Father’s Day Special
When I was in standard twelfth my mother ‘forces’ me to go to a nearby old age home “REAL HOME- Old Age Home” on every Sunday.
And me on other hand, like every teenager was used to be a little rebellious teenager back then. I never understood why to waste my whole Sunday in an old-age home whereas all of my friends go for movies and shopping. But despite of my crying, howling, nagging my mother, who was more stubborn than I always get success to send me there.
I still remember that day it was Sunday of 3rd week of June. I was sweating like a pig in the scorching heat and was walking towards “REAL HOME” with heavy packets in both of my hands filled with soaps, pickles, clothes and others in it. I was cursing the heat and the packets and somehow reached there.
The receptionist Meenakshi Amma who is dadi of my best friend Suhani works and lives in here. Suhani and her family moved to United States three years ago but left behind Meenakshi Amma, here.
“Hello Sneha” she greeted me with a warm smile in her malyali accent.
“Namaste Amma” I smiled back just to pretend that I am glad to be here.
I handed her the packets she checked the stuff in it and kept it under her desk and pointed me towards the mop & bucket.
Yes, I used to mop the floors there and that’s why I hate to go there.
I took up the mop and started cleaning the floors, just when Meenakshi Amma called me “Sneha, go to room no. 25 and ask Hari Uncle whether he needed soap or anything for cleaning.”
“I thought Mohan Uncle lives in room no. 25.”
I was sure about my memory, I am young afterall. Meenakshi amma might be mistaken for sure as it happens with someone of her age.
“Mohan Uncle passed away this Wednesday, didn’t your mother inform you?” she informed me without a single pause, as if Amma don’t care.
But I was shocked because last Sunday, he was so happy and I played chess with him in the evening.
I closed my eyes and prayed for peace of his soul but I was mad at my mother. I mean why the hell she didn’t inform me.
“Go quick Sneha, Hari is new in here and a bit cranky so ask him politely.” Amma instructed. “Ok Amma”
I reached at room no. 25 and knocked the door but no one answered. It happens most of the times, as some of them fall asleep in no time or some have hearing issues and cannot afford to buy hearing aids. So I went straight and saw a man in white pyjamas and a vest. He was sitting on the bed, he was well built and his hair weren’t all grey. He looked like a retired solider or something. Besides his appearance what caught my attention was a big, brown scrapbook kept infront of him which was torn and looked pale due to time.
“Hari Uncle” I spoke out loud, in case he really has some issues with hearing.
“Yes” he jumped a little on his bed in fear.
I saw his slightly wrinkled, fair face with big black moustache on it and his eyes which were lacking the shine or any enthusiasm were red, as if he was crying.
“Meenakshi Amma sent me here, but I think I should come later.” I said in confusion.
“No, no that’s alright. What do you want young lady?” he asked in his shaky voice.
I looked up again in his eyes which were moist till now so I forgot my manners and questioned him bluntly.
“I am sorry Uncle but are you crying?”
He said nothing about it but made a child-like face and asked me to sit beside him. I took a chair and sat. Then he handed over the scrapbook.
On the first page, I saw few old pictures which were glued. In the picture I saw young Hari Uncle along with his little son. I must admit that Uncle looked handsome and confident back then.
“This picture is took when Govind was two years old, look how innocent was he, at that time.” He smiled thinking of his past, may be.
And then we flipped the page “This card was made by Govind when he was 5 years old on father’s day.”
I opened the card carefully as it looked so fragile “MY FATHER, MY SUPERHERO” was written in it with several crayons in a messy handwriting.
Next card was cleaner and more decorated in which “MY DADDY STRONGEST” was written with various sketch pens.
And so on…….which flipping on each page Hari Uncle explained me a different story but on last page of the scrapbook he said something which I never had forgotten. “You know till Govind’s 15th birthday, he used to make me these cards on every father’s day. But afterwards everything just changed. ‘MY DADDY STRONGEST’ turned into ‘You know nothing dad’ then it turned into ‘I hate you Dad’ and after his marriage & birth of his own child it turned into ‘Stop coughing Dad, you can make my baby ill’ and in the end it turned into
‘I NEED MY OWN SPACE, YOU MUST FIND ANOTHER PLACE, DAD’
His voice choked after it and he burst into tears like an infant cries out for its mother.
I was speechless and my whole body trembled with a strange sensation, I called it sensation of awakening my conscience. I was sympathetic and angry both on the same time. Sympathetic for Uncle and angry on his son, Govind.
I gave him some water and came outside to mop the floors. In the evening when I was about to leave Meenakshi Amma came to me and whispered “This is the story of almost all of us which you youngsters must know, afterall no one is going to remain young forever. Isn’t it?” and she smiled.
For the first time in my life I understood something in so deep. I went home, hugged my father and wished him a happy father’s day.
My mother asked me “How was your day?”
I replied “It was life-changing.”
She laughed a victorious laugh then kissed me on my forehead. And then smiled at me, she now knew that her task was completed and now she never have to ask me to go to “REAL HOME”.
Written by – Sneha Punia