I retire after 40 years of my pediatric practice. I am 70 now and deserve a worry free and calm life. It is time for me to relax, do what I like, walk to the nearby Balaji temple and meditate, or go on tours and cruises, eat like a horse and unwind on a sugar-white beach under a straw umbrella, listening to the squawking of seagulls and the music from the waves. I reveal my dream to my wife, Abhaya. (@Siliconeer, #Siliconeer, #Fiction, #Literature, #DrRaghavendraRao)
You dreamer, you won’t go anywhere. You’ll be sitting in the backyard reading a book. That’s about it.”
“Not a bad idea. I’ll pull an easy chair in the shade of the mulberry tree in the backyard and lie down watching the leaves play hide and seek with the sunrays and listen to the chirpings of sparrows. How is that?”
The phone rings. It is my daughter, Bhumi, from Bakersfield. She is just like my wife, orthodox, believes in Hindu culture and rituals.
“Mom, Suresh has gone on a business trip to Atlanta. Is it okay to come there with Sneha for this long weekend?”
“It’s fine. You’re welcome always,” Abhaya says.
Sneha is Bhumi’s four-year-old daughter, talks a lot and recently learned a few nursery rhymes. Once she starts singing, she won’t stop. She is fun. I will have a nice time.
“Jagan, when you were out, Megha called. Sorry, I forgot to tell you. She and her son, Anand are visiting us the same weekend,” Abhaya tells me now. Ours will be a full house.
Megha my daughter-in-law is an accountant and very temperamental. Anand is her son, five years old. They live in Fresno.
On Saturday morning, they are all here. Anand comes in with a Ninja Turtle backpack and thinks he is a Ninja Turtle. Sneha has her Barbie doll. They get busy immediately. They jump on my bed singing five little monkeys and fall down imitating them. They turn the television on loud to watch Dora. By noon, they manage to strip off Barbie and dislocate her shoulder. Anand picks up Goddess Lakshmi’s idol from the puja room and starts dancing.
“No, no. Don’t do that. She is madi, you can’t touch her,” shouts Bhumi.
Megha is upset. “Meaningless beliefs,” she murmurs.
“Jagan, why don’t you take the kids in the backyard, fix a swing and play with them?” Abhaya suggests. I agree reluctantly. Anand and Sneha jump ecstatically. They even help me to fasten the swing to a branch of the mulberry tree. Now Anand and Sneha try to sit on the swing at the same time pushing each other. “Me first, me first,” they holler.
“Both can’t sit in the swing. Let Sneha go first, she is younger. After five minutes you can, Anand,” I say.
“Not fair, grandpa.” Anand grumbles.
“Push me.” I push. The swing oscillates slowly.
“Faster, grandpa,” Sneha says. I do. She slips and falls. She cries, “Mommy, grandpa pushed me too fast,” she hollers.
I pick her up. “Nothing happened,” I say.
“It is my turn now, Grandpa,” Anand is demanding.
Bhumi comes out.
“Mom, grandpa dropped me.” Sneha complains.
“Dad, can’t you take care of the kids for five minutes? What kind of a pediatrician are you?”
My neighbor working in his backyard chuckles.
Bhumi dusts off the grass pieces stuck to Sneha’s dress. “Look, what you’ve done, you messed up your silk blouse and langa.”
Anand is already in the swing. “Grandpa, push.”
“My turn is not yet done,” Sneha says and shoves Anand.
Anand shoves her back. “Don’t touch me, Sneha. I’ll punch you.”
“Anand, that’s not nice. Say ‘sorry’ to Sneha.”
“Sorry. Grandpa, push now.” I do, gently.
“Let us go, Anand is not good company.” Bhumi grabs Sneha’s arm and takes her inside the house.
“Push faster, Grandpa. I am strong. I am a Ninja Turtle.” Anand demands.
“Okay. Hold the ropes tight.” I push a little harder. He falls with a thud. He cries. His nose is bleeding. I apply pressure immediately.
Now my daughter-in-law, Megha comes out. She sees a few drops of blood on Anand’s shirt. “O, my God,” she exclaims and swoons.
My wife hears the commotion and joins us. She sprinkles a few drops of cold water on Megha’s face and she recovers. Anand is still crying. His nose-bleeding has stopped. I clean his face with some water.
We all go inside.
“It’s not working out for us here, this weekend. Anand is unhappy. If you don’t mind, we will go back to Fresno after lunch, Mother,” says Megha.
“Megha, children argue and squabble. We shouldn’t take it seriously. Stay for a couple of days. It will all be fine.”
“No, Mother. If Rajiv learns about the injury he gets upset. You know your son. The kids are not getting along well either.”
I feel guilty. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have pushed the swing fast. Forgive me, Megha.”
“It’s all right, Father. Let me pack. Anand, where are you?”
Suddenly, we hear peals of laughter. Through the sliding glass door we watch Sneha and Anand chasing each other, playing hide and seek, hugging and kissing, rolling on the grass, forgetting what has happened a few minutes ago. A Blue jay occupies the gently swaying empty swing, silently watching the happily playing kids.