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The Adopted Father

The Adopted Father

13 mins 21.9K 13 mins 21.9K

             BRAYNK! BRAYNK! BRAYNK!—the white digital alarm clock kept on the red mahogany bedside table buzzed. A whitish-complexioned hand, from under a blue and yellow floral printed fleece blanket reached out, patted the table until it found the clock, and smacked the off button.

           “Honey!” A voice came out of the kitchen, “Come on, get up or you’ll be late for your meeting.”

            The man barely poked his head out of the comforter and squinted towards the rectangular greyish dial of the alarm clock. It indicated 7:00 a.m. in large black numbers.  He yawned and stretched his arms over his head. He removed the blanket, rubbed his drowsy eyes, and got out of the bed. He put on the slippers and plodded toward the bathroom. He came back to his room and changed into black track pants and a navy blue sweatshirt. As he stood at the willow vanity table combing his hair with a maroon comb, a voice called him from behind.

           “Don’t be late Ikshit. I don’t want you to skip your breakfast. I made your favorite methi paratha.” It was his wife, Vedika.

              He turned back and smiled, “I won’t honey,” he kissed her forehead and headed for his morning jog.

       Coming out of his building’s elevator, he was stopped by two of his chit-chatting neighbors. One of them raised his hand in greeting, “Ikshit, hey! You owe us a party man.”

         “Yeah, sure, this Sunday evening, my place,” he replied.

       “Party! What for?” Ikshit’s other upstairs neighbor gave him a curious look.

        “Don’t you know?” The first one widened his eyes. “Ikshit recently got promoted again.”

   “Really? That’s great! Congratulations man. You’re very lucky.”

    “Thanks, by the grace of God I’m what I’m,” Ikshit replied and smiled.

    “No man, honestly, you’ve got the luck of the devil. At twenty–seven, you became the project manager, and within this year, you were promoted to the post of senior project manager. Not only this, you bought a flat worth crore and an Audi, all within the same year. Apart from this, you were lucky enough to marry the love of your life. Soon you are going to become a father as well. Was there even anything you ever lacked in your life?”

    Instantly, a flood of childhood memories dashed through his mind and Ikshit’s smiling face went expressionless. Yes, I have always missed something in my life. I have a big void in my life, which can never be filled. “Excuse me, guys; I gotta go, catch you later.” He left with a fake smile, jogging off towards the jogger’s park.

       “What happened to him?” The first guy reacted to Ikshit’s sudden exit.

      “I don’t know, must’ve been in a hurry,” the second one replied.

       Ikshit Kumar, that’s what he was named in the orphanage he was brought up.  Nobody remembered how he ended up there. Some said his unwed mother left him at the doorstep. Some said after his parent's death, his relatives abandoned him there. Overall, no one knew the exact reason how and at what age he ended up there. The only thing he remembered was the horrible life he had spent there. He longed for a mother’s and a father’s love and caring. He never got proper attention from the caretakers. He had to wear shabby, ragged, and moth-eaten clothes—usually, they were oversized. The toys he had to play with were old and sometimes broken stuff. These were all donated by the so-called generous society who god knows what kind of charity they think were they doing by dumping their garbage into the heart of the innocent kids who were already deprived of basic needs. Food at the orphanage was mostly non-nutritious. He didn’t know what birthday celebrations meant until one day when a rich politician’s daughter came to celebrate her birthday among them.

He remembered that day he had tasted Gulab Jamun and ice cream for the first time in his life, and since then he had longed for birthday celebrations of rich kids so that he could get to eat more sweets. He used to wonder why his or the other kid’s birthday wasn’t celebrated at the orphanage and the reply he got was ‘Kids at the orphanage don’t have a birth date and so they don’t celebrate birthdays’. Too harsh words for a kid to hear at such a tender age, isn’t it? He was studious. As he grew, he completed his studies with the help of scholarships and the little money he earned from his part-time jobs. His hard work paid off, he cracked IIT, and then he pursued Computer Science. During his college days, he fell in love with Vedika. After landing a job in a multinational company he asked her parents’ permission to marry, her and they couldn’t deny him. However, at present, Ikshit lives a happy and content life with her wife, yet there is a big lacuna in his life, which he believes, can never be filled—he wished he had a father and a mother.

     It had been about half-an-hour; Ikshit was jogging along the track that circled the park. All of a sudden, an old man in a beige dhoti kurta, walking a little ahead of him, tripped over something. He was about to fall when Ikshit approached him with a lightning fast speed and grasped him tightly by his arms, “Watch out!” Huffing and puffing, he managed to save him from falling and made him sit on a wooden bench beside. “Are you okay Uncle Ji?” He wiped the beads of sweat from his forehead with the back of his hand.

      “Yes, son.” The old man replied with a grateful look through his rheumy eyes.

         The moment Ikshit heard the word ‘son’, for a split second he felt the burden of emptiness he had been carrying throughout his life coming to an end. As he tried to calm his breathing, he gazed at the man. He was somewhere between the age of sixty to sixty-five. His eyes were heavily wrinkled and so was his sun-tanned skin. He had a typical classy Rajasthani kind of moustache, long and greyish-white. He wore a red and white chunri print pagdi on his head. He wore a solid gold hoop earring.

        “Thank you, son.” He got up.

    “It’s okay; you don’t have to be thankful Uncle Ji. Can I drop you somewhere?”

      “Oh, no-no, I can go by myself.”

      “Are you sure? You should probably call someone, maybe your son or—”

     He laughed and said, “My son lives abroad, but not to worry, soon he’ll be coming back to get me.”

      “Oh, that’s nice.” Lucky son, at least he has a father.

       The old man ambled out of the park and Ikshit jogged one more round before returning home. The next day morning, while jogging Ikshit again saw the old man in the park. He was walking slowly along the track, this time with a crooked cane in his hand. Ikshit felt an urge to talk to him. With hesitated steps and how to start the conversation thoughts, he walked towards him. “Namaste Uncle Ji!” He stopped beside and smiled at him with folded hands.

    The old man turned his shrivelled face towards him, “Namaste,” he replied and smiled back. They began walking along a wide, mowed grass path.

     “Do you come here every day?” Ikshit asked him.

       “I try to,” he scratched his thick, bushy, greyish-white eyebrows. “My doctor has advised me to come here daily in the morning. He said it’s good for my health.”

         “Oh, yes indeed.”

       “I’ve to take care of myself all by myself, at least till my son is back.”

       “Are you staying here all alone?”

    “No son. I’ve got lots of friends; besides there are many caretakers who look after me. Before leaving for London, my son had made all proper arrangements for my stay here. Once he gets settled there he would come and get me.”

      “That’s wonderful. You’ve a loving son, Uncle Ji.”

     He smiled and said, “His name is Rajveer; he’s my only son and the only thing I’m left with in my life.” Tears glistened in his eyes as he ambled away towards a huge kanchnar tree in the center of the park.

     Ikshit saw him taking out a cell phone and dialling a number. The way the old man was talking, he could deduce whom he was speaking to. Lucky father and a lucky son; it’s half past seven in the morning here, must be around two a.m. in London, still, his son received his call. I wish I too had a father…

     They began to meet daily at the park. They talked about each other. Ikshit shared about his past, his upbringing at the orphanage, how he met Vedika. Sometimes he even used to discuss his office matters with him despite knowing the fact that he doesn’t understand any of them. But the old man always had only one topic to share—about his son; he never said anything apart from that. He never told Ikshit where he lived, how he lived, with whom he lived and never introduced any of his friends to him. On several occasions, Ikshit had invited him to his house for lunch and dinner. Day by day, he had started considering him as a father. Deep inside, he envied Rajveer. Sometimes Ikshit used to wonder how alone he’d be when he goes back to his son. I wish I could call him father…he thought one night before losing himself into the world of dreams.

      One day the old man didn’t show up. For nearly an hour, Ikshit jogged along the track. Huffing and puffing, he walked towards a wooden bench under a neem tree and sat on it. He took out his cell phone and called him, but his number was switched off. Interestingly, he never got an opportunity to call him before; this was the first time he dialled his number. Now what to do? He grew anxious. Is he not well? Has he met with an accident? Is his son back? Has he left India? With these thoughts racing through his mind, he got up and walked towards the gate.

        “Ikshit! You are here?” A man, who looked to be in his forties, stopped him. “You should be at the hospital right now!”

     “Why, what happened? Is anyone serious?” He asked with a puzzled look on his face.

    “Oh, my god! Don’t you know anything?”

      “About whom?”

       “Your old companion Ikshit!”

    Ikshit’s eyes widened in dismay, “What happened to him?” He cried.

    “Major heart attack, he is in AIIMS, counting the final breaths of his life.”

    Without wasting a moment, Ikshit rushed to the hospital. The old man was admitted to the ICU. Many people had gathered outside the room, most of them were old; probably they were his friends he used to talk about. Nobody was allowed to enter the room. Ikshit sat on a corner bench with all sorts of negative thoughts dominating his mind. A minute later a guy in a dove grey uniform, of nearly his age, approached him.

      “You are Ikshit! Right?” He sat beside him.

         “Yeah, how do you know me?” He asked hesitatingly.

        “He always used to talk about you. Once he had shown your photograph with him to me. My name is Raghu; I’m Bhairav Singh ji’s caretaker at the old age home.” He introduced himself.

      “What?” Ikshit stood up, startled. “What do you mean by old age home? He stays in his own house?”

   “And who told you that?” The caretaker stood up as well.

      “Bhairav Singh ji told me.”

       “Really?”

       “What else did he say?”

     “He has a son named Rajveer who stays in London and as soon as he gets settled there he would take him along with him. I saw him talk to his son every day.”

      “His son is an asshole. He left his father ten years back at our old age home.”

    What Ikshit heard came as a complete shock to him because it was the entire opposite of what the old man had said to him. Five minutes later, they were at the hospital canteen. He was curious to know more about him.

      The caretaker finished his cup of coffee and began narrating about the old man. “I’d joined the old age home five years back. But Bhairav Singh ji is here since thirteen years. His colleagues say that he used to be a zamindar of some village in the state of Rajasthan. He was very rich. He himself was uneducated but he made sure his son had a full education. When his son got a job opportunity in London, he didn’t stop him. His son married a London-based girl. After a year, he returned back to his village and convinced his father to sell their ancestral property so that they can permanently settle abroad. Bhairav Singh ji agreed but before leaving India his son left him in our old age home convincing him about visa issues. He promised him to come back soon but he never did. The fact was, Rajveer was ashamed of his uneducated father. He must’ve felt how he could take his village father in front of his London-based wife. Initially, he sent him money for a year and then he stopped sending the money.”

      “But I saw Uncle Ji talk to his son every day.” Ikshit pointed out.

      The caretaker laughed and said, “His SIM card expired ten years ago. He always acts like talking on the phone to his son.”

         “Why didn’t he buy a new SIM?”

      “What for? He doesn’t have his son’s number or address?”

         “His son doesn’t call?”

      “He did once or twice, maybe thrice after leaving him here, but after that, he didn’t. Once the warden called his son but his son strictly instructed him never to call him back. The next time Bhairav Singh called his son, his number was switched off and since then he couldn’t contact him, it’s been almost ten years now.”

         Tears welled up in Ikshit’s eyes. All his life he sighed for parents love because he was an orphan. But a guy like Rajveer who had such a loving father didn’t care for him. He felt pity for Rajveer. He recalled the days spent with him when Bhairav Singh used to say all good things about his son; he never complained anything about him. But in reality, his son was so opposite and cruel. He couldn’t hold his tears any longer and left the canteen praying God to save him.

    Half-an-hour later, Ikshit was standing beside the ICU door. A doctor along with two nurses came.

      “We’ll have to perform a bypass surgery as soon as possible or else we’ll not be able to save him.” The doctor said, looking through his glasses, at those standing outside the ICU. I want someone to sign this form.” He held out a form.

       Ikshit stepped forward and took the form. Without reading it, he was about to sign when the doctor interrupted him.

     “Excuse me, gentleman, you’re his—”

      “Son! I’m Bhairav Singh ji’s son.” He replied and then immediately signed the form.

     “But I’ve heard his son lives abroad.”

      “Yes, he does, Bhairav Singh ji is my adopted father, so now I’m his only son available here.” On hearing, he said that, Bhairav Singh’s colleagues and caretakers present there raised their eyebrows in surprise. “I’ve signed the form, please begin the operation, and save him, doctor,” Ikshit said with folded hands.

    “We’ll try our best.” The doctor smiled and left.

       Ikshit turned towards the people of old age home and said with a firm voice, “From today onwards, Bhairav Singh ji is my father and I’m his son. He’ll stay with me and I don’t care about any legal rules and regulations.” Ikshit’s voice was choked up. “I won’t let him go back to the old age home. He is my father.” His eyes were bordered with tears.

      The warden came and hugged Ikshit tightly. “Who are we to separate a son from his father?” He said. One by one everybody embraced him.

      Five hours passed, the doctors came out with the good news. Bhairav Singh’s operation was successful. He had to stay for a few days at the hospital. After getting discharged Ikshit insisted him to stay with him for a few days so that, he and Vedika can take care of him. Bhairav Singh felt embarrassed for not telling Ikshit the truth about his son. Day by day, he started loving Ikshit as his own son. The big, large void in Ikshit’s life finally was filled. Whenever Bhairav Singh wanted to return back to the old age home Ikshit and Vedika always refused him. Eventually, he gave up and stayed with them for the rest of his life. This is how he got adopted. This is how Bhairav Singh became The Adopted Father…


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