Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Chapter 5: The Gulmohar Tree

There are some places which just belong to you. It could be your balcony, a garden near your house, a bench in your apartment compound or your Rest room. You should own one such place which is entirely, dedicatedly yours, where you can cry, laugh, live, dream, feel, express and sit with someone you love the most.
That one place.. you should have…
***
“Chachu, what are you doing here?”, Rafey asked, finding his uncle sitting on the stairs of the chawl they stayed in.
“Waiting for you my son”, Mansoor sounded sardonic.
“Does it make any sense?”, Rafey murmured heading towards the house.
“Crack pot, you Jack ass. You did not realize, you took the entire bunch of keys with you along with the keys of the bike”, Mansoor yelled.
“Why did you give me the entire set then? Didn’t you know that you had your pair of house keys in them?”, Rafey sounded a bit agitated.
“Rafey Miyaa, what’s wrong with you. Temperature seems pretty high. You’ve never yelled like this before”, Mansoor commented again sarcastically.
“Was I offensive, Chachu jaan? I am so sorry.”, Rafey apologized, realizing that he had sounded a bit rude.
“Ya, You idiot. You sure did. Now let me into my house”, Mansoor rushed in pushing Rafey.
“Stop swearing Chachu. Please”, Rafey pleaded sullenly.
“Ok. I won’t love you. I promise” Mansoor said. He added, “Let’s go to Kareem’s today. It was your first day at work and I am so proud of you. Let’s go celebrate”, Mansoor offered, realizing that Rafey was sulking.
“No. I am not hungry. You please go and have your dinner”, Rafey said.
“Who sleeps empty stomach son. Let’s go. And talk to me about it, ok?”, Mansoor said as he walked out, separating the bike keys from the house keys.
“About what?” Rafey looked at him in surprise wondering whether Mansoor knew what had gone wrong during the day.
“About what went wrong”, Mansoor spoke what was going on in Rafey’s mind.
‘’How do you know?”, Rafey asked.
“We may not have a blood relation, my son, but I have seen you grow from a little boy to a strong handsome man. I know you… really well..Asshole”, Mansoor added as he realized he was getting emotional.
Rafey changed his uniform, wore an afghani kurta and went with Mansoor to relish on some Mutton Kebabs.
***
RJ was meandering in her room when Mrs. Ahuja came in.
“Raji, beta, I have told the maid to come early in the morning so that it isn’t a trouble for you”, Mrs. Ahuja said.
“Right mom”, RJ replied nonchalantly.
“Why don’t you come for the wedding too?”, her mother asked.
“Maa, I don’t get offs. Plus this new show is really being received well, so I have to be regular. I cannot record for 10 days and come with you to Meerut”, RJ said.
“Ok. But do take care of yourself. Eat well. Don’t skip meals”, Mrs, Ahuja said, as she wrapped up her stuff and packed her husband’s luggage. She added, “What will you cook? Do you know what is placed where in the kitchen?”
“Mom, Don’t worry”, RJ said, thought for a while and added, “Otherwise I will order Pizza” she said and smiled.
“Ya, whatever. But do take care”, said Mrs. Ahuja as she asked the watchman to call for a taxi.
“Mom”, RJ called.
“Ya, tell me”, asked RJ’s mother still gathering all stuff.
“You remember Shareeq Miya?”, she said.
“Ofcourse beta”, she replied.
“Where is Rafey these days?”, RJ immediately jumped to the question she’d been meaning to ask.
“He stays with Mansoor. You remember Mansoor who used to work in the garage near the park with Shareeq?”, Mrs. Ahuja added.
“Umm. I don’t quite remember him mumma. But do you know how Rafey is?”, she asked.
“No beta. Been a long time. Your papa got busy and did not talk to Mansoor in years. I have no idea about Rafey either”, she replied.
“Ohh.. I see”, RJ said, “Where was I when Rafey left?”, RJ asked.
“You were at Naani’s place, when Mansoor took him to Allahabad. He wanted him to study there. But then they came back here, because, Mansoor couldn’t leave his job. Rafey stayed with him”, Mrs. Ahuja replied.
“Do you know where they stay?”, RJ asked.
“Ok, now I don’t need to answer any of your questions RJ RJ, because Mr. Ahuja is fortunately on time today and I got to go and catch the flight. Ok?”, Mrs. Ahuja kissed RJ, carried her luggage and left.
RJ wondered why all the years she didn’t miss Rafey at all. After all, he was her best friend – Her first ever best friend.
***
After having a sumptuous meal at Kareem bhai’s hotel, Rafey went to his favorite place with his favourite person on the planet.
“Chachu, Let’s go to the park for sometime”, he proposed.
“Yeah, sure, Gul must be wondering, what took you so many days to come to her”, he teased.
“ Chachu, its just a tree. Please. You are talking as if Gul is some girl friend of mine”, Rafey defended himself.
“I pray, stupid, that you have one as soon as possible. Till when will you sit under a tree and share your life with it?”, Mansoor taunted.
“Chacha.. Ssshhh.. Come. Sit”, Rafey signaled Mansoor to sit on the iron chair while he sat on the pavement feeling the whooshing sound the tree made.
“So tell me what went wrong today? Why were you so upset?”, Mansoor asked.
“Chacha, I did not know that they gave the Pizza free if the delivery came after 30 minutes. And the delivery boy has to compensate for the delay”, Rafey informed Mansoor.
“So you mean, you delivered the pizza late at the customers?”, Mansoor guessed.
“Hmm”, Rafey concurred, as he looked up at the gulmohar tree trying to spot the beautiful orange flowers. But it was too dark to make them out.
“They made you pay? On your first day ?” Mansoor asked.
“Not exactly. I am not sad about that”, Rafey said.
“Then..what are you sad about? Was the customer very rude?”, Mansoor asked.
“Mmm…you know Chachu I really don’t care”, Rafey replied.
“Then what is it?”, Mansoor asked giving it up, “Are you in love with the customer. Did sparks fly when you saw her….or him..”, Mansoor wondered the way he was framing sentences and felt foolish for making that statement. He laughed as he ended his statement.
“Chahcu. Enough”, Rafey chuckled.
“Then, tell me”, Mansoor insisted.
“You remember Ahuja Aunty, Raji.. where Abba worked”,Rafey asked.
“Sure beta, I do remember.. why?”, Mansoor asked.
“I met Raji today. Rajshri Ahuja”, Rafey said, and slipped into an imagination, recollecting the days when they were 6 and so much together.