‘Hi Sameer, you are looking really happy today, is it love or is it dove?’ mocked my colleague as I entered my workplace.
‘Neither’, I said with a smile ‘I’m going back home for a week.’
‘Even better, enjoy the holidays.’
It was my first leave after 2 years and I was delighted. The day went as usual and I completed my work by 5 in the evening. I carried my luggage to office that day not knowing if I’d be able to finish my work early. I had forgotten my mobile charger and the battery was already a bit low. I left office and started for the bus station. In about 30 minutes I was at the bus stop. I had booked my tickets for the 7 p.m. bus and was sitting idly reading my book. Almost 1 hour passed and the bus arrived at 6:45. As I was getting up, I saw a well dressed man hurry to the ticket office. The bus cleaner took about 10 minutes to tidy the bus and by that time I called up at home and told them the bus number MH31 5055 and the time of arrival 7 am. As I was about to pick up my luggage to board the bus, I saw that man again, this time right in front of me.
‘I know I am troubling you, but I really need to get on this bus. I have an emergency and the next bus is at 10 pm. Please help me out. I would pay double the amount for the ticket, please let me travel on your seat.’
‘But even I need to be home early tomorrow’, I tried to argue.
‘I have purchased the ticket for the 10 pm bus, you can take this too.’
‘Not a bad deal’, I thought and agreed, took my fare and the 10 p.m. ticket and started reading the book again.
I had dinner and boarded the bus at 10 p.m., tuned in my IPod and went off to sleep. At about 2 a.m. the bus stopped in the jungle due to a flat tire. With nothing more to do I dozed off. In the morning I got to know that they took almost 2 hours to repair the puncture and we were about 3 hours off the scheduled time. When I reached the destination it was almost 1 in the noon.
The bus stop was walking distance from my place, so I decided to walk. When I reached home I saw a big crowd gathered around my house. A chill ran down my spine. What must have happened? Was papa alright? He didn’t keep well these days and that was one reason for me to come home. Even my younger brother rides the bike rashly? Did anything happen to him? I almost ran to my house, trying to push everyone aside as I tried to go in.
I could hear murmurs all around me.
‘He was such a good man.’ ‘How can god be so ignorant to good people?’ ‘God bless his soul.’ ‘This is such a great loss to the family.’
And suddenly I heard a shout from behind me, ‘Sameer’s here.’ There was pin drop silence for a moment and everyone turned to look at me.
The murmurs started getting louder. ‘What happened?’ I asked ‘tell me, is everyone all right?’
I glanced around the room to see my brother and my mother sitting at the far corner of the room. They stood up and ran towards me. I could see multiple emotions on their face at once. ‘What happened?’ I thought trying to clear my mind. And then I saw a small framed photograph on the table besides them. I squinted to see it clearly. It was my father’s photograph. He passed away this morning when he heard that the bus number MH31 5055 had met with an accident.
I wish I had not been ignorant and charged my mobile. I wish I had informed my family that I had changed my schedule. I wish I was responsible enough to understand why my father would always tell me ‘Keep calling, wherever you go.’
Epilogue: This story is dedicated to the several youngsters who get irritated when their parents ask them where they are. They feel the parents are not giving them the ‘FREEDOM’ they deserve. Please think twice before you switch off you mobile or ignore calls from your parents.