PAPA TURNS SIXTY
The 13th of October came and went. No, it wasn't as uneventful as I make it sound. It was Vicky's sixtieth birthday and you will agree with me that it isn't everyday that one turns sixty. (Thank heavens for that!)
Okay, so this year we were in Hyderabad, post-Bulbul's shaadi, for the Reception from Rahul's side. That was on the 12th evening with the party continuing beyond midnight. Then we all had a piece of delicious birthday cake (prepared by Rahul's Chachi) and heralded VJ's 61st year before we wound up.
The actual birthday was the next day, the 13th of October.
"And how are you going to celebrate it, Daddy?" Bulbul asked.
Pat comes the reply: "We'll buy you some furniture for your house, baby, so that you have chairs to sit on, a bed, and some other household stuff – may be a fridge and TV, something for the kitchen, and…"
"No, but what will you get for yourself?"
"This is for myself – for my daughter," comes the reply with a cheesy grin.
"How like a parent! Please don't make a martyr of yourself, Daddy."
In her heart of hearts I could see that Bulbul was pleased. The house she and Rahul had moved into just the day before was, at that point, just bare walls and wooden doors. They had placed mattresses on the floor for a makeshift bed but that was far from comfortable. There was no other furniture. Everything had to be added. A little help from parents was more than welcome.
So the two parents, Vicky and I, decided to help the children line their newly acquired nest. We would first go on a market-survey, check out beds, sofas, dining-tables, kitchenware, etc. Before purchasing, we'd call them for a final approval because – because – you know how it is, the older generation's ideas are never the same as the young people's; tastes differ and surely they would not like to be saddled with the choice of an older generation which may – or may not – appeal to them.
Decided! We set out, Vicky and I, on the furniture hunt.
A ride to Nampally Station Road -- where we were told we'd find a lot of furniture shops -- and we began work in earnest. One shop after another. The minutes and hours ticked by. No, this shop is exorbitant. This one is shabby. The furniture of the new shop is crude. That one too bizarre. And then finally we found what the new couple may be interested in. A brand new shop that offered an opening discount. New furniture. Young owners, fairly classy, good salesmen. The adjoining shop had a decent enough dining table with four chairs. The shop across the road had kitchenware -- gas-stove, utensils, pots and pans, the works. All the shops -- literally -- within a stone's throw of each other.
What say? Okay, we agreed, and called up Rahul and Bulbul to give their approval.
By then it was well past the lunch hour. Papa and Mama were covered with a fine layer of furniture-dust and well-nigh starving! There was no restaurant in sight, just a very dhaba-like roadside dhaba, noisy, grimy, smoky, populated mainly by labour-class gentry, seemingly porters, autorickshaw-wallahs and roadside romeos. Pan stains on the walls, food spilt on the tables -- relics of earlier occupants -- and general chaos. The smell, however, was delectable. It was the kind that would revive the hungry, and sure we were starved, almost fainitng.
Fast Food Chinese Joint, so the sign board proclaimed. It seemed to be popular indeed, jampacked with people guzzling down platefuls of noodles and fried rice. Seeing that two elderly men at a table almost at the entrancee wereabout to finish eating, we stood behind their chairs -- ignoring their dirty looks -- and waited for them to finish. They took their time, lingered over the saunf, the bill, the change, et al. And then, belching loudly, they got up and began gathering their belongings -- shopping bags, parcels, and other paraphernalia. Barely had they stood up when we grabbed their chairsand made ourselves comfortable. So what if the table was still littered with leftovers, napkins and dirty dishes; at least we had a place to sit and would now be sure of being served!
Two plates of chowmein later we sauntered back to the furniture shop to wait for Bulbul and Rahul.
They arrived finally. Just as the sun was beginning its descent. Just as the birds were debating whether or not to head home again. Bulbul and Rahul arrived to put an okay seal on the furniture we had shortlisted for them.
To cut a long story short -- since brevity is the soul of wit, my dear, some purchases were made and some orders placed. Among the new purchases was a dining set -- nice mahogany colored table with four chairs. How do we take it home? Never mind, children, you go home, we will come with the furniture.
Are you sure, mom and dad? they were solicitous.
O, yes, the shop has a pickup-van; we will get the furniture loaded on it and come with it. Don't worry.
Parents are a strange breed. What do they not volunteer for the sake of their flesh and blood! Move mountains. Dig up mines. Lay down bridges over stormy waters. What we had offered to do was comparatively insignificant!
We waited by the roadside for the pickup-van.
We waited and waited. And waited.
We watched the sun set behind the furniture shop. We heard the excited chatter of birds in the trees beginning to settle in for the night. we saw the streetlights come on.
The pickup-van did not come. It is on the way, sir, said the owner of the shop.
We waited some more., sitting by the roadside on a sofa tht had been sold to another -- yet another parent waiting for a pickup-van.
The sky turned a deeper hue. IT had been a long birthday. We were tired. The chai-walla vendor supplied us some sugary tea in nano-sized plastic cups. Half the tea was soaked up by the tea-bag, but one sip of tea in each cup was still available. Pas mal!
Papa dozed. His eyes closed and head nodded over his chest.
We still waited.
And then I remembered. His birthday is almost over but no birthday picture. How can that be. Taking out my camera I clicked his pic. Lower lip pouting in sleep, eyes closed, catching a catnap on a chair by the roadside. Buses honked around us. Tyres screeched. There were loud voices, hustle and bustle.
And then the picup-van finally came. Hardly a van, it was more of a tempo! a glorified scooter-rickshw with the hood removed. the dining table fitted neatly on it, so did the chairs. But what about us? How do we go along with the furniture?
Sit on the chairs, madam, the driver instructed us without batting an eye.
So the middle-aged parents climbed up -- rather, they were helped up -- and sat on the dining chairs placed in an open tempo.
Then began the long journey home.
Anyone who has been to Hyderabad knows that the traffic there is chaotic. Cars and scooters all around. Traffic lights. Policemen. Whistles, honks, shouts, swears -- you name it and we had it all engulfing us as we rode the crowded streets atop the tempo. a huge sea of traffic bore us along with bumbs, jerks and jolts. From time to time we would have to stop at the traffic lights and then we would be the cynosure of all eyes. Children pinting at us and clapping with glee, grownups suppressing a smile.
The ride became even more interesting after we stopped en route
But I am tired and sleepy now. Perhaps I should keep the rest of the story for another time. Or may be just a hint of what happened next to keep the interest alive. What say?
Once there was glass on the table top, Karim the driver told us it wouldn't be safe to sit on the idining table / chairs ans the glass may break. What then? we asked. He promptly suggested that we ride along with him, sharing the driver's seat.
Good God! The seat was small. Far too small for three adults, Vicky, Karim and I. But there was no other way, so we piled into the driver's cabin and sa on either side of Karim.
That's right! we did. the seat was small so we could barely balance half a deriere each. Jumping and joting, we started for home again. a sixty year old Birthday Boy and his ageing wife, trying not to fall off a few inches of the driver's seat, hoping that no constable would stop us en route.
Yawn! Just thinking of it makes me tired, so I think I'll call it a day. Goodnight!