It hasn’t rained much, a reality that seems to have eluded one odd frog residing close by my window who croaks his little lungs out all night long. It is four past two, four minutes have gone by since I last checked the clock and nothing interesting has happened.
There is no electricity, there rarely is in my village. I am sitting on my chair by the window, staring at the darkness and listening to the breeze, the frog and the sound of my own breathing. It is now ten past two and nothing interesting has happened.
It is strange how I usually feel this urge, at night, to do things that I cannot do at night and would not do during the day. I read the messages on my phone. I have literally memorized all eleven of them, even the newest that came two days ago; “Happy birthday dad”, it reads. Why didn’t he add an emoticon? Is it too much of an effort to add a smiley when wishing your dad? Was it a saved template? Didn’t he even have the courtesy to type three words for his dad on his birthday?
It’s quarter past two and nothing interesting has happened.
I switched the phone off, I do not want its battery to run dry. You don’t want people to not be able to reach you because your phone is off. I will switch it on at eight in the morning, hopefully its battery would last till four, that is when I can charge it for an hour. I remember how I once kept reading the messages on my phone again and again and the battery dried out. My phone was off till 4 pm that day, almost a year ago. Evidently both my daughter and son tried calling me but couldn’t reach me. Never have I let my phone’s battery run dry since that unfortunate day.
I tried calling my son two days ago, I guess he was busy somewhere. But he remembered my birthday and sent me the birthday greeting. I haven’t talked to my daughter for six months. Last time we talked, she told me how she had tried calling me one day but my phone was off. I figured it must have been that unfortunate day when my phone’s battery ran out. It is half past two and someone is knocking at my door.
It is 7 in the morning and something very interesting has happened.
I went to answer the door wondering and excited. I don’t usually get visitors except the nice boy who brings me a meal a day, and I don’t often visit anyone.
It was a tall man, not very young and not too old either. He had a peculiar demeanor. He did not look directly at me even when I opened the door. I asked him what he wanted and he asked me to let him in, which I welcomingly did. I only had one chair so being a good host – something I still managed to remember – I offered we both sit on the floor, so we did.
I inquired again about the purpose of his visit and he said he was lost. He had forgotten his way and had ended up in my village by mistake. He had asked a couple of other folks to take him in for the night, but all had refused. Since my house was last in the lane, he thought he would give it a shot. I told him I had food, the young lad brought me my meal and I had this peculiar feeling that I would have company, so I saved some. I brought him some food and we sat down by the window. The frog had gone silent, we chatted.
Me: Where are you from?
Guest: I live some 100 miles from here. I am searching for my father who left our village seven days ago. My uncle lives in a village around here, that is where I intended to go but lost my path.
Me: Doesn’t your father have a phone? or your uncle?
Guest: My uncle does but I don’t.
Me: It is strange to have lost your way, haven’t you ever been to your uncle’s village before?
Guest: I visited him once when I was 7 years old. That is when my father fell sick. He does not remember anything, forgets who he is, or who I am. I have been by his side for the past 30 years. My uncle took him to the city hospitals but he told me we could not afford the treatment, plus the doctors said there wasn’t much hope for his recovery. My uncle kept sending us money and then a few years ago the money stopped coming. I wanted to go to his village to ask him about it but couldn’t leave my father alone. Last week my father disappeared. He has done this a few times but always returns within a few hours or we find him within 24 hours. I have been searching for him for seven days now, but there is no sign of him.
Me: Don’t you have any brothers? Where is your mother?
Guest: My mother died when I was very young. I had one brother, my uncle took him to his village. I haven’t seen him since.
Me: What about the people at your village, friends?
Guest: We don’t have any friends. Most people make fun of me for being….different. They call me “Jhalla”.
Me: You must still be hungry…
Me: Well we will have to wait till morning I guess.
Guest: I guess.
Me: So how was your journey? Did you travel the 100 miles by foot?
Guest: No. I stole someone’s bike.
Me: Stealing is bad you know.
Guest: I am just borrowing, I will return it once I find my father.
Me: Who taught you how to ride a bike?
Guest: I learned it myself, by watching other riders.
Me: So tell me about your father. How much do you love him?
Guest: I love him a lot, he is all that I have in this world. If I don’t find him, I will die.
Me: One should, one should love his father like that. Don’t worry, you will find him. I am sure he loves you too.
Guest: I don’t know. Sometimes I wonder if he even knows who I am.
Me: I am sure he does. No matter what the illness, a father cannot forget his children. Children may forget their father but a father just can’t forget his children.
He lay down on the floor and started telling me stories of his father. I placed my pillow under his head and he went to sleep.
I woke up at the sound of knocking at my door. It was quarter to seven. It was my neighbor.
Neighbor: Is he here?
Neighbor: I am sorry he keeps bothering you, I guess he loves coming here.
Me: Yes he does, I like him coming here too. It is what I look forward to every night. He is a very imaginative young man, despite his condition. And he is the only company I have. He likes to play pretend, we both do.