Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Sorry Business

You see, I forget. I forget what my wife has sent me to buy at the stationery shop and buy pens instead of envelopes. I forget to take prints and sometimes overshoot addresses and end up at alien lands. But I am not complaining. It is nice to be engrossed in thoughts of the destruction that I have left in my wake: brain damaged people and wrecked relationships. Sometimes I see the scattered crowd on the streets and they seem suddenly to have a singular purpose. To metamorphose into a mob and come attack my windscreen, and then me. I can hear the thwack of a hockey stick on the bonnet, and so I have taken to wearing my helmet these days, with a bala clava. Which means the bike. With no rules about dark visors for helmets, my vulnerable soul finds comfort in the obscurity that the helmet lends. And still I take the wrong turn. Almost every time. And check the price of diesel at the Shell filling station while riding a petrol bike. Someday, someday. Someday the diesel car will be brought here. If I can remember the road or the purpose.
And then there's a tap on my shoulder accompanied by an extremely sweet voice piping up, "Daddy, wrong turn; We are going to school."
School it is, then. She has grown up to be a beautiful teenager indeed, and am so proud of her. Although I had always wanted her to learn karate and beat the shit out of the boys, she decided to have dimpled cheeks that flush at the slightest embarrassment or the mention of boys.
"New York already has so many tall buildings, daddy, why do you dream of me as an architect in New York?"
"I haven't been there, ever, so I think that's where an architect should fall in love." In a studio apartment with glass on one side, I thought.
"You know, I am fond of Rikin. But I don't think he notices me much."
"He is only thirteen, dear; boys at thirteen are thinking of being Messi."
"Or Carlsen. I want to beat him at chess."
"You will. The day I can find the way to your chess class. Whom, Rikin? Or Magnus?"
"Rikin. You mean beat at chess?"
"Hmm, don't worry. Do you want to watch a Ray movie with me tonight? It is called Aranyer Din Ratri. How Sharmila Tagore willingly loses a memory game, just not to hurt a man's ego. Rikin will lose to you one day. And that day you will know he loves you too. Sharmila Tagore is Saif Ali Khan's mother, by the way. But all this winning and losing is such a sorry business."
"Funny you should say 'sorry business'. Did you know, daddy, sorry business is an aboriginal death custom, in Australia? I saw it on Discovery. You are not supposed to take a dead person's name. Their spirit might return."
"That will be so cool. For the spirit to return. A human spirit belongs here, on earth, don't you think? Even after death, shouldn't they just be hovering around us?
"Isn't that your school?"
She got off and walked into the school through the huge iron gates that were kept ajar as if just for her, a cerebral girl and my best friend. She looked back and smiled. And then the gates clunked close behind her. Didn't I tell you to have a kid, my wife would say, but man, having a child is the happiest feeling after all, isn't it? There's a T-junction right ahead. Should I go left or right? Left for office, right for home. What am I wearing? A tee? I wear a tee to work too, so should I be going to the office now? Is it Friday? It is Friday...chess class and all?
"Today's a holiday for you, daddy" she tapped my shoulder from the back seat, "you have a funeral to attend."
"Thanks, Orna," I reached back to hold her unusually cold hand, "what will I do without you?" 

Being able to finally utter her name didn't seem such a sorry business after all.