Who doesn’t want to hold on? We do move on most of the times, but sometimes we cling. Cling on to memories, cling on to something, an object. Only because that object reminds us of something, or has memories of someone.
Has it not happened to you, that when you connected with an old friend after 15-20 odd years on social media, you remember those special moments, people or objects that you shared?
I am not going to get overtly philosophical anymore. Instead, introduce you to the protagonist of the following story, Ganga Prasad Shukla.
Ganga Prasad Shukla was fondly addressed as GPS by his colleagues at the SBI Meerut branch. However, when he was working, GPS did not have the more popular meaning, that it has now, that is Global Positioning System.
Shuklaji had grown to the senior most position in the branch and earned a glass walled cabin for himself. From his cabin, he kept an eye on what was happening across the bank office.
GPS was now a widower and 71 years old. He kept himself fit by washing his own clothes, cooking his own food and a bit of gardening. However, his memory had started troubling him. Sometimes, he soaked his clothes in soap water and forgot to wash them. And when the maid, Malti discovered this and brought it to her master’s notice, GPS started alleging that Malti was doing this to get back at him. Getting back for not raising her salary.
One day, when Pankaj, GPS’s son visited him, Malti wanted to submit her resignation.
‘No, Sir…..the ultimate was when Dadu(grandpa) accused me of stealing onions from the garden. He says that I did it because the prices of onions are too high in the market.’
Pankaj’s 6-year-old son, Bunty affectionately addressed his grandpa as Dadu. When Malti joined the Senior Shukla’s house for work, she started calling him Dadu too.
Pankaj signaled her to get back to work and walked up to his father.
‘Father why don’t you come and live with us in Delhi? You can share the room with Bunty.’
‘No beta(son). How can I leave all this, the garden and…’?
‘Don’t worry. I will ask Malti to come and water the plants.’
‘That thief?” GPS became animated.
‘Sssh. Father why don’t you come for a month and… don’t you want to spend more time with Bunty? He misses you so much.’
GPS softened up at the mention of his grandson. Bunty had some speech delay which was detected. But GPS brushed the doctor’s diagnosis as utter nonsense. He spent 3 months with Bunty. When Bunty had picked up words faster in those three months than the first 3 years of his life, GPS felt a sense of achievement and returned to Meerut.
Before leaving Delhi, he smirked and commented to his son, ‘Go and tell that children’s doctor that his diagnosis was utter bullshit. God knows where these so-called specialists, charging ransom and don’t know a thing, crop up from. His father must have paid donation and…’
Pankaj did not disagree with his father, as he was silently indebted to him.
‘I tell you, handling a child needs a lot of time, love and patience. And that doctor does not even see a patient for more than 5 minutes.’
‘Father, we are getting late. Do you want to miss the train?”
‘Ohh, no, no. let’s hurry.’ He quickly went to the room where Bunty was sleeping and tugged in a Rs.50 note in his hand. That was his goodbye blessing for the little boy.
‘One minute, let me check if I have taken my silver glass.’
GPS had a silver glass, which was like a child to him. He loved it, cleaned it every day till it sparkled and even talked to it when he was alone. He could not imagine a life without it. GPS’s mornings used to start with a leaf of Tulsi (Basil) and some water in his silver glass. He had even named his glass ‘Chandu’.
‘Is Bunty ok?’
GPS was wondering the purpose of his son’s invitation.
‘Yeah, he is absolutely fine.’
So, GPS decided to go to Delhi to be with his grandson more than anyone or anything else.
‘Son, the pollution levels have gone up looks like. Haven’t they started some alternate days’ scheme…don’t think that would make much difference, though.’
GPS was greeted by his daughter-in-law, Neetu, who usually spoke less and his grandson. His face lit up when he met Bunty.
Dadu was shown his room, the kitchen and the washroom. He needed to know the areas which would feel his presence every day, without fail.
‘So, Father, Bunty will return at 2 pm. Please open the door for him. The cook would have kept his food ready for him.’
‘Oh, don’t worry.’
GPS had missed his morning Tulsi water tete-a-tete with Chandu because he was in the train.
He completed the other rituals. Cooked some khichdi and proceeded for bath and washing his clothes.
‘Big Sir, I have finished my work. Please lock the door.’ Said the Cook.
GPS locked the door and continued with what he was doing.
He was a stickler with his meal timings. So, sharp 11.30 am was time for lunch.
He always gave a minimum of 15 minutes for the initial part of digestion. Meanwhile, he picked up a newspaper that lay on the table.
But he was extremely tired from the journey. He dozed off.
He woke up startled when it was 1.45 pm.
‘Still 15 minutes for Bunty to return. Let me take Chandu out and clean that chap. He will be ready for tomorrow morning.’
GPS beamed with pride, when his silver glass shone after the cleaning ritual. Just like a father would be, to see his child, neatly and well groomed.
He unzipped his bag, took out Chandu and kept it on Bunty’s study table. Then he tried to take out ‘Silvo’, the liquid cleaning agent that he used for his silver glass. He groped every corner of his bag. Next, he took out all his clothes just to be sure if Silvo hid in between his clothes. He had forgotten that the cleaning agent had got over two days ago.
‘Sigh! How will I clean Chandu now?
Just then he remembered, that his wife used to clean the silverware at home with a little bit of Colgate.
He used the teeth cleaning twig, called ‘Daantun’ and Bunty used some fancy kids’ toothpaste.
So, GPS decided to check Pankaj’s bathroom. He found the rescuer, the cleaning agent for Chandu. Colgate toothpaste it was!
He reached for a toothbrush and happily started cleaning Chandu.
Ding dong. Ding dong. The doorbell bell did not seem to stop ringing.
GPS flummoxed and rushed to open the door.
Pankaj stood with Bunty.
‘Pankaj beta, all ok? Did you go to Bunty’s school to fetch him?’
Pankaj seemed infuriated.
‘Papa it is 2.30 pm now. Bunty kept ringing the doorbell for long. He then went to the neighbor’s house and called me. Luckily, I was in this area meeting a client.’
‘And what is this mess on your kurta?’
GPS looked at the mess he wore on his sparkling white kurta. It contrasted.
‘Papa, all I asked you was to open the door at 2 pm for Bunty. Can we not depend on you for this one little thing?’ Pankaj’s voice reflected irritation.
‘Beta, I was only cleaning Chandu in the bathroom and did not hear the doorbell.’
‘For a petty glass, you made my son wait outside for so long?’
Pankaj walked up to his bathroom and lifted his palm to his forehead as a reaction.
GPS had used the Colgate toothpaste, but forgot to put the cap back. And worse, he had picked Neetu’s toothbrush.The grey coloured mess that resulted from the cleaning, was all over the wash basin.
Pankaj saw the reason for all the chaos and mess, sparkling as it stood on the dining table. He walked up to it, picked it up and banged it hard on the floor. Chandu received a big dent.
Pin drop silence followed.
GPS walked slowly and picked up Chandu with shaking hands.
He mustered up some courage.
‘Beta. Please book me a ticket in today’s evening train.’
Bunty walked up to Dadu and hugged him tight.
‘Dadu don’t leave me and go.’
‘Dadu has to go back. He is old now and making big mistakes.’
Pankaj had calmed down a little by then.
‘But Papa, why is this silver glass so important to you. Is it more important than us?’
‘Chandu has been with me ever since I was a child. It nourished me with water when I was small.It still does and it is my duty to take care of it. My father, your grandfather had bought it for me. And my mother used to give me water in it every day. It is through Chandu that I feel connected to them even now.’
GPS turned his back and proceeded to the room where his bag lay. Tears rolled down his eyes as he hugged his silver glass close to his heart.
The old man stuck to his word and returned home with his silver child.