I have known Ravi uncle since I was in class 4. He wasn’t just ‘my best friend’s dad’ but also someone who was full of life, always cheerful, someone I always looked forward to speaking to. He was one of those who would talk to me with a lot of attention and affection. His eagerness and gusto was contagious and he still lives by the phrase ‘young at heart’. He retired from the corporate world when he was 58 to pursue his love for language and literature. He is now a freelancer and translates books from Marathi to English and vice – versa for popular publishing houses. Before retiring, he worked as the General Manager for one of India’s leading automobile brands. His work experience of 40 years has taken him around the globe.
His daughter, Anuja, and I have been friends for 16 years now! As a child, I used to go over to their house often, usually on Saturdays, when school would get over earlier than the rest of the week, and spend the afternoon talking, eating and watching TV. Together, we would watch latest Indi-pop numbers and discuss them in great detail! I particularly remember spending hours in front of their TV in a big living room in their very cute house in Haldwani, Nainital.
When their family moved to another city when I was in class 7, my world came falling apart. Those days, ‘goodbyes’ did mean that we won’t be in touch constantly, unlike today. We kept our friendship alive with letters through the years. As fate would have it, Anuja and I moved to Pune 5 years later and nothing had changed between us. We picked up from where we had left and in the last 7 years, we have only grown stronger and closer than ever before.
Recently, Anuja informed me how she was planning a surprise for her parents. A big surprise gift! I was very excited to know the plan and eagerly awaited to know how her parents would react. And below is what Ravi uncle wrote – his reaction to the gift their loving daughters had given to their parents 🙂
I was asking my barber to make futile attempts to put back color into my already sparse, graying and receding hairline, thereby forcing him to make poor attempts to give my face a youthful lift when my cell phone rang. It had been quite some time ever since I had retired that someone had felt the pressing urgency to call me while I was at the barber shop. Pre-retirement, place was no taboo for people to call me on my cell while I was anywhere, be it the loo or the barbers place or the crematorium… and therefore it brought back a bit of misplaced sense of thrill and excitement in an otherwise mundane and so called call-less, boring life. Anyway, I am sorry I drifted.
It was my wife on the line and asking, “Did you order errrrrrrr a TV?”; I blurted out a response in confused negation, “Wwwwhat? How can I ever do that? That too without asking you, something I have never dared to do in my entire span of married life? Of course, I have not.”
“The guy has been hanging around and insisting”, she said.
A train of thoughts rushed through my in-an-otherwise-haircut-and-dye-occupied-hollow-of mind. The thought of all those “You have won 1 million GB£ etc” came rushing to me and I started wondering if the guy had come home asking for 1000 GB£ as an advance for handling expenses with a lure of giving a 5 inch TV set.
“What do I do?” The question broke my reverie. “It is in the name of Anuja, our daughter.” Absentmindedly, I responded, “Yes, I know, Anuja is our daughter!”
“Stop being funny, finish whatever you are doing and come home soon.” she said. “Why don’t you call Anu and ask her?” I said and hung up. In a few minutes the phone rang again. She said, “Yes, she has ordered it. It is a surprise Diwali gift from her to both of us.” I could not believe this and rushed home.
A huge TV carton and a flat 42 inch TV as large as a movie screen were standing there in an unpacked condition. The service engineer was waiting for my arrival.
The new TV looked magnificent. By its side, on the floor stood our seventeen year old TV, my companion and dear friend while its seat was occupied by its opulent and magnificent younger brother.
I was touched, baffled, happy, ecstatic for the wonderful gift my daughter had given us.
The service engineer installed it in a jiffy. Even before I could give a proper farewell to my old friend, he had gone with that poor pal tugging him along with a few teardrops in its eyes…
This friend of mine had given the family numerous hours nay days and months of classic entertainment. The great Doordarshan episodes, concerts, travelogues and movies. In far flung town like Haldwani in Uttaranchal he had filled the cold winter evenings with laughter, intrigue, music, melodrama and video games played between the daughters and mother with my being a dumb company. He had been a true friend. Before his cousin DVD player arrived, coupled with a Sony Walkman, it had filled my evenings with concerts by my dear singers like Bhimsen Joshi, Bismillah Khan and numerous instrumental classics and westerns,movies and games. He had been a witness to the video games, old episode, the ‘Dekh Bhai Dekhs’, and then the audio CDs played on its Bazooka system, video cassettes and CDs of various marriages and programs. He was a witness to sad demise of Mother Teresa and Lady Diana. He had seen India winning T 20 and one day international. It had seen Obama becoming the President. Seventeen years is a long span in history and he had all the events in his brain, oops stomach.. oops circuitry.
I still remember his entry into our home. Just before buying it and dispatching it to Haldwani from Ghaziabad, I had gone to the Videocon godown and equipped with my knowledge of TV picture tubes, I had selected a TV made from Thomson, an Italian picture tube. That was some project indeed!
He had served us well and even at the ripe age of seventeen- an old age indeed for a TV, it was still going great guns. It had played a bit truant from time to time making me wonder if I should sell it off but it had always bounced back with great fervor with a very primary health care. I was used to his company –emotionally and otherwise.
However, within me I always nurtured a desire to have a newer brother of his. With umpteen features of sound, compatibility, quality and everything that was modern in that technology. That was my dream indeed but I was happy in not turning it into a reality.
Therefore when this rich brother of his arrived, I had mixed feelings. The first and foremost feeling was that of immense pride in my daughters (Yes daughters! I later came to know that it was a joint coup of the two sisters, so flawlessly executed, with no idea, guesses whatsoever in our minds!). Then I was happy for the arrival of the young chap, for all its excellence and magnificence. And lastly a bit of remorse for such a sudden exit for our old trusted family member. The entire flashback of events consisted of images, sounds and celebrations. And he was leaving us.
But I was glad he was leaving us hale and hearty and probably enliven another family – especially a family which needed it much more than us and they were going to get their money’s worth. He was still walking, talking and singing! I was happy because I could not see him defunct and being thrown away as dead. I could not see him die.
While all this was stirring my mind, the new and young lad was probably watching me and saying, “I too can be as good”. I pulled out a few CDs and played them on the new TV. The past glory had got exemplified. It was like seeing ‘Hum Dono’ in color instead of black and white. The old moments had come alive, far more brilliant, colorful, youthful and cheerful –like my daughters, like the future. This is what the new lad said, “I know how you feel. I will also be as faithful, more dutiful and will not let you miss him.” And I had reason to believe this.
I smiled. I was grateful to the children, for their thoughtfulness, for the element of springing a surprise and also not let me miss my old friend and the old times.
And therefore, I wish you well my dear chap! You will brighten up your new home. You will be like a cheerful, hale and hearty grand dad with many years left in you – albeit like me, eh!
Good bye buddy!