He liked the cold white tiles that his father had fitted during the renovation last monsoon. He was “grounded”, a pun lover would say. Even “down to earth”, others would hint.
He stroked the smooth white tile absentmindedly.
Come to think of it, that was probably the only thing that he had ever liked about his father – his impeccable choice and wisdom while making decisions both personal and professional. He felt proud of the way his father had made a man out of himself. An orphan who did not even have enough money to buy bun maska for lunch, had transformed himself into a millionaire with a sprawling apartment in the most posh area of the city. His father sure was a winner. Appreciable and hardworking.
Unfortunately, that was also the exact quality that caused him grief during his growing up days. His father breathing down his neck as he attempted to gather his thoughts on whether he liked something or not, wanted to do something or not. His father had an opinion on everything, and he thought it his right and duty to guide his son on the path that he chose for him. After all, he was older, wiser and more learned in all worldly ways. Hadn’t he proved that by being what he was – successful and respected?
He noticed a small crack in the adjacent tile. His father would flip if he set eyes on it. He could not bear anything that was not “just perfect”.
“No wonder he hates me”, he thought. “I am about as un-perfect as I could possibly be.”
He had failed his father. He was not a bright student, nor an exceptional sportsman. He had no notable hobbies and the only time he had ever been recognized was when he had uttered his father’s name. “Oh, you’re J. Mehta’s son? You are very lucky, boy.”
He did not want to be lucky.
Sure, he loved his father and he would have liked to grow up and be like him, but all through his life, he had only been told that he would never turn out well. “If you do this, you’ll end up in the gutter.” “Don’t do that, do you want to go back to living in the slums?” “How can you do this? Is this what we brought you into this world for?”
Tears had long deserted him. He wiped his nose – looked like he was about to catch a cold lying on the chilly floor.
He got up and wore his shoes. A nice run in the rain would probably clear the cobwebs of old memories from his brain.
As he took the stairs two at a time, he wondered if he had shut the door behind him. He didn’t want to give his father another reason to get disappointed with him.
He shook his head realizing he probably just had. No point going back up to face the music right away. It could wait until he returned.
As he turned the corner of the alley, he ran into Zubeida, his neighbour. She was wearing a pink raincoat and riding her Activa home. They’d never really spoken to each other, except a mumble or two, the few times she’d dropped into his house to borrow some sugar or milk.
He broke into a trot when he suddenly heard a crash. He was not really a compassionate person, but curiosity got the better of him and he turned back to the source of the sound.
A pink raincoat was trying to get off the ground.
He shook his head and went to help.
As he gave her a hand, Zubeida looked up to see her savior.
He remembered nothing of what happened next, apart from the bluest pair of eyes he had ever seen in his life.
“Thanks,” she murmured and got onto her unsteady bike. As she rode off towards the building, he looked at her flying raincoat entranced.
Those blue eyes would haunt him forever…