Monsoon magic

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
Chasing the dream of an Indian middle class household, in the backdrop of monsoon.
A father's obsession,a son with a rebel streak, and caught between two worlds,a homemaker's angst Finally, a monsoon, that weaves magic....

Submitted: July 08, 2017

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Submitted: July 08, 2017

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Monsoon magic.....

 

It was the first week of June, and Panikker caught  the first whiff of monsoon. Faint echoes of the distant roll from the ocean ,an odd clap of thunder ,with rain clouds playing hide and seek.It seemed to conspire and build up all the familiar sights, smell and sounds  that still feasted on parched senses. A cold gust that blew in from Kovalam beach carried with it moist hints of rain as it raced north, stirring  hopes of  instant relief from scorching  May. Is it dispelling doubts over one more spell ? wondered retired headmaster Krishna Panikker, as he stretched out languid, on his easy chair.

A muted TV in the living room corner played out  reverberating ad themes of leading  umbrella brands, even as Krishna Panikker slipped in to reverie. Like it or not, patience is a virtue  and one had to bide, till one toned up for the morning news hour. Monsoons came and sped away with  such tedious inevitability, in living rooms too.  Ads that carried fleeting images of kids  dancing down  a cobbled pathway while unfurling in kaleidoscopic whirls, umbrellas of every hue. "Move over, staid black ones', this one screamed in silence. Funbrellas and reversible types that protect you, be it  sun or rain and even while you ease in to your car, they are all here to stay. For fair measure, they even had a five folder for the man on the street . Yes, they were all spread out against the sky, just like life's choices, easy to clasp, or so it seemed.

 With meticulous care, he had chosen Shankarnagar, near Tiruvallom, a non-descript suburb away from the bustle of sprawling Thiruvananthapuram to settle down. Save for a niggling back problem, he had no serious health concerns after facing all the rigors and outrageous fortunes of  a school teacher's life. Still, when one rewinds, who will nurse the angst within? Who will fill the empty nest?

  Did something  go strangely awry with Ramesh's career choice, or for that matter, with his own best laid plans ? He felt a faint chord of dissonance strike somewhere, out of sync, like an old world mechanical wall clock that dotted the living room. Rugmini , his wife and  homemaker to boot, had always provided silent support and strength  for protective parenting. In the years spent on teaching, he had quietly soaked in the accomplishments of  all his blue eyed boys. There was Vijay ,for one, with an IIT, IIM tag, heading a successful startup in the Valley, Dr Madhav, from AIIMS, a successfulSenior consultant in NHS, UK, John Thomas, a career diplomat in the IFS, the gallery of the chosen ones, where he figured his son, Ramesh should belong.

When did he harbour illusions of Ramesh getting in to the elite civil services? Khalil Gibran's lines of 'your children, not being your children' did ring echoes of reason, haunted him at times. Yet, somewhere deep within, there lived a father's obsession. The great Indian middleclass dream, one in which life and dreams were woven in perfect black and white squares. Ramesh had firmly resolved to say no, even as a teen. His heart was always set on pursuing liberal arts. No, not for him the lal bhattis or wailing sirens, the salutes and going overboard on attention to protocol. To him, it merely meant the trappings of power,the relics of a colonial past. In his dreams,Ramesh had visions of the Irish airman, just as he had learnt in his English classes, inspired only by that 'lonely impulse of delight which drove him, to this tumult in the clouds'.

 The first signs of a rebel in the making, became painfully evident one  fateful day, four years back.  It was a wet evening in June, and Ramesh came  home on a motorbike, sandwiched between rider and pillion, drenched by the first  salvo of monsoon showers.  Staggering in, he reeked of strong country brew, a dead giveaway with the word guilt etched on every line.  Panikker had recoiled in horror. Rugmini stifled a sob and fled to the kitchen to  give vent to her grief. Not a word was exchanged  between dad and son, but for the frozen silence, broken rudely when Ramesh retched  in the washbasin tucked away in the corner of their dining room. It rained without respite all night, yet no soul slept, for the wind howled and so did the sea of churn within.

Oh, the weeks of accusation,and the blame game that followed, with Rugmini, a stoic witness, entrapped between a stubborn son and determined dad! Months later, Ramesh, as though guided  by some robotic sense of filial affection and almost in a state of trance, went through the motions of  taking the civil services exam. Of course, there were no surprises in store when the results came. Krishna Panicker was devastated. Was it the same Ramesh who had sailed through school years, acing every exam that ended up with distinction and enviable academic records? Regimented to  perfection, he was firmly rooted in his old world values, which had ensured safe landings for Ramesh in Computer engineering. Did  it turn out to be a forced choice that constantly rebelled with Ramesh's innate instincts?

It all reached a flashpoint until one day,in a huff, Ramesh had walked out of the house. He seemed to simply drift and fade away from their lives , while setting off to Delhi with just a suitcase and a curt goodbye. Rugmini paled in to a vignette of silent grief. Weeks later, he had called up home just to inform mother on his whereabouts. For Rugmini, he sounded keen on his current academic pursuit, a masters in literature. Trails of  telephonic  conversations between mother and son, filtered and conveyed in patches over the last three years  were all that was left of the father-son connect. He didn't  come home anytime and over the last year, even his calls had become rare. Krishna Panicker remained strangely unmoved, though pangs of separation and the empty nest had come home to roost.

 Panikker's drooping eyes once again drifted towards the TV screen, which had played out the signature tune for news hour. Stretching out for the remote on a table, he set the TV volume up and trained his ears, to catch up with the day's  headlines. Well, news today carried enough hints of a painful memory, of a lost cause. Civil services results were out for the year and this  time around, a couple of bright youngsters from the state have made it to the coveted league of toppers. He couldn't hold back his curiosity as the names of successful candidates from the list scrolled past .

A quivering sense of excitement coursed through, when a familiar name floated past his eyes. For a moment, he felt everything around  go surreal. But then,here he was,alive, wide awake and alert,almost hearing his own heart thumping in his chest. He heard it loud and clear, and saw the name  Ramesh Panikker, from Thiruvananathapuram on scroll. By some strange quirk of fate, had Ramesh managed to pull it off? Or was it  sheer coincidence?

As a sign from heaven, the early morning newspaper sailed over a grilled gate and fell flat on the porch. The newspaper boy clanked his bicycle bell twice  and pedalled on. With faltering steps, Panikker walked  across to the car porch to pick it up.Returning to the living room, he  groped around for his missing glasses and finally did locate them.With a slight tremor in his fingers, he put them on. All he could manage was a furtive scan and his pulse raced as he read a small news snippet, tucked away in a corner... A son's surprise gift to his dad, retold as a viral  civil services success story, with his son's frame etched in the foreground. And then the  call from Delhi came, that elusive call.

Panikker's eyes moistened and glasses turned misty, even as the first patter of monsoon raindrops hit the coast...

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