Friday 27 May 2016

What fathers do

It is a hot summer afternoon, a family of three is traveling in a state transport run, rickety, dingy bus. The father sits on the alley seat and the mother on the window. The son sits in father's lap lazily. The paint on the bus is falling apart and its grumpy inner grey is showing through. The passengers keep pouring in and the bus keeps accommodating them. It is going to be an eight hour journey and some people are going to stand for those eight straight hours.

The smell of sweat is inside everyone's nostrils but people are waiting patiently for the bus to start. They know that once the bus starts running on the highway, the smell will be taken away by the wind. There is no way to stop the wind because most of the window panes in the bus are broken.

The conductor walks toward the bus and begins checking tickets. There is some shouting. Some toes are crushed, some curse words are exchanged but everyone gets a 'seat'. Nevermind the fact that the seat sometimes on the gear box or the roof of the bus, sometimes it is even on the bus floor.

The driver starts the engine but the bus just keeps making a whirring noise. The bus is waiting because there is still room for a few more people.

The mother looks with weary eyes at the father. Father is looking in the conductor's direction but he still catches the mother's gaze. He puts the kid down on his seat and says that he will be back in a minute. Someone tries to take the seat by asking the kid to scooch but the mother thwarts the attempt. Her fangs come out. She doesn't look weary anymore.

The kid sits comfortably and places his head in his mother's lap. The engine is revved and the tyres begin to roll. The bus starts to move. The father is missing. The kid springs up on his seat.

'Where is Papa?'

Mother assures the kid that father will be back. The child is still worried. The bus is almost out of the bus stand. Mother had thrown nervous glances at the bus door. She had seen no one. She thinks of standing up and shouting to the driver to stop the bus.

Suddenly a chilled bottle of mineral water and a bunch of bananas are handed to her. The father comes and sits nonchalantly on his seat. That stranger who tried to steal the seat cannot even think of doing so now. The kid is back on the father's lap and everything is taken care of. Because that's what fathers do.

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