that I was becoming like my father.”
“It was about half an hour later that she came to the hall with a cup of coffee for me. She just kept it there. I thought I would not drink it, but I needed the coffee. The moment the cup touched my lips, she smiled and walked out of the room. Oh those days, you see, we didn’t go and apologize like you people do. You all are too vocal. Saro and I and a code. After a fight, she would give me coffee. If I drank it, it meant we were back to normal. Come to think of it there was never a time when I didn’t drink it.”
“In the 1970s, we stared going for music concerts together. We would listen to almost anyone. Oh everyone was good back then. There were no exceptions. Life was quite smooth for the children. But for me and Saro, it was not going so well. We started fighting everyday. Usually I would buy vegetables for the house. See, I didn’t know whether they were good or bad. Saro would then yell at me for bringing rotten vegetables and I would yell back at her. The vegetables were a small reason, actually, but we kept fighting anyway. It was quite painful living at home.”
“I then did something I can never stop regretting. I applied for transfer. Saro did not know why. She kept asking me why I asked for transfer. I replied, “So that I can be away from this place.” She looked at me for an entire second and walked away slowly. I didn’t know that I had hurt her by saying that.”
“I left for Hyderabad that Saturday. Saro and the children came to the railway station to see me off. Something was wrong with Saro that day. I didn’t know what though. I was more worried about how they’ll get back home safely. I said goodbye to the children and turned to Saro. She said, “Stay, please. I will not fight with you anymore.” I stood there staring at her without moving. The train started to move. I ran towards the train and boarded it just in time. I didn’t look back at my family. If I did, I know now that I’d have jumped off that train and gone back to them.”
“We all make bad decisions at least once in life. Mine was that idiotic transfer. Of course, a week after I reached Hyderabad, I got fidgety and restless. I was missing my home. I got back to Madras within a month. But Saro was never the same again.”
To be continued a.k.a Thodarum…
Part 4 is here.