It was the usual walk, from office to home. My favourite Leann Rimes track “Last thing on my mind” and a wierd kind of eagerness to reach the ‘tunnel end’ of my road.
This eagerness began since I met this adorable brother-sister duo; seated on a high-rise stone set, at the road-corner, he was pleating her hair. Watching them together, had become one of routine activities, which I was getting fond of. Reminded me of Ralph, my brother!
After almost a whole week of stand-n-stare, I decided to strike a conversation.
Starting off with introductions, we graduated to how-pretty-are your earrings to I-wish-I-had-hair-as-long-as-yours; I-am crazy-about -cocacola to I-hate-pigs-in-mud. Once, she even narrated an incident, of how her mother thrashed the life out of her, for saving his tiny ass. Apparently, he’d stolen a colourful stone for her. His mistake? He thought it would make her smile.
Each day I saw those two tiny tots revelling in their own world, and this made me miss my brother that much more. But never gathered the guts to make that call to him. How could I just tell him “I called because I miss you”? Rubbish. I’d never do that.
I tried catching up with them every time I found the time to. Excitingly, one evening we even gulped an entire cake at-one-go; on that very rock that he used to pleat her hair on. Passerbys always gave me the look, which generally had the word ‘disgust’ written all over. Because, maybe I looked a bit more civilized than they did. Maybe their clothes were soiled and tattered. So, I got them a pair of new clothes. Simple!
Not exactly new, but wearable ones. I wanted them to look nice. I was getting possessive of them.
Months had passed. And this was the best I could describe my routine.
Being a native from Mumbai, my trips were quite frequent. Pune-Mumbai-Pune.
I’d been on a week-long Diwali Holiday to Mumbai. As excited as I was to return home, so was I eager to return to the two of them with sweets and goodies.
I returned. Rushed to work in the morning (avoided stalking them at 10 am) had to maintain the sanctity of our usual time. Like a bewildered child, I rushed faster to that end of the tunnel road. They were missing. It was unusual. I enquired nearby. But no one knew. This, I did, for 4 days back-to-back.
Worried, I decided to ask for help (cops, husband, friends, whoever). Just then on the 5th day, I spotted him on the same rock, but this time he was alone. Bald, tattered, angry, pelting stones at the pigs relaxing nearby. He had a plastic bag hung by his shoulder.
I called out to him and smiled. He didn’t.
I asked where she was. To this, he jumped down the rock, handed that bag to me and said, “Geli ti. Nahi yenar aata. Hey ghe tiche kapde. Gheun jaa.” I think he wanted to cry, but had the man-ego of a 4 yr old.
She had left him, Bald and Alone.
I walked back home, but not as usual.