Rajagopal sweated under his safari shirt , he took his handkerchief from his pocket and wiped his brow.
A faint smile ironed out the furrows in his cheek ,
he looked at the rear view mirror of the car ,
not bad for someone approaching seventy five ,
he still looked agile and active though the few grey wisps adorning his forehead had lost their battle and given way to its advance into his scalp The thin line of grey over his lip gave him the dignified air ,
Mythili never liked it “ why don’t you shave it off ? It is so anemic it looks like an apology over your mouth, he smiled again
Mythili was always like that her touts were sharp but funny.
Great day to think of her of course
how many years was it since she left him alone in the world with a responsibility as homework?
Precisely thirty, hmmm time has passed indeed
Kannan his Kannan was just nine when it happened just four years after Kannan came home!
And now he was thirty nine
He would have changed of course two years since he last saw him
“Appa Iam coming home .”
he had called suddenly two days back
Rajagopal couldn’t believe his ears
Kannan was a different person after marriage.
Cant blame him people change with responsibilities but Kumudha Kannans wife too had a hand in it .
He had selected her for his Kannan ,going to Dindivanam to see her and fix the marriage, very good family, nice house well educated good looking , ideal for his boy and all had gone well for the first few years .
He had flown to Detroit where Kannan worked twice ,the first time the welcome was overwhelming ,but the second time when he stayed a few days more not wanting to leave his twin grandchildren ,Kumudha turned her colors like a chameleon,
her remarks were like sharp barbs and Kannan was tongue tied
Rajagopal knew when to return and he did that.
After that there was a long silence from Kannan just the occasional phone calls when he would mumble of being eternally busy and enquire on his health and sign off formally .
His lonely nights often went back to Kannan and Kannan.
It was dark that night, pitch dark when Kannan was found by him.
the night God had given him Kannan
The train was once again shunted to a dead end,
Goods train always deserved only so much.
Rajagopal had been a railway guard for years and this was in the sixties when steam engines populated the Indian Railways,
he would spend lonely nights in his last carriage as the train clicked and clacked, there was no electricity in the carriage those days and there was a lamp in it and also the huge guard’s lantern.
Every time he neared a non stopping station he would go out into the balustrade behind and wave his light to the chugging fiery behemoth far ahead as it forged past dark fields ,thick forests and ghat sections ,he would see approaching stations where a signal man would be waiting with a blazing torch of fire and a huge ring outstretched in his hands .the engine driver would throw the ring or key he carried onto the platform and when he reached the signal man he would pluck the ring out of him in precision ,
soon he in the last carriage would pass the signal man and wave him the lamp in his hand and then enter the darkness again .
The morning would see him lumber out exhausted to go home to his Mythili but with all this he liked his nights all the more after she left him for then he could think of her, gazing into the starry horizon which lit the dark sky like diamonds,
at times overpowering clouds would gather and the stars and to him his Mythili wouldfade away into the mysterious beyonds .
Hadn’t he brought up his Kannan all through this ?
how many years of his love and labor on his dear boy?
The boy who was his gift from the unforgettable night that day .
It was still dark but midnight had passed and the next day begun an hour before .
The train slowly sidled up the side rails ,
it was a kilometer from Jolarpet junction and he could see the lights ahead ,probably the down 29 ( Cochin express ) was late and that is why his train was sidled .
Goods train had the least priority ,
he was right , he could see the booming sound and see the bright light and the express thundered past him quickly .
It had begun to rain and the trickle slowly increased in intensity ,he heard a whimper under his bench in the cabin .
He was alarmed
He took his flashlight and shone it and he saw two soft wet eyes peering at him .
“ Hey who is that yaaru ? ,”
The little boy started crying , he was just four and a tiny one in a ragged trouser and a torn shirt
pathetic and innocent.
Like a lost kitten !
“Yaarupa inga epiddi ?,Rajagopal was softer this time .
Immmmimmmm weeping was his only answer
Pasikuda ? (hungry ? )
Ammam (Yes )
Sherry station varattum (ok let the station come)
Melavanthu paduthukko (come and lie down in the bench)
He gave him the banana he had and the boy relished it ,sniffling in between
“Veedu enga ? .”( where is your house ? )
“Appa amma .”(father mother?)
“ Amma illa vera amma adikkum .”(no mother, have one mother who beats)
Rajagopal could guess it , he had a cruel stepmother
He knew later that Kanans mother had starved him for days and his drunken father would beat him black and blue the boy had run in the rain along the railway line in the pitch darkness and ended up in his carriage
Is this what they call destiny ?
It was of course destined that Kannan would become his son
It was also written that his Mythili would leave him shortly after Kannan came.
Myhtili had loved Kannan at first sight .
He had brought the little one home like a new pet he bought from the shop one day .
That night when he reached Jolarpet station ,he had asked Kanaran the malayalee porter what he should do with the boy ,they took him to the canteen and fed him later kanaran made him sleep till morning gave him a bath and gave him a new dress which he brought from his quarters nearby the dress of kanarans son fitted Kannan like a T .
Already he looked like the handsome boy he would become neat and shining and happy.
They asked him tell us son how do we reach your house
“No no I don’t want to go .”the weeping started again finally with the advise of the railway police inspector who took them in his jeep to the local police station they reported about the lost and found boy and went to his house ,
The inspector strictly reprimanded the tart of a woman who was Kannans stepmother when she started cursing the boy a soon as she saw him.
Rajagopal was really upset while the boy clung to his shirt and weeping that he wanted to come with him.
Varadachari the advocate who was his neighbor went with him the next time and they found the mother and father of Kannan at home Varadachar asked them whether they would give Kannan for adoption legally to Rajagopal as they were childless, the drunk immediately started shouting but the wily women saw money behind it and said she could think about it of course everything had a price .
Really does love have a price ?
you foolish woman , Rajagopal had thought then .
Days followed while they haggled over Kannan and dejected Rajagopal would come home tired ,
he would say Mythili it will never happen he will never become ours I know
Believe in God he will come to us you wait and see she would reply for by now she too had started loving the sweet boy,
And what she said came true .
Kannan was their son and he was like a prince in the house the darling of neighbors and the envy of all his friends.
It was a heavenly period for Rajagopal as he came home to see Kannan running to him and hugging him .
He was a bright boy and he stood first in school too .
Rajagopal would flush with pride as Kannans teachers would praise his cleverness.
Five years rolled by and Kannan was in his sixth standard when Mythili left them,
he never knew a fever could kill somebody but it did his Mythili !
And then it was him and his Kannan
Both for each other
A tear trickled down his cheek .
“Enna sir azuvaringa airport vandidichu .”
(what sir crying airport reached)
this from the taxi driver.
He wiped his face and smiled
“ Onnuilla pa santoshathila .’(out of happiness I cried)
Kanna come back my boy …..