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Lunatic - A Story

Discussion in 'Stories (Fiction)' started by sureshmiyer, Dec 28, 2019.

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  1. sureshmiyer

    sureshmiyer Silver IL'ite

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    The old man was walking around aimlessly in the middle of a busy road. He had walked for long and was feeling increasingly thirsty and hungry. The pants hung loosely around his waist; a waist grown slimmer than it already was. He was in the seventies but looked like an eighty-year-old. He appeared like a lunatic. People sympathised with him and threw coins at him. He had come all the way from Haridwar to Mumbai but was quite unsure what was he up to? A good Samaritan had got him a ticket and put him into a train for Mumbai. All he could remember was an electrical shop and railway track and Mumbai.

    ########

    Vishal was munching Lays chips as he was watching news on TV in the small room at Sonpada Chawl located close to the railway tracks simultaneously scrolling on his cell phone. The room looked further cramped as the household items were packed in boxes. They were set to vacate from this dingy place after several years to a nearby small flat at the insistence of his mother Kavita. She was sick of this place which did not even have a separate toilet and they were to wake up early to access the common latrine. His father Shantaram commonly called as Appa was reading newspaper in the verandah smoking bidi. It was a Monday morning and his mother Kavita was busy with her daily morning chores. The TV was blaring news of a boy committing suicide on the railway tracks. Kavita yelled at her son.

    “You and your TV. Isn’t it time to go to school Vishal? It is 8 am already and you have not even brushed your teeth. Watching some nonsense news in TV! At least that boy was better. He was good for nothing but took a decision to die, not a borderline case like you wasting time and doing nothing.”

    Vishal left the place in a huff. The words of his wife hit Shantaram like a sharp dagger down his chest. He remembered his father who the entire Chawl called as ‘Dada’ would often call him a borderline case since he was a child and that would irritate him. Dada ran a small electrical hardware store. Shantaram did not remember his mother much as she died when he was young. Dada would always rebuke him for wasting away time. He never got hold of his studies as his Dada insisted and could not even complete matriculation. Dada would often chide him which made him feel bitter. He never spoke much to Dada and hated him a lot. Dada made him either sit in his store or run errands.

    He was quite disinterested in the electrical shop business and as he grew older, wanted to make something big in the nearby city lane. Disillusioned by him, Dada got him married to his cousin sister Kavita and gave him charge of the shop. Marriage to Kavita was forced on him, but once Kavita came into his life, he started liking her. Kavita was outspoken and provided him solace by egging him to follow his pursuits. He wanted to set up retail cloth business in the nearby city area but Dada never approved him of his plans. This would often result in verbal arguments between Dada and him, but he would often find Kavita arguing on his side. Dada was increasingly feeling unwell and got mentally ill due to meningitis. Shantaram sold off the electric shop despite Dada’s dissent and set up a retail cloth store in the nearby city area. Kavita had also got pregnant and they became proud parents of a male child. Meanwhile, the doctors had told him that his father’s mental condition was of a borderline case. He could not cope up with hospitalization expenses, so he allocated the verandah space where he kept Dada confined.

    Dada would often forget things and was also prone to violent outbursts. Shantaram’s cloth shop was meanwhile making good business, and his son was also doing well at school. His wife Kavita kept nagging him to move out of this chawl and shift to a decent flat with inbuilt toilet amidst a good locality. Kavita also pointed to him about the trouble they were to face from Dada if they moved out. The people in the chawl had become accustomed to Dada’s mental tantrums but how they were to manage after moving out of the chawl she argued. Shantaram often tried to ignore Kavita. It led to daily arguments between him and Kavita till that fateful night.

    As usual he and Kavita had an argument over Dada that evening. His son Vishal who was around 14 years older was now very much used to his parent’s fights and arguments and was engrossed on his mobile. Their arguments had stretched a bit longer, so Kavita stopped speaking and went to sleep early in a huff. At two hours past midnight, the rattling of the trains at the railway track adjacent to the chawl made Shantaram wake up. He felt bitter of rubbing Kavita the wrong way. He whispered sweet nothings in her ear and caressed her waist.

    “Can’t you sleep, our son will wake up”. Her voice was huskier than it should have been which warmed hm towards her as he pulled her towards him. The light from the moon peeped from the window like a voyeur as the sound of another train rattling along the tracks broke the silence. She tried to wriggle out from his grip playfully as he kissed her. The moon blushed and hid behind the clouds. Suddenly Dada was up to his mental tantrums and started shouting which shook the neighbourhood. He and Kavita gathered themselves quickly. He could not even look at Kavita who was red faced. Shantaram thought that he had it enough. After few days, he took Dada near the Railway Station. He had told his wife and his nosy neighbours that he was to leave Dada under the care of an Ashram at Haridwar and so would be not around for a week.

    ‘Where are we going to, my son?” Dada kept asking him.

    Shantaram did not think it worthwhile to reply to Dada as they quietly boarded the train to Haridwar. He wanted to get rid of Dada. It was the month of Shravan and the train was overflowing with devotees and passengers.

    Dada would keep asking him questions as to where they were going.

    The very next moment, he would ask, “Who are you, what are you doing with me?”

    The co passengers were quite amused by his Dada’s antics though it kept Shantaram quite irritated.

    He got down at Haridwar and held Dada’s hand and made his way into the crowd towards the Ganges. He sprinkled the ice-cold water of the Ganga over his head and watched as Dada moved towards the Ganges in excitement. He swiftly turned around and disappeared into the crowd. Shantaram returned home quite relieved.

    ########

    Meanwhile the old man was chased by a few stray dogs. He caught sight of a railway track. He was very tired and just sat down facing the railway tracks. His pants tore off further by the stones scattered around. The scorching sun made him quite dizzy and the railway track was deserted. The rattling of the trains would often bring him back to senses. He saw a boy with earphones focussed on his mobile crossing the railway track. The old man saw him and had a spark in his eyes. He noticed a train moving fast towards the boy. He took a stone and threw it aiming at the boy which hit him on his shoulder. The boy angrily looked behind and saw the old man and stepped away from the tracks as the train passed away in split second. Two Policemen came from nowhere towards the boy and one even thrashed him for his misadventure. The boy had tears in his eyes as he wriggled away from them and rushed towards the old man, shouting ‘Dada’ with joy.

    Shantaram was at his retail shop busy dealing with the customers. He was a happy man these days as he had shifted to a decent flat as per Kavita’s wishes. His face turned pale as he got a call that his son was in a Police Station for crossing the Railway tracks and they had called out his parents. He rushed to the Police Station only to find Kavita in tears telling him that their son got saved from a major accident due to Dada. The Police had kept both his son and his father in the adjacent room. As he went inside, he saw his son in the lap of Dada. Emotions overtook him as he fell at Dada’s feet.

    The Police Inspector came towards him. The constable who accompanied him asked Shantaram,

    “How could you give cell phone to a school boy? We saw this old man being chased by few dogs. He looked to be like a mad man, so we followed him to help him. He slipped alongside the railway tracks and was resting there. We found this boy your son aimlessly loitering across the railway tracks with a cell phone in his hand and were alerting him to come back. It was this man, who saved him by throwing a stone at him. To our surprise we saw your son rushing towards him and calling him ‘Dada’. Is he your father? How can you keep him unattended like this?”

    Shantaram was speechless.

    They soon took leave of the Police Station and moved towards their new flat.

    As they went inside the flat, he could see the transformation in Dada. Dada seemed to be feeling better and was feeling happy and proud at seeing the flat. Kavita was attending to Dada with care and affection.

    He fell at Dada’s feet again.

    “I am proud of you my son, I always underestimated you. I troubled you a lot. I don’t know how I left you all. What happened to our old house and electrical shop?”

    Dada kept questioning continuously as he patted Shantaram on his back. Shantaram was in tears

    How was he to say that he was the one who left his father abandoned.

    Written by

    Suresh M Iyer
     
    Rampuri9, Thyagarajan and Tamrakshar like this.
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  2. Thyagarajan

    Thyagarajan IL Hall of Fame

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    @sureshmiyer
    Nice to read though it was bit lengthy.
    Thanks and Regards.
    Happy holiday season and New year.
     

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