Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Status Quo — A very short story

It was the squeal of a car stopping that woke him up. The sun was already high in the sky. Surprised that his grandmother had not come to wake him up as usual, he slowly got out of his bed and walked into the living room, unprepared for the sight that greeted him.

His grandmother was crying. His grandfather just stood there next to her, trying to console her as they looked out at the bright yellow taxi parked outside their door. The boot of the taxi was open and his father was putting his grandparents’ old trunk and their suitcases in it. Something was not right. His father and mother had a serious look on their faces. No one was speaking a word. His father opened the door for his grandparents to get into the taxi. They just stood there like they didn’t want to leave, his grandmother sobbing, his grandfather stoic.

He ran to his father, “Appa, where are ajja and ajji going?” he asked. His father just held the door open, said nothing. “Appa, appa, please ask then not to go?” His father still said nothing. The taxi stood idling. He ran to this mother as fast as his little feet could carry him, “Amma, where are they going? When will ajja and ajji come back?” She scooped him up in her arms. “Never, Rahul. They are going to a new home. Where they will be happy.” The little boy looked confused. “There is no room for them here. And now that they are really old, we cannot take care of them. Your appa and I don’t have the time. The place they are going to is called an Old Age Home. They will be happier there than here, with old people just like themselves.” his mother continued. The little boy was on the verge of tears. “But we can go visit them once in a way.” his mother said to soften the blow. Realisation dawned on the little one that he would probably never see his beloved grandparents again. He already missed his grandmother’s calloused hands on his cheeks as she woke him up everyday.

He pushed himself away from mother and ran to the taxi just as his grandparents silently got inside the taxi. “Appa, appa, please don’t send ajja and ajji away. Please. I will take care of them. Please appa, don’t send them away. I know they are happy here.” he pleaded. “Don’t create a scene Rahul!” his father said sternly. Hurt, the little boy went and stood next to the taxi’s rear window where his grandmother was waving him goodbye.

He stood there for a while and slowly walked to the driver’s window. “Driver uncle, driver uncle” he called out to the driver, “Please remember where you are taking my ajja and ajji ok? And come here again in thirty years please?”. His father walked up to him, “Thirty years? Why Rahul?”. The little boy sniffed and wiped his tears, “In thirty years, you will also be old. I will also not have time to care of you and amma. You too will be happier with old people than with me. Since driver uncle knows where the Old Age Home is, he can take you there straight.” A crow cawed somewhere in the distance.

The quivering lips slowly formed a smile as the little boy saw his father quietly take out a few notes from his wallet, pay the driver, and open the door of the taxi asking his grandparents to come out. They weren’t going anywhere after all.