It was a Friday. I left the office enthusiastically because of the impending weekend. Usually it takes a hour and a half to reach home from office but today was an exception, thanks to the traffic on the road. I suppose few of the lot was travelling to their hometowns and the rest to their respective flats in the city. Yes, I prefer not to use a better term than 'flats' because all they suffice for is the residential facility. The sigh of pure relief and contentment releases only in a home, the four walled area with a miniature garden encircling it as if a mother encircles her babe with warmth.
My job in this metro city is my way of earning my bread and butter since the last 8-9 years as its an IT hub. If given the liberty to wish, I would not waste a single second in going back to my roots but belonging to a middle class background does not work in my favor and hence two years back, we purchased a flat to move here. It was not in the heart of it but our decision was clouded by financial aspects. We zeroed in on a location based on our affordability.
Credits to the driving skills of the bus driver as he made way through the frantic traffic, I reached earlier than I had suspected.
"Tea or Coffee?" My wife asked.
"Coffee." I answered while taking a seat on the sofa.
It was 9 pm. My dad had already completed his dinner and rest of us usually have our dinner around 10. Since it was the beginning of the weekend, I thought to relax by watching a movie on TV. I started surfing through channels and settled on 'The Jurassic park' which was airing on one of the channels. It was just getting started when my dad decided to interrupt.
"Turn off the TV! I need to sleep." He said.
"Its Friday night, let me watch TV for sometime." I pleaded.
"If I won't sleep now then I won't sleep till 1 in the morning." He argued.
Actually, I shouldn't be surprised. The quarrel about the TV being on had become a part of the routine. With no mood to retaliate further, I turned the TV off.
"I am going for walk." I left the house without waiting for a response.
I went to the nearest bar in our locality. As soon as I entered the bar, I was hit by the stench of smoke and alcohol. I am not a regular member of this bar but since this was the closest, I aimlessly landed up here. There was a dim source of light in the entire space and I think it was just to direct customers without disturbing the tables. At a very first glance, I found every table occupied.
"Kitane log hai?"(How many People) A waiter suddenly appeared out of nowhere and questioned me.
"Akela." (Alone) I replied.
"Friday hai sir, all tables are full." (Its Friday, tables are full).
"Kuch to manage karo, I will adjust somewhere. Kahi aur nai ja sakata ab." (Lets Manage somewhere) I slid a 20 Rs note in his pocket.
"Ek table hai but budhha baitha hai, jyada baat nai karta wahi pe adjust ho jao." (You have to share a table with an old man) He said while pointing towards the table.
"Great, thanks.1 beer please."
"Ok sir, snacks?"
"Le aao jo yaha ka special hai" (Bring Anything).
I went to table. He seemed to be more or less around 65, more rather than less. Grey hair, black spectacle frames mounted loosely on the nose, rarely shaved beard with mustache, battered white cotton shirt with bidi (local cigarette) in the right hand and a glass of presumably rum in the left. There was a fountain pen on the table which I guessed belonged to him.
"Sir aapka beer with snacks." (Sir, here is your beer with snacks) The waiter arrived with my drink.
"Thanks." I replied.
"You can have snacks." I offered to my table partner as we were sharing a table.
He scrunched his eyebrows and ran his eyes over my appearance before shrugging.
"Cheers!" I said.
"Why are you drinking beta?(Son), you are young blood. Drinking is not good, it causes addiction." He spoke for the first time.
That was a yorker for me. I wasn't at all prepared for this because I didn't expect any response from him after my failed attempts at striking a conversation. I could have very well chosen to shut out comments about what I should or should not do from a mere stranger. But he called me son. So I disposed my aggressive thoughts.
"So are you." I said politely.
"Whats your age?" He questioned.
"30." I answered.
"My work experience is 10 years more than your age." One more bouncer by him.
"You must be retired now?" I asked.
"Yes but from government service, not from responsibilities." He sarcastically chuckled.
I just nodded my head, prompting him to continue as my curiosity increased.
"I completed my college when I was 18 and then joined the defense forces. At 28, I got married. At 30, I had a kid. A child brings a lot of responsibilities. My life started to revolve around him. I started working all the more harder to complete his dreams. As I had joined duty after 10+2, I did graduation & post graduation while serving the nation which helped me to get promotion. Then he joined college and by then the education had started getting expensive. Nevertheless, I thought to send him to the best college in state. He indeed made me proud and has started working in this city. Till he got his job and settled in well, I got my retirement."
He stopped, took a swig and resumed his story.
"As soon as he got accustomed to the job and the city, I thought to settle with him here. We sold everything in our hometown, utilized my pension & brought a lavish flat here. It seems robotic here. Its monotonous. Anyways, all was going smoothly. I thought to live for myself for once. But seems like I am not allowed to do that. At home, the kids play music systems or TV shows which makes the house no better than a fish market and due to age, I can barely handle the sound level as well as the strain on my eyes. I have had a habit of hitting the sack early but now everything has changed."
This time, he had large sip and he continued...
"Sometimes I try to request something but it goes somewhere else. He has his own perceptions. To avoid the unnecessary arguments, I visit this place often. Feels good after a couple of pegs. It doesn't justify drinking but it surely serves as a good distraction."
"Why don't you discuss this with your son?" I questioned.
"I tried but sometimes I feel like I am intruding in his way of living. But I will suggest you something since this topic is brought up, keep a habit of discussing things with your parents. It can anything, stupid or worthwhile. Don't get angry on them, they have done a lot for you. And if ever you do feel mad then just try to put yourself in their position. It will avoid discrepancies."
He took his last sip and said, "Its getting late.It was nice meeting you."
"I was just listening." I shrugged.
"Yes son even that makes me grateful because nobody really listens in this time and age. So thank you for your attendance." He said and left.
I looked at him, walking slowly out of the bar.
"Is this the story of every father?" I wondered out loud.
As a film rolls, my life started slide-showing in front of my eyes and I realized just how much my father has sacrificed for my betterment. And I couldn't even deal with giving up my weekend leisure for him.
Hurriedly I left for my place. My father was waiting up for me. I went and embraced him.
"Forgive me. We will not have any disagreements anymore." I said which brought a smile on his face.
Looking at him with love in his eyes and a smile teasing his lips, I truly felt the warmth. I felt at ease.
And for the very first time, the flat seemed like home.