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Sometimes people used to say, “Like father, like son.” That was because I was just as arrogant as my father was. I was as short-tempered as my father was. But unlike him, I was an optimistic. He believed in fate while I believed in hard work and luck. He set some rules around my neck but they weren’t too tight for me to choke. I had my space and he never interfered. I finished my graduation and was waiting for a call letter from a company. I was planning to give a surprise at home about my job and Aarti, the girl whom I fell in love, with two years preceding to the completion of the graduation. When I first made friends with her, I used to eat my mom’s head talking about Aarti and mom loved her so much. She asked if I was in love with Aarti but I denied. Apparently, I fell in love without my noticing it, after mom asked me.
“Mom likes you so much.” I told her one day after the class, as we took as stroll around within the college campus.
“Really?” she asked, with an excited tone.
“Yeah.” I answered sternly.
“She asked me if I would marry you.” Said I.
“What did you say?” asked she. I didn’t answer her but I gave her a very serious look. “It doesn’t suit you Sam.” She reckoned and I smiled away.
“I asked mom not to plan on ruining my life.” Said I and she pushed me away from the track on which we were walking.
“You will never get a girl like me.” She angered, turning her face away. I went back laughing at her and she smiled back to me.
“I know. I wish we didn’t fall in love yet. There was no official proposal between us. I wish we had a chance and I could propose to you now.” I said.
“Yeah you took me out on a date to an expensive restaurant where the table kept you away from my hand’s reach, you gave me a ring and asked me if I liked it, but didn’t ask if I loved YOU. You arranged flower pots in my front yard the next morning but you didn’t have the brain to give me at least one single flower with your hand.” She started.
“They are long gone, those days. I’m really sorry, but I loved you. I just didn’t know how to show you.” I tried to explain.
“I felt it. Don’t worry.” She said holding my hand covering it up with her ice-cold fingers and her palm, as she walked beside me. “Mom is okay with me, but what about dad?”
“I don’t know. I will have to ask him. I will have to make him get you married to me.” I said, a cold grip of nervousness crawling down my neck. “I’ll give a surprise to mom and dad after I get the job. Mom will help me out in your case. Don’t worry. I’ll take care of that.” I assured her.
“Don’t worry. Just a few more weeks. You get the job and dad will give a little more respect. You are his son. He loves you. He won’t say no to you.” She said running her palm on my head. That didn’t ease me down. She didn’t know my father’s instincts. However, I was partly sure that dad wouldn’t say no to a girl like Aarti.
“GET OUT OF MY HOUSE.” Dad shouted at me in front of all my relatives a few months after that.
I got the call letter for my job and I was two weeks’ due to join in a company. Dad backfired my surprise on me. Mom suggested that we’d talk to dad about Aarti after I started working. I said ok. Dad found me a bride and arranged for the meeting all of a sudden without even letting us know about it. He was jumping around with excitement as he hurried us into the car telling me that he had a surprise for me. After I found out that he was trying to get me married, I politely denied the proposal at the bride’s home itself. When I was asked why, I frankly told him that I was in love with Aarti. The reputation he had, brought into him a state of temper, which made him speechless and leave from the bride’s home without a word, and with his head down. My heart pounded at the sight of my dad bending his head down. He didn’t speak to anyone of us in the car, on our way back home either.
“Dad! I was going to tell you.” I tried, but he wouldn’t listen. He just sat there in the front seat of the car beside the driver, looking out of the window. “She studied with me. I was going to tell you after I joined in my company.” He didn’t utter a single word. He just continued to look out, clenching his teeth like a child. We got down the car as we came home and he quickly strode towards the door. I followed him in, through the gate. “Dad!” I called him.
“GET OUT OF MY HOUSE.” He shouted, turning back to me from the main door. I just stood there aghast as he glared at me, pointing his finger at me. When dad says something, he means it. My relatives rushed in through the gate and hurried towards him to calm him down but he wouldn’t. I turned my eyes to the ground with disappointment and turned away towards the street. Neighbors had their necks raised to us over their compound walls. I was embarrassed.
“He’s your son. Don’t let him go.” They told him, behind me.
“He’s not my son anymore.” He shouted. “I will have to hide my face because of him.” Mom tried to stop me but he held her back and she just stood there, watching me leave, helplessly. Wilson, a friend of mine who was with me and who was as shocked as I was, took me to his apartment from my home. He stayed alone, so he asked me to stay with him as long as I would like. Aarti came rushing in, to Wilson’s apartment ten minutes after he called her.
“What happened?” She asked settling beside me and putting her arm around me. I couldn’t say a single word. My throat was filled with uncontrollable sobs. Wilson explained her about what had happened and she tried to calm me down saying that everything was gonna be okay. But my being just like my father, I turned stubborn all of a sudden. “We shall talk to him after the heat settles.” Said she.
“I’m not going back.” I muttered with my clenched teeth. “Never.”
“Come on Sam.” She started. “Don’t be foolish.”
“Do I look like I’m being foolish?” I asked her, turning my head to her. She didn’t asnwer me but just stared into my eyes with tears rolling in her eyes. “I’m not his son anymore. He made it pretty clear and I’m going to keep it that way.” I said.
“Come on Sam.” She tried.
“You know him Aarti. He won’t take a step down to me. I should’ve told him earlier.” I said. She nodded and wrapped her arms around me tight. Mom came to me after a few days and I overheard her talking to Wilson that dad wasn’t going to forgive me for what I’ve done. I wasn’t surprised. I knew that he wouldn’t. I was only a little furious that it wasn’t my fault.
I moved into a new apartment after a few months of working in my company and mom used to come once in a while to check upon me. Upon Aarti’s parents’ decision, I married her in the absence of my father, who wasn’t willing to even hear my name. Mom sold some gold of hers and gave me money so that Aarti and I would be needing it. I couldn’t say no to mom. I could see how bad she felt that we couldn’t stay with her. I could see the pain in her eyes that she had to sneak out of her own home to see her own son. I somehow had a feeling that dad knew about her coming to me. Years passed. I kept Aarti happy and never let her lose her smile no matter what had happened. She made me smile with her caring talk whenever I got reminded of home and cried. Aarti’s parents treated me with utmost respect that I was taking very good care of her daughter. I loved her. She was my sunshine. She was the solution to all my problems. She was the end to all my sorrow and misery. She was the reason behind my laughter. She was the ladder to my success.
We ran into mom and dad one day while shopping and I paused standing there, looking at mom and dad. Dad noticed me and turned away with anger taking deep breaths all of a sudden. Mom made a move but dad’s glare at her, pulled her away from me. I turned away too. I was arrogant, but I wasn’t angry. I was distressed that he did that to me without my fault. I didn’t want to talk to him either.
We got blessed with a baby boy, named him Jake and he grew up to be just like my father was. He should get what he wanted, no matter what. Mom used to come and play with him often. Aarti stood bewildered at the door after she answered to dad’s knock on the door on a sunday. I saw him and mom, from across the hallway as Aarti welcomed him in with a broad smile and happiness. I went back into the bedroom as Jake ran to his grandpa with happiness kicking out of his face from deep within his stomach and dad threw him into the air as Jake dashed into him. Jake started laughing out loud and dad continued to play with him. They were both equally happy. Jake met his grandpa finally, and dad got to play with him.
“Come out and talk to dad.” Aarti called as she walked into the bedroom along with my mom.
“I don’t have to talk to people who couldn’t forgive me for what I haven’t done.” I angered looking at her. You guys have nothing with him. You can be cool.” I said checking some files which I should be taking to office the next day. “Serve him lunch. He’s your guest now. I’ll eat with mom.”
Aarti gave me a disappointed look and walked out. Dad overheard me from the door but I ignored and turned away. He turned back to leave, but, “Don’t mind him. Join us for lunch, for me and your grandson.” Aarti held him back. Mom sat beside me weeping and I put my arm around her.
“It’s all my fault.” She said, sobbing. “I should’ve asked you to tell him about Aarti earlier. I was the one who stopped you.”
“It wasn’t your fault mom. I was invisible, that’s all. My feelings and interests weren’t important. His reputation was important than my life.” I wiped my mom’s tears.
They spent the day until the evening, answering every funny question of Jake’s and playing with him. Aarti got busy with them as I spent my time working on the desk in our bedroom. I went out to see mom off in the evening. Dad stared at us from the window as the car started off and Jake gave out a shrill cry. I took him up and inside, trying to tell him something which would make him stop crying, but he started asking me questions as usual. It reminded me of how my dad walked around over the terrace to our home in his arms when I was a kid, how he gave me elephant rides with me sitting on his back and him crawling on his fours, how we used to play around chasing each other and how he used to tickle me in my stomach to make me laugh. I wondered what happened to my childhood dad.
“Dad? DAD?” Jake called me impatiently as I walked in towards the couch.
“Yes jackal?” I answered him.
“I’m not a jackal.” He said making a piggy mouth.
“I said Jake, didn’t I?”
“No you called me a jackal.” He said shaking his head.
“No I said Jake. You heard me wrong.”
“You’re a bad liar daddy.” He laughed. “I was asking you, why, you love your mom more than your dad.”
“I love them both.” I said surprised by his question. “Why did you think I love one of them more than the other?”
“Because you spent more time with grandma.”
“That’s because you could have grandpa all to yourself.” I lied.
“Oh. I didn’t know that.” He said making a face saying that he understood, as he nodded his head. He jumped off my hands and ran to Aarti when he saw her open the refrigerator door for ice-cream. My father used to feed me with cakes when I was small when mom denied me eating too many. He used to hide them in the shelf after he came from office. One cake per day was what mom used to say, but dad would give me another one when mom would be busy and sign me to hide and finish it.
It was already time that Jake started going to school. He was growing up. I would pick him up from school everyday just like my father picked me after his work. He showed me his progress card which said he stood among the top ten in class. I was disappointed, but he was just a kid. There was a time when I was the last ranker in class in my fourth grade.
“I hope that you will do better in the next exam.” remarked dad, as he signed my card. I then wondered how disappointed he was. Just as he hoped, I worked my way to the top five in the next exam. He took me to the school annual programs and I used to fall asleep. Later he used to carry me home and sleep me on my bed. He never rested, every time I was caught up with a fever or illness. He would irritate the doctors about a mere fever I used to get.
Jake turned out to be a talkative kind. He used to keep blabbing about all the fun he would have, his friends, crush on some girl, everything. And he would tell Aarti the same as I would walk away to get freshen up. He got an admission into a very good university and the fee structure was too high for me to afford. He started searching information regarding some other colleges so that I wouldn’t have to spend more money and also making sure, he would prosper in one of them. I saw his list and fee structures and reviews of some colleges on his desk when I went into his room as he was taking a shower. Then I thought, ‘Why couldn’t I give him the best?’ It was a little hard, but I finally got him into the best university. I didn’t give my dad any option like Jake tried to give me. My father sold away one of his cars when he ran short, to pay my fee.
Jake, after reaching home everyday from college, he kept talking about all his friends and especially, one girl in particular. He’d eat Aarti’s head as she cooked while I relaxed in the living room. “He’s just like you.” Aarti would comment as she’d serve dinner and I’d smile.
“Don’t plan on running away with any girl, Jake.” I said, starting my dinner.
“Don’t give me any ideas dad. You know I tend to try some.” He joked.
“So what is it?” asked I. “Are you in love?”
“Love?” he snapped. “What? Dad?”
“You know, you keep talking about this girl all the while. What’s her name?”
“Nina.” He answered, with his eyes on the table.
“Don’t be ashamed of what you do as long as you think you’re doing the right thing.” I said, looking up at him.
“I’m not ashamed.” He said out irritated. “She’s just a friend. It’s a pity you took her for my girlfriend.”
I didn’t know what to say. Did I offend him? Maybe. “I just thought that you were in love. Okay.”
“Come on dad. How can you come to a conclusion like that?” he started getting vexed.
“Okay. Calm down now. I just thought. I didn’t deduce anything. She’s your friend.”
“My best friend.” He corrected me.
“Okay. Your best friend.” I agreed. “Any more corrections?”
“No.” he sternly replied smiling.
To his surprise, he ended up bringing Nina to lunch one Sunday afternoon. She was elegant, had a very cautious way of speaking. She reminded me of Aarti during our college times. Aarti and I knew he was in love with her but we only waited for Jake to blurt it out to us. We spent the whole noon together and Nina mingled up with us quite easily. We loved her too. I felt that my son found the right girl for him, just like I found Aarti for myself.
“Any corrections?” I asked Jake, as we sat down for dinner that night.
“What correction?” Jake pretended.
“Cut the b*******.” I snapped, and Aarti started smiling at Jake. He couldn’t hold it. He broke out a smile too.
“Yeah I proposed to her a few weeks ago and she accepted few days back.” He revealed.
“How did you propose?” I asked him.
“I made a list of all the thing she like. She love roses but white. From the kind of music she loves, I got composed some songs on my own with my friends’ help. I made a dinner reservation at a restaurant where her favorite food tastes the best. She loves pets, so I got her a puppy.” He finished with a smirk.
“Details dumb fool.” I said.
“Okay.” He said laughing out. “I asked her a treat for her birthday and she told me she’d give. I said I’d give her a treat as a birthday gift and I took her out for dinner. I somehow managed to get the people at the restaurant play my songs and she was surprised to listen to them. I started to think that she got the idea of what was going to happen. She kept smiling to herself. We had dinner and I walked her to her home. I already made arrangements that my friends should leave the puppy in a basket lying at her gate. She took it up adorably and started playing with it. A friend sneaked on to us unnoticed by her when she was busy with the dog, handed me the flowers and disappeared, I then gave a bouquet of white roses, knelt down, at her gate and proposed to her.
‘Where did you get the flowers from?’ she asked.
‘From my heart.’ I lied and she smiled as she took them up. After a minute or two, I saw her go in and came back home. I saved my pocket money for two months to do this.”
“You should’ve asked me for money.” I said.
“No, dad. I wanted to do this myself. I mean not exactly my money, but from something which I saved.” He replied.
Aarti was in tears. She got up from chair and gave him a lovely hug. I was so glad that he did that. I don’t remember having any of these conversations with dad. I never spoke anything with him. I thought he mightn’t be interested. Well, I never tried. So he never got to know anything about me. I always talked out stuff to my mom.
Soon, it was time for Jake to be a man and I was getting him married to his girlfriend. I was never so happy before. Not even when I was marrying Aarti. I mean I was, but when compared to me getting my son married, it was an unlimited drink of happiness and joy. My mom and dad kept walking around merrily that their grandson was getting married. It was so much like heaven to see them so happy. I then realized what my father missed. All my happiness, vanished into the festive atmosphere of my son’s marriage. He missed my marriage. A father’s most important dream about his son. Getting him married. I failed to give him that everlasting memory. Tears rolled down my eyes as I watched Jake so happy.
“Are you alright?” Aarti asked me.
“Yeah. Yeah, I’m good.” I said taking her closer to my side, with my right arm over her right shoulder.
Aarti and I went to meet my mom and dad, two days after Jake was married. They were busy going through the photo album of Jake and Nina’s marriage. I stopped at the door, shocked by looking at dad and started weeping silently. Aarti who had already walked in, turned back to me. I just stood there, looking at dad, with mom beside him, and his fingers running over my face in the photo album. Tears were fighting their way out of his eyes but he held them back.
“Sam?” mom exclaimed and jumped up from the couch. I gave her a hug but with my eyes fixed steadily on dad. He got up staring at me bewildered. I let mom go free and walked to dad.
“Sam?” Aarti called in a worried tone. But I ignored her. Dad just stood there looking at me without making a move. I walked over to him slowly, then dashed into him, to give him a strong and heavy hug. He was hefty so, he was strong enough to hold me.
“I’m sorry dad.” I cried out.
“No, I’m sorry Sam.” Said he. “I couldn’t understand you.”
“I didn’t help you with that. I should’ve talked to you about it. I’m sorry dad.”
“Well, its alright. Past is long gone. I should’ve got you guys married. I was arrogant to let you leave.”
“I was so arrogant to leave.” I said back.
“Get over it. It’s just that I missed your marriage.” He cried over my shoulder.
“Find a nice bride dad. I’m ready to marry whomever you show.” I joked and Aarti slapped me on my shoulder, came to my front and gave us a hug.
“I won’t let you go. You belong to me.” She cried sounding like a child with a gentle smile on her lips.
Aarti and I moved back with mom and dad. I got back to my father from what my son was. Jake wanted to come along too, but we locked them guys up to themselves in our apartment so that they’d enjoy their newly married era. They dropped in once in a while to have fun with all the relatives and us. With so many more years left to live, we have so much laughter in the house. Dad and I went out for strolls everyday, we took care of his businesses together, he made me look into them and tried to teach me his techniques, tried to get me all the respect I deserved. He wasn’t just my dad. He was my hero and he still is.