‘You went missing, leaving her alone in this remote house for four days.’ The angry son asked his dad.
‘It is all good now. Let him come in first. He should be hungry.’ Meera tried to ease the situation.
‘When did you come? It is good to see you back.’ Murti entered the house patting his only son.
‘I’m going to get Mom with me this time. It is not safe for her here. It has never been safe for her. She is sixty-seven.’
‘Oh. Yes. I see her luggage nicely packed already.’ Murti did not show any emotions.
‘We were afraid you won't come back Murti. Your son had to come all the way from *a developed nation*’ Murti’s long time friend Narayanan was there along with the other forest department who rescued Murti and others from the landslide.
‘Then he must be sort of disappointed to see me back.’
‘It does not matter what I feel. She did not eat for four days. She did not sleep. She cried till this morning.’
‘Is that even humanly possible? — Meera, make some tea. The four days seemed endless without her tea.’ Murti giggled at his friend, collected his towel, and walked into the bathroom. Meera was already making tea in the kitchen. The son threw his hands up in despair and went into the kitchen.
‘Don’t think of any changes in the plan. We are leaving tomorrow.’ He told his mom. She kept silent. ‘Tell me something.’
‘Let me convince him once again and we will all leave.’
‘You know that won't happen. He will easily convince you.’
‘I won't come without him.’
‘I won’t leave you here either.’ The angry son left the kitchen shutting one of the doors aloud.
‘Meera! Towel!’ The old man shouted from the bathroom. She walked and knocked at the door.
‘Tell him not to break my door. Tell him that we will have a discussion about this.’
‘Okay.’ Meera said.
‘Keep the tea in low flame. I’ll be in a minute’
‘I know how to keep the tea hot.’
‘Okay.’ Murti said.
‘I have seen some land for you to grow trees. Not far from my house. You will be a good grandfather for our twin boys. Come with us.’ The son said without a bit of hope that his dad would say yes.
‘How old are they?’ Murti asked.
‘They are three.’ Meera said.
‘Three already?’ Murti exclaimed.
‘You never talk to them whenever we have video calls with Mom.’ Son said.
‘Yes. They talk really sweet.’ Meera said.
‘English?’ Murti asked.
‘No. At home, They talk in the mother tongue only.’
‘They speak both languages.’ Son added.
‘Oh. Good to hear.’
‘Come and stay with us. At least try the new place for some time.’ Son said.
‘Mmm. I took my decision when I was stuck in the forest.’ Meera stood there anxious. She knew what he would say. He continued. ‘It was uncertain If I could make it out alive. I realized I made a mistake by holding your Mom back here with me. — I want you to leave with him Meera.’
‘I’m hearing this for the first time.’
‘She won't be happy without you.’
‘What do you think Meera? What is hard for you to live with your son and his family? We both know, you always wanted this. I will adjust to the food and everything here. Narayanan’s family is here to support me as well. We should try this for some time.’
‘How long?’ Meera asked.
‘…’ Murti stayed silent.
‘Look dad. We are proud of you. You have fought big corporations from exploiting these mountains. I keep telling my colleagues about the habitats you have made for these animals. And they are happy now. The end. We have to retire at some point, Dad.’
‘I can’t come’ Murti said.
‘Why?’ The son asked.
‘I’ve got work to do.’
‘How long to finish that work?’ Meera asked softly.
‘Mom. We knew exactly how he will leave us in this difficult situation again. There is no point in talking to him.’
‘Look, I will convince your mom to come with you. I know you will keep her safe and happy.’
Meera’s tears freed themselves from her eyes.
‘Life is once Dad. Enjoy life when you have it. When we die, We can’t take anything with us. We won’t see what we spent our whole lives on. You won’t see this forest, animals, and mountains.’
‘Why are you crying? — I think you must have prepared your mind well before I showed up. — And this is not bad, right? At least I’m alive and I’ll be happy doing what I do.’ Murti asked laying in the bed.
‘Better.’ Meera answered after a brief pause.
‘I promised him I will convince you to leave with him.’
‘You already have.’
‘Okay then.’ Murti laughed. ‘So, this is it? Review time! Was it worth it? The life with me?’
‘This is not it. You are a strong man. The forest will keep you in good shape. And meanwhile, I will come up with a solution that satisfies everyone's egos.’
‘Egos. *smiles* That thing he said keeps running in my mind.’
‘That when I’m gone, I won't take anything with me. Well, I can’t take you with me too *laughs* but, that is bothering me since this morning.’
‘But you will come to the same conclusion nevertheless?’
‘Yes. My old friend used to say this. Enjoy while you can, Life is once and stuff like that. He worked under me. He did not earn much. But he spent anything he earns with his family. But, me? How many times have we gone out for a dinner? How many trips have we gone on? What have I done to my family.’
‘So, Maybe I was delusional all this time. I have failed you and this family for nothing?’
‘Okay. You can stay silent. I take that as a mixed review. Pretty average? 4/10?’
Phone call #12
‘What did you do this weekend?’ Murti asked his wife.
‘Nothing much. I went to a nearby park with the twins. I see some of your trademark expressions on your grandchildren.’
‘Haha. Really? Like what?’
‘They keep your confused face while sitting idle.’
‘Haha. I do not know. Maybe they are genuinely confused about something.’
‘No. It is you here in their faces.’
‘Oh, I met with Narayanan’s grandchildren. They look nothing like him.’
‘Maybe Narayanan’s wife sees him in their faces.’
‘Oh. Do they appreciate your cooking? How are you getting along with his wife?’
‘See. It is all fine here. No worries. No complaints. You should come here and stay at least for some time. We can go to the park. You and me. It is lovely.’
‘We will. How did your medical examinations go?’
‘It went fine. Everything is fine. You have nothing to worry about me Okay? I’m doing great here.’
Phone call #20
‘We went to the city yesterday. It was majestic. Nothing like we have ever seen. Huge buildings. Very broad roads. I’ve never seen too many people, cars, etc in one place.’
‘Oh, bigger buildings than in Kolkata?’
‘Yea, Far bigger *laughs*’
‘Happy that you are getting along well there.’
‘You did not comment on my pink dress. Didn’t it suit me? I was hesitant to buy that.’
‘It was very nice…’ Murti dragged.
‘But, I feel sad that I have never bought you a dress like that.’
‘Well. You can now.’
Phone call #27
‘You are late today.’
‘Yes. The pregnant elephant gave birth to a beautiful girl calf today.’ Murti said with pride.
‘Oh, Is it? Or you are getting bored with these evening calls?’
‘What did I tell you? If you miss the call one day, I’d assume that you are on the way to surprise me.’
‘Yea I know.’
‘If you miss the call one evening, I will decorate this home for your arrival, I will cook everything that you like and wait for you all day.’
‘Emotional blackmailer. And you know it is not new for me disappointing you.’
‘Yea. Try disappointing more.’
‘Guess what we named her? The baby elephant?’
‘Oh my god.*laughs loud* How awkward. *continues laughing*’
‘How awkward! Want to take another guess?’
‘It is Meera.’
‘Okay. Yea. I couldn’t think of any other names.’
‘She is so cute. She keeps searching for a trunk in my face.’
‘Yea yea. Grow one. Become a wild animal.’
Phone call #42
‘The government has approved for 32 animal crossing bridges throughout the highway.’ Murti said with pride.
‘Oh. That is great news. You have done it. Now come join us.’
‘Hehe. I will.’
Phone call #67
‘Today I saw a jungle safari video on the internet.’ Meera said.
‘There were few tourist vehicles waiting for the elephants to cross. A small elephant was so frightened looking at the tourists. — Its mother tried everything it can but could not make the kid to cross.’
‘I was anxiously waiting to know what would happen. How will the small elephant cross?’
‘After quite a long struggle, the person who was recording that video dropped the camera. — When he picked that up again, the small elephant had already crossed the road. — I felt very disappointed that I could not see the elephant crossing the road after spending so long caring about it.’
‘Then I remembered you. I thought, How would you feel? — You don't care if you watched the elephant crossing the road. You will just be happy that the elephant crossed the road safely.’
‘When I share with you about the beautiful places I visit here, you don’t miss being here to witness these. You are just happy that I’m seeing these. — When you die, you won’t be there to see anything. But Meera will see! Meera will see her kids grow up safely crossing the roads with your animal crossings bridges you worked hard on. With your ponds, Meera will never see her kids go thirsty. — Meera will die too. But, Meera’s kids will be there. Safe and happy.’
‘I realized, Your life will exist as long as lives on this earth exist.’
‘Big words. But, you were there Meera, all alo…’
‘Stop. You want my review, Mister?’
‘Yea… Please go ahead.’ Murti said as his throat hick-up with a little laughter.
‘Exceptionally good. — 10/10. — Will visit again forever.’
‘Good. Thank you.’ Murti laughed. ‘Then…’
‘Then??? Then!! You lazy old man always want me to come up with the conversation points. Do I look like a radio for you?’
‘You think and come up with something interesting.’
‘Umm... Okay. — Ask him to book tickets for me. I will pay him when I get there.’
‘Oh! Okay. Date?’
‘Hehe. I will ask him to check.’
‘Mm… Cook something nice. Anything is fine. I’ll bring some money. We’ll go shopping there. You know places there?’
‘I know a bit. But sure? Your animals won't miss you?’
‘No. They are too busy with their families.’
Meera laughed. Both laughed.