Part One is Here
Part Two is Here
Part Three is Here
Daadi was busy eating chura matar, as we walked into the living room. I felt my tummy grumble now- it too seemed to be upset with the recent going ons.
“Maa ji, if you can help me with that “Pandit Ji’s son”, I would like to visit him first today.” My Mother asked.
Daadi smiled at my mom and asked both of us to come to the dining table.
“Visa, do you trust me?” Daadi said looking at my Mother.
“Yes, Maa Ji”
“I’ve already made the calls since last night and I have spoken to Amogh, Pandit Ji’s son. Ashutosh is not with him. He is not here in Kashi.”
“What do we do then?” My Mother’s tears were already welling up.
“Eat breakfast first. Ok? Chandan, please get for these two also- they are famished.”
“But Maa Ji….”
“He has gone looking for HIM again- he won’t find him as usual. So, he will be back- hopefully within a week. If not, the police know what to do next…He won’t do anything drastic, trust me on that”
“What should I do till then Maa Ji. I was unable to sleep last night…I have no appetite; I want to scream my lungs out!”
“Calm down. He will be back soon…this is not the first time he has disappeared, I know how this usually ends up. But for his sake, I suppose he needs to find some answers or at least realise he cannot find them the way he is looking for them.”
“What do I tell my parents, Maa ji? I was to visit them next week in Chennai- they want to see Ashu…”
“And they will. You just go about your day. I have called Sankata Chacha to take you around the city. Go keep yourself occupied.” Daadi replied rather coolly.
If my heart had a mouth, its jaw would have dropped right now. My father had been missing since last evening- presumably on the hunt of a God, My Mother was almost on the verge of a breakdown and Daadi seemed to have a very tensile thread of hope about everything! She seemed very ‘gangsta’ in the way she connected with all the relevant people at this time. I suppose having gone through this before – she had chalked out a drill if this ever occurred again.
Both of us ate after which my Mother, politely refused to step out for the day and went up to her room. As for Me, I had anger to resolve so I stepped out to walk about the Ghats.
Overnight I had come to hate this city. What spells had it been casting on my Father that he would do a strange thing like this. Why couldn’t he just tell us of his agenda? What was so hush-hush? I’m sure Mother would not have said anything to Father for wanting to visit “Temples”. Sure, she would have laughed for all the “woo-woo” he passed her way…but that was beside the point.
Thoughts! Thoughts! Thoughts!
“ Heyyy! Eyes Up! Watch Where You Goin….”
An American accent? I wondered as I looked around to see where it came from. And right behind me stood this very tall, very American, Baba- Matted Hair, Ash smeared, with Rudraksh Beads in multiple layers on his neck and arms!
I was so flustered, that I walked on. God help the God who resides here!
My mother finally found the strength she needed to cope, in her ultimate solace- Music. Every morning over the next few days- she would go to the terrace and merge herself in singing. After which she visited the temples- to presumably demand her husband from the very God in whose search my Father had gone. And I, eventually took to discovering the city with Sankata Chacha.
The days passed so slowly that they felt like multiple eons in hell in this supposed city of God.
Then, on the 7th day- just as Daadi expected- My Father was home
As usual, that Morning, after my Mother’s sadhana, she and I started walking down the stairs- to kick start another round of temple visits. But before we could submit ourselves at the altar of anxiety- we needed to stuff ourselves with a little breakfast that was waiting for us.
“Looks like it’s upma today, Ma” I said hopefully. But it had been a while since food had been on Mother’s mind.
“Maa Ji should have called the police on day one- what would they say now after we lodge our complain on the 7th day.” The unbearable stress of being in this moment was palpable on her face.
“I hate this place, Ma!” I finally squealed.
We reached the last of our steps and had started to enter the living room and as we did, there he was, sitting quietly on the Baithak with eyes on the floor- My Father!
Mother instantly let out a small scream as soon as she saw him. She held his hands and just buried her face in it, then sat down next to him weeping profusely. I decided to watch from the entrance- not wanting to say anything to him while my anger welled up.
He was all neat and tidy, shaved and showered- it didn’t seem like he had it rough on the road, unlike us! I noticed a fly swatter lying next to him and it occurred to me that perhaps Gangsta Daadi had put it to use, like she promised! I felt guilty for a moment that this possible fact made me happy.
“I’m sorry Visa…I really am. But I had no choice, I had to find answers which only HE knows. I left when I could no longer resist the urge to seek them. I know it seemed painful- but there was no other way to do it. I couldn’t risk the off chance of being dissuaded- so this was my way.”
“I am deeply hurt Ashu- perhaps its extent will dawn on you someday. But how could you leave just a day after we celebrated Ashoka’s birthday. Her pain runs deep and her anger deeper.”
My father looked up and noticed I was standing near the entrance. He called out to me.
“Ashoka! My princess…will you forgive me? I know I misled you in a way…”
“What do you mean Ashu?” My mother asked.
“She is an intuitive one, our Ashoka. She well suspected my reason of coming here before we left…I brushed it off…”
But before my mother could start asking me questions, Daadi came up from behind- held my hand and led me into the room.
“Ashu, I feel, I’ve not whacked you enough! Please tell these two where you had been? Did you even find your answer? Was it worth the heart ache?” Dadi growled.
“Father, how about we all sit down for breakfast? And you tell us about this ‘adventure?’. We all could do with a good story- because none of us has the strength to grind axes.” I felt I had finally let my frustration be felt.
Tiny smiles now began to play on everyone’s lips.
“I told you she is a smart one!” My father said looking at my Mother.
“Chandan, please bring out the Kachori Sabzi and Chai…aur aap bhi aa jaao! Let’s listen to what story my Son has to tell.” Daadi finally exclaimed.
**Final Part Tomorrow (or Tonight)…
**I offer this humbly at The Feet of Mighty Mahadev, as well as at The Feet of My Guru who inspires me everyday!
**This is a work of Fiction.