“Baba, are we there yet?”
“Any time now Riya, wait”
Driving down the long dusty road, Suraj was as impatient as his daughter to get a glimpse of his village. Many long years had passed since he had run down the winding path that led to his ancestral house. Back in the days almost all of his summers were spent here. He and his cousins had had an awesome time chasing butterflies, shepherding livestock and playing in the rivers.
In the hot afternoons when his cousins would be sleeping indoors or playing cards, he would sneak in the nearby mango grooves with his catapult. More than the mangoes, he was interested in getting caught by the owner of the groove. He would make as much as noise to alert Joshi kaka – the owner.
As a Principal of the school nearby, Joshi kaka was accustomed in handling such mischievous young boys. He would come running out of his house chasing Suraj away from his precious mango trees and the sweet fruits. But the boy would be calmly seated on a branch smiling down at him.
This was an everyday affair. Suraj would come in the afternoon, steal some mangoes by catapulting a few stones and wait for Joshi Kaka to come and catch him stealing. Joshi kaka too would eagerly wait to hear some noises in his backyard. He found Suraj to be an engaging child who asked him curious and deep questions about everything.
Each afternoon Joshi kaka would come out brandishing a stick – intending to punish – but would end up reading and telling stories to Suraj. The boy had an intense imagination and would quickly join in altering the stories and making up new plots. The stolen mangoes would lay forgotten in the basket until Joshi kaka would ask Suraj to cut them up and eat.
One such summer Suraj directly entered Joshi kaka’s house and started reading from a book, evading the usual routine of stealing the mangoes. He was going off with his parents to another state and this was his last trip to the village in the foreseeable future. After reading their most favourite story, he looked up to see the old man’s eyes brimming with tears.
He spent each day of this last trip with Joshi Kaka, reading new stories, discussing on his career prospects, describing the new house they had bought, talking about his new friends and about the trees in the large garden of his new house.
As a parting gift, he left behind a new story book and got a sapling of a mango tree in return. That sapling had grown into a big tree by now whose boughs were laden with sweet mangoes. Each year as the mangoes ripened Suraj missed Joshi kaka and the hours they spent reading.
Today after so many years he was going back. He slowly walked down the dirt road afraid that he might have been too late in returning. The groove was just as silent as it was the first time he had sneaked in to steal mangoes. Hesitantly he knocked on the door.
A familiar face opened it, older yes but it had the same kindness etched on it. Bursting in a shaky laugh Suraj hugged his old friend.
“I have got something for you kaka.”
“Oh good, I have something for you too.”
“Ok…then just like the good old days let’s show what we have on count of three ok?”
“Haha…yes my dear boy Ok!”
“You have become quite a writer I have heard. Is this a new book of yours?”
“Yes and I have dedicated it to you kaka”
“Me?….ohh why? You have a beautiful wife and a daughter now. Why did you want to put a picture of an old man on it!”
“Haha…For the same reason you have kept this catapult for all these years.”
Hi, I’m a nature lover, a trekker and an ardent reader from Mumbai, India. After playing Lawyer for a time, I shifted to my passion and love – History! I hold a Masters Degree in Ancient Indian Culture and Archaeology and am working as a Senior Executive: Research, Content Writer and Editor in the same field.
I blog at Kaleidoscope of my life