Until you have a son of your own... you will never know the joy, the love beyond feeling that resonates in the heart of a father as he looks upon his son.
_ Kent Nerburn
It was quiet night at the border where even the desert wind didn't disturb the silence. He had another hour to go before he could return home to his beloved wife. His Paro, she was the reason he loved these sands that blow hot in day and cold at nights. It brought her to him one fateful day years ago. He could never forget the image of her racing towards him with the long dark tresses with silver trinkets flying behind her. The way she held on to him as if she truly believed will all her heart he was her sole defense against the world. It had taken a moment for her grip to loosen as she realised he was a strange man and she had to maintain a distance. She didn't know that another gunshot will throw her into his arms as he rolled her over to safety. He tried his best to make sure the rough sand doesn't scar her. But the feel of her skin under his fingers and the grip of his jacket under hers drove every coherent thought out of his mind. It took awhile before he could pull himself from the soft, hazel eyes. He longed to return to her, to drown himself in those eyes all over again. He shut his eyes trying to imagine her wear the same blue ghaghra she wore when he left. He remembered how the mirrors on her bag reflected the blazing sun. He reached out automatically as if he could touch her silken skin and feel her lovely, long locks. He wondered if she still had that hair ornament from the day she crashed into his life.
Suddenly he heard some static noise. He was instantly alert. He moved towards the noise which came from other side of the border. He strained his ears trying to decipher the spoken words. These were peaceful times but he couldn't relax. He was a soldier trained to respond to any danger. No militant dared to cross the border when he was around. His prowess and recklessness was well known. But he was also a family man with loved ones waiting for him back home. He had to be cautious. "Six!" there was yell from the tent. He was relieved. It was just the radio broadcast of the match the two countries were playing. These soldiers were just enjoying the fanfare that usually accompanies the Indo-Pak clashes. Both nations had the same craze for the sport among other things. These were the times they all forget about more pressing issues and focus on 22 men play their finest game. One of the soldiers saw him and asked if he wanted them to turn up the volume. He nodded and returned to his post.
The cricket commentary brought an odd memory to life. His father. Pakoras. Pepsi. "It's a four", shouted the anchor. The memories flooded back. His father, Dilsher Ranavat was a huge cricket fan. Whenever there was a match, he took off work, kept him from school so that they could watch on TV. His mother used to make spicy Pakodas and other treats. They had a deal that everytime the ball hit the boundary, they would take a bite. And every wicket that fell required a sip of Pepsi. His mother hated those days when both father and son were glued to the idiot box and forgot the rest of the world. She didn't share their like for the game and grudgingly let them drown themselves in the broadcast. He sighed, those were the golden days when everything was perfect. He wondered if their lives would have the same peace again. He wondered if his father still followed the game now that his old favourites had retired. He didn't like the disconnect anymore. He wanted his father to ask him to take off work the day of the match. Now they could replace the soft drink with hard liquor. Surely his father thought of their time together whenever there was a game. Maybe they could watch the highlights together tomorrow. "India has won the match," the anchor roared as his heart soared. His father loved it when India won. They used to dance in revellment with him on the sofa to match his father's towering height. He laughed how he was asked to keep the noise lest his mother wakes up.
A few minutes later, another soldier took over his post. He mounted his trusty motorcycle and raced home. A long ride with a pit stop at the local bar had him right outside his home. He tip toed to her bed. She never slept well when he was away at the border. The slightest noise was enough to wake her up. She looked tired sprawled on his side of the bed holding his pillow close. There was small smile gracing her lips as she slept on. She must be dreaming of pleasant things. The breeze from his window blew a lock of hair on her face. He gently pushed it back. He looked at the jewellery on the table next to the bed. There were no hair ornament. He then checked the boxes on her dressing table. It was there. She still had it. He smiled as it tinkled when he shook it. She opened her eyes, "You are home early." He held up the silver jewel, "You should wear this in the morning." She nodded and asked if he wanted a late night snack. He kissed her eyelids and asked her to go back to sleep. "Aren't you coming to bed, Major Saab?" she asked. He nodded and went around to his side when he noticed. "Where is Dhruv?" he asked her. She replied that his son was asleep in his grandfather's room. "Bapusa was watching cricket on TV and Dhruv joined him. He had so many questions, I hope he didn't ruin the match for Bapusa," she explained. No, his father would have loved to talk about his favourite game to their son just like he did to him years ago. "You know they didn't even want to leave the room for dinner. I served them their meal there itself. Later I realized they had this odd way of eating," she continued. He guessed it was the same way how they used to eat their snacks during a match. "Both the meal and the match went on forever. And Bapusa asked me to get some sleep. Dhruv decided to stay with his Dadosa," she finished.
Rudra went over to his father's room and saw the boy cuddled in the arms of the older man. Just like he used to be when his father held him close when returned from long missions. He was his mother's pet but he loved his moments with his father too. He saw his son mumble in his sleep and his father shush him gently. He used to do the same with him when nightmares troubled his sleep as a child. He wondered if the older Ranavat was reliving his childhood through Dhruv. After all they both had a new lease on life since Paro entered his life. Now Ranavat had another Chutan Ranavat to spend time with. But he never realised how much he missed that version of his father who was lost to time just like the son in him was. Things had changed once more for the two of them. This time for the better. They could now openly show affection rather than wrap it up with sarcastic barbs. It was okay to care and care deeply just like Ranavat men always did. He wanted to feel his father's love once more just like he felt for his son. Destiny had a new chapter unfolding in front of his eyes. One with fondness for his father and eagerness for their time together.
Rudra went back to his room with the visions of his childhood dancing in his eyes. He did have fond memories with his father ones that were long forgotten but now remembered. He wanted to relive it too. He reached out to his wife and held her close as they lay. She placed her hands on his chest and slept on. "Paro, can you make pakoras tomorrow morning?" he whispered into the night. She nodded in her sleep and he kissed her hair tenderly. Tomorrow he will restart their old tradition with Pakoras, Pepsi and a cricket match. Only this time there will be three Ranavats instead of two. There would be perfection again. There will be peace.
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