Quick Call

One evening some years ago, returning home from office, I spotted my father walking ahead of me, accompanied by a neighbour. Though his companion was much younger than him, I knew they had a great rapport, and my father was evidently engrossed in conversation. Though we would meet in a few minutes anyway, I tried calling him so that he could share my pleasure of seeing him already. Thanks to my constant nagging, he was carrying his mobile phone. It was his first phone, which he had acquired recently, after I received my first salary. It had very limited extra features, one of which was voice recording. So of course I had recorded myself saying ‘Dad, pick up the phone’ and set it as his ringtone. However, by the time he had figured out, in the midst of his talk, that his phone was ringing, which pocket it was in and which button to press, they had reached home. So I disconnected the line. A minute later I stepped in and explained that I had been calling for no particular reason. The neighbour, who had been rather amused at the ringtone, said, “Clearly, your father is yet to get used to it. When the phone rang, and your voice repeated ‘Dad, pick up the phone’ from inside his pocket, he impatiently and spontaneously replied, ‘Yes, yes, wait!’”

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Fragrant

We have some large trees in our small garden back home. Mango, neem, jackfruit, guava… Those planted at the front are smaller, prettier and occasionally trimmed. Except that one tree which has soared above the roof of our one-storey house. Most of the year it’s laden with clusters of white flowers, faintly yellow at the centre, with a fragrance that makes everyone ask, “What flower is it?” The flowers grow so high now that we can hardly pluck them. I tried cutting out a few with a pair of scissors once, and a white sap came out of the stem and ran all over my fingers in protest. It felt so much like bleeding that I did not try it again. My brother says they are out of our reach and I know he means something philosophical but I choose to ignore it. Sometimes my mother manages to pick a bunch and then she puts them in a little vase in the drawing room. If we have guests, they ask, “What flowers are these?” The flowers (whatever their name) keep dropping down all day in front of our house. The patch of cement leading up to the gate, the steps from the gate to the door, the road just in front of the house, the green dusty shrubs in our front garden – are all studded with flowers that rain down, often completely fresh, so that one may pick a flower up and put it in a buttonhole. My aunt picks one up sometimes, and takes it home. They drop down on our car too, and I know that although none of us say it, we all think that they feel like blessings.