Jana was pretty much living at our place now. She made us remember to have a cup of coffee, gave us a purpose to cook a meal. Things had started to brew between her brother and I. Pretty early stages and not the right time open up to mum or dad about this. I couldn’t take the chance of stressing dad out even in the slightest way. Jans’s brother was a nice young lad, but didn’t carry the right resume for some. He was neither an Engineer nor a Doctor. He was in fact a Sailor. He didn’t hide the fact that he liked a drink or two. Even though he didn’t show any signs of being an alcoholic, people were ready to pass judgement because of his pedigree. In spite of the rumors and the cool exterior, to my surprise I found him to be soft, sensitive and an interesting person. His honesty was refreshing. He wasn’t going to pretend to the world. We had a lot in common. Especially our love for the comic books “Asterix” and “Tin Tin”. Our mutual friendship and banter was now turning to something else. Jana was the only one to know and to approve.
If Dad was not unwell, these were all great arguments to put forward, but circumstances were different. I couldn’t upset dad, I didn’t even know if this would upset dad, but didn’t think this was the time to test it. Most Sri Lankan Tamil marriages were still arranged marriages. Not necessarily to complete strangers, mostly to some one from the same village, a distant relative etc. But, still the main operators were your parents. Dad was not entirely comfortable with this. He has in the past said to me, the final decision has to be from me. Whenever he sees young couples by the side of the road, or at the Botanical Gardens canoodling, he would say, “now, don’t do that, just bring him home and let me meet him”. I would feel really embarrassed and would yell back “DAD”. Thinking back most dads were not this liberal. I think it was his complete trust in me, the complete confidence that his daughter was smart enough to know right from wrong and wasn’t going to do anything stupid. Daddy’s little princess never wanted to break that trust.
Jana was my friend as well as a relative. I am not going to explain lineage, as we joke about this, we feel it’s not a family tree rather a vine, a vine in a thick overgrown forest. So their family, including Ganesh (Jana’s infamous brother) were all well known to mum and dad. By now Ganesh has become a regular visitor to our house, with the excuse of giving his sister a lift or what ever else. Mum was rather fond of the two. Which was a good thing, but I have seen in many cases things going pear shaped, when it came to who was good for your daughter.
So our love or affection at this stage had to be held back after an eye contact and locking of a mutual glance. And each of us knowing to leave it there. Although no words were exchanged his actions spoke volumes. No, he didn’t buy me roses, instead he would buy my dad books. Huh! says you. Let me elaborate. Ganesh visits my dad at hospital and asks dad if he wants anything. Dad loved the fact that Ganesh was a great reader, knowing this dad asked Ganesh if he could bring his some books. He meant Ganesh’s own books to borrow. But someone wanting the brownie points bought new books and took it to my dad. Yet another inside joke.
In a world of elaborate gestures and the most expensive and expansive proposals, our’s would look the most pathetic of romances. But, my man didn’t have to build me the Taj Mahal to tell me how he feels, his small gestures and the awkward looks were enough and spoke volumes.
I am not sure how we got to the hospital, was it the TRI driver or Ganesh? Not sure, but Ganesh was there and so was Jana. We were pensively seated and at times pacing in the corridor. I accompanied a corpse in the lift. For the attendants this is just routine, they don’t feel the need to be sensitive, respectful or any other special way to treat the body nor the people around. I shock that thought that popped in my head “no it’s not dad, don’t even go there”, while in the corridor, saw a few more bodies being wheeled while the attendants spoke about lunch break.
Again the clock was ticking, but the time was refusing to move.