This post has been published by me as a part of the Blog-a-Ton 41; the forty-first edition of the online marathon of Bloggers; where we decide and we write. To be part of the next edition, visit and start following Blog-a-Ton. The theme for the month is "SWEET AND SOUR"
‘So what if I have no sufficient money left in my pocket now for the auto fare to the railway station, as soon as I reach Mumbai, I will borrow some money from the Tailor Master (his childhood friend in the chawl who had grown up to take after his father’s profession)’, lost in such thoughts Joseph headed for the bus stop
Joseph had lost his father in an accident when he was still in high school in Mumbai. They had to move back to their native place in Kerala and his mother had somehow managed to get him complete his degree.Not getting any job in Kerala for some time, he came back to Mumbai, stayed with the Tailor Master and began looking for a job. However, luck did not support him. Money his mother had given was fast depleting.
The period of early ‘80s was an era of his entire God’s Own Countrymen rushing to the gulf wards for greener pastures. He could not remain an exception. He too applied to the agency, investing all the remaining money left with him, and now the final task was completed in Delhi.
But, it was not to be. Few minutes later Joseph had found himself lying on the footpath, in pain, and all the pedestrians crowding around to see the victim of a hit and run case. A young man had held his head in his lap and was asking the crowd to move away to get fresh air for Joseph. After recovering from the initial shock, Joseph realized that he had just met with an accident when, lost in his thoughts, he was crossing the road. But the most puzzling part was that this young man in whose lap his head was resting, was talking to him in Malayalam, and addressed him as an elder brother taking his name!
Seeing the puzzled expression on his face, the young man asked, ‘don’t you remember me? I am Mukundan…. Oh, but how will you remember, I had never spoken to you…I was very small then…... and you used to come to our school during lunch time…
’ Joseph started searching for the younger version of this man’s face in his memories. He could recollect that during his own lunch recess, when he would come home for quick lunch, his mother used to send him to this school carrying lunch for his aunt who was a teacher there. He was given cycle hiring charges for this task. But it was strenuous for him to place this boy.
The young man continued saying that he was on the other side when he saw Joseph crossing the road. One glance and the younger Joseph’s face flashed in his mind who would bring daily at the lunch break fist full of sweet and sour sweetmeats and throw up them in the air for all the children to grab one or two pieces each…It was an instant recognition. Seeing a speeding motorcycle rushing towards him, he simply shouted out his name warning of the accident. But Joseph was lost in his thoughts and the inevitable happened. The motorcyclist knocked him down and sped away. By now Joseph could recall these sweetmeat throwing incidents. He was buying these orange taste sweets from the left over money after paying the cycle rents, and would spend time with younger kids distributing pieces among them as his aunt would finish her lunch. It was all fun for him, but not for young Mukundan. He was so tiny a kid then that most of the time he would not get any sweetmeat piece. Mukundan recalled that Joseph would keep in his pocket a few extra pieces, and press them in his palms specially while leaving the crowd. Little Mukundan had remembered always being special.
With moist eyes Mukundan told Joseph, as he still lay in his lap on the footpath, that looking at him he just got back the sweet and sour taste that he had experienced in his mouth years ago.
Mukundan was presently in Delhi as a student of Architecture, and by coincidence present at that very junction along with his friend who had gone to fetch a taxi to take Joseph to the hospital
Lying in the hospital bed with his left leg hung in plaster, Joseph did not know whether he should feel happy, or cry. Mukundan’s presence had certainly facilitated his hospitalization in the strange city, and hence, saved his life, but at the same time, he felt like crying as he had lost his opportunity to fly away to Gulf. He had also lost his money as could not connect with his agency in time for refunds.
6 weeks later, he was permitted by the doctors to travel, and he bade goodbye to Mukundan and boarded the train back to Mumbai. He had no courage to go back to his mother. He was absolutely dejected. Throughout the journey he spoke nothing to nobody. He seemed aged by several years as he walked in to the shop of the Tailor Master.
After getting him a cup of tea, and a while later, Tailor Master started comforting him. He asked him to start searching for a job in Mumbai afresh, while Joseph was still cursing himself for being so careless on the road in Delhi, and become a cause for his own disaster.
Suddenly Tailor Master remembered having received a post for Joseph a few weeks’ ago from the employment agency, and he fetched it for him.
With trembling hands, and hoping against the hopes to find some refund amount along with his passport Joseph opened the packet. While his passport slipped away from his hands, he clutched the accompanying letter as he read the contents. He lay frozen for quite some time.
No, there was no refund cheque. The letter simply read-
“Your not showing up at the airport on the day of departure turned out to be a great blessing in disguise for you. Two days after landing in Iraq, all the members of the group, of which you were supposed to be a part of, perished in an air raid as war broke out between Iran and Iraq. You are the lone survivor!”
All the dots of his accident, Mukundan’s presence, prolonged hospitalisation and missing the flight got connected. Strangely he felt the sweet and sour taste in his mouth as he smiled for the first time in weeks. He knew, this taste would linger on in his mouth for life!
D I L I P P A T E L