Talespin Children

A truly happy ending

Illustration: Sreejith R. Kumar

Illustration: Sreejith R. Kumar

My father sent us away when I was six. “You’re the man of the family now. Take care of your mother,” he said. And he was gone.

I was half asleep, and Ma was crying softly. Papa had disappeared into the crowd that was milling about the dock.

“Papa! Papa!” I cried and took a step away from Ma, but she clung to my hand. “Come on, let’s go,” she said, and walked up the ramp onto the deck, dragging me behind her.

Now we had a better view of the crowd. I thought I saw Papa in the distance, but I couldn’t be sure.

In a new place

Whistles and horns blew — and we could feel ourselves moving. I sniffed. Why had Papa made us go away?

I couldn’t figure it out. We reached Ma’s home in Bombay. Grandfather didn’t say anything when he saw us. He just hugged us and led us in. “I know it’s difficult, but both of you must be brave,” he said

Both of us tried. I started going to a school. “You’re happy here and you’ve made new friends, haven’t you?” asked Grandpa.

“I miss my friends back home,” I replied.

“Don’t say that, Arun beta . This is home.”

Several months passed. I didn’t hear from Papa. No one did and no one talked about him. I didn’t like that. Why did they act like he didn’t exist?

I missed Papa; there was no one to whistle and joke with me the way he did.

In fact, no one here was joking and laughing much. Everyone was serious.

Then, one day, there were fireworks on the streets and people were laughing and shouting and hugging each other.

“Independence Day!” said Grandpa proudly.

Ma nodded but she didn’t look proud or happy or anything. I knew she was thinking about Papa — like I was. But by now, I knew better than to say anything.

That night, suddenly there was a lot of activity in the house. I thought I heard Ma crying. I ran towards her room, but Grandpa stopped me. “Not now,” he said. A while later, Grandma came into the room and said, “You have a baby brother.”

“Maybe, now I won’t miss Papa so much,” I thought.

But when I saw my brother, I was disappointed. He was tiny. This was no fun.

But Ma looked happy. Maybe my little brother had helped her forget that Papa had sent us away. Maybe soon I would forget too.

But, weeks passed and I didn’t forget. Sometimes, I missed Papa so much I could almost hear his voice — and the tune he always whistled when he came home from work.

A surprise visitor

I heard that whistle early one morning and eagerly ran to the window but it was just the postman in a khaki uniform, carrying a bag full of letters. I turned away, sadly.

Then I stopped. Wait a minute! The postman? So early in the morning?

I rushed back to the window but, by now, the front door was open and the ‘postman’ was holding Ma with one hand and he was calling me. Papa!

I can’t remember moving at all but, suddenly, I was in his arms. Ma looked at Papa and said, “You did it! You ran away!”

“Yes. I kept working as long as I could — and then, I left in secret. In disguise. My own son didn’t recognise me, so I think my disguise was good, huh?”

Ma laughed — and then she brought out my little brother. Papa sat down and looked at him. “Born on India’s Independence Day,” said Papa. “That’s a great day to be born.”

***

Kapil looked at his Grandpa. “I don’t understand why your Papa sent you away and why he didn’t WhatsApp or Skype and tell you what he was doing, like my Papa does now that he’s in a different country?”

Grandpa Arun laughed. “That was 1947. No WhatsApp or Skype or the Internet. We were in Sindh, which was to become a part of Pakistan. So, he sent Ma and me by boat from Karachi to Bombay. He couldn’t write to us. He couldn’t tell us anything about his plans.”

“I guess I’m lucky,’” said Kapil. “I talk to my Papa and see his face every day.”

Grandpa Arun hugged him. “Yes, but I was lucky too. My Papa found his way back safely, and we were a family again. A bigger family than when he had sent us away, and that made it even better!’


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Printable version | May 16, 2022 12:31:19 am | https://www.thehindu.com/children/a-truly-happy-ending/article38273826.ece