While I observed the black clouds settling down, Anupama sat beside me on the bench. She was observing her kid bowling. Folding Gita Darshan, I greeted her before enquiring, “Haven’t seen you in a while, Anu. Is everything okay child?”
Turning to me, the woman in her thirties replied, “I’m waiting for Anirudh. How have you been uncle?”
Observing her, I remained silent, before she mentioned, “Anirudh is celebrating his third birthday tomorrow. You must certainly join us at 6 pm.”
Throughout her invitation, she kept looking at Anirudh who was busy finishing his bowling over. Unable to comprehend as to what is bothering her, I enquired, “I certainly will but tell me why are you tensed?”
As if she mustn’t mention it, she leaned forward to whisper, “I’ve just heard the news mentioning about an impending cyclone.”
Taking another glance at the black clouds above me, I replied, “Seems like it has already arrived.”
For a moment, my words made her furious. After a moment of silence, she said, “Anirudh has been asking about organizing a birthday party for months now. He would be most disappointed.”
Relieved, I’ve suggested; “If not tomorrow, he could have his party on Sunday. A natural calamity isn’t your fault.”
I didn’t realize until she mentioned, “Tomorrow is the extra day in a leap year uncle. He only had two birthdays until this point and at the age of twelve, he is celebrating his third.”
Though, I understood the issue, there is nothing any of us could do. A twelve-year-old might not understand. Before I spoke another word, Anirudh arrived.
Greeting me, he invited, “I’m celebrating my birthday tomorrow uncle. You should join us.”
For a moment, both of us looked at each other before I agreed and they left. There was a part of me that wished Varunadeva would wait for another day. However, the moment they left, I could feel droplets touching me.
Returning home, I could see my wife watching television. Approaching her, I sat beside her on the sofa. Before I retired as a manager in a cooperative bank, I often criticized serials on television. However, over time, I have become an admirer myself. They often gave me something to look forward to on a boring day.
Getting me a glass of water, she sat beside me in silence. When advertisements played, I asked, “Anirudh is three years old tomorrow. What shall we give him?”
Without a second thought, she suggested, “The same remote car we gave Chinni. I never imagined she would love it so much.”
I just nodded but couldn’t accept the suggestion. I disliked that toy when it was for my granddaughter but silence is often the only choice.
Tomorrow, however, I will give him what I prefer. After a lot of thought, I’ve decided to give him a wooden handmade toy from an artisan I knew.
Planning to visit the store after my breakfast the next morning, I rested for a couple of hours and opened my eyes to listen to rainfall.
Observing the drops showering all plants, I could notice water stagnating on the roads. Everything was closed and when I read the Gita Darshan as the daily was cancelled, I could see Anirudh from my balcony before his home looking at the clouds.
He wore a white dress, a new pair of shoes, a belt and a watch. I felt bad for him. His school is closed, his friends cannot make it due to the weather. I was certain the celebration was within the three members unlike expected. Hoping to cheer him up, I shouted, “Happy birthday Anirudh!”
With a smile on his face, he cheerfully shouted, “Thank you, uncle!”
That afternoon, even the power was cut and roads were flooded with water. The rain however continued until light gave up on us too.
During the sunset, I could hear the child crying when he hadn’t gotten anything. Unable to listen to him, I picked up the torch and rushed to our room to open the beeruva.
Picking one of the three parker pens, I tied my lungi before mentioning to my wife about my visit. Defying her resistance, I rushed through the water that reached until my torso and reached Deepak’s home.
Located opposite to my home on the north-western side, the individual home was closed but I could hear Anirudh weeping.
Knocking on the door, I was greeted by Anirudh’s father Deepak. A tall man in his forties apologized the moment he answered the door. With a smile, I said, “Anirudh, happy birthday son!”
As I extended my hand, he stopped crying and approached me. We shook hands before I passed him the parker pen.
He thanked me but hesitated to take the pen. When he got his father’s approval, he took it before I was welcomed by Anupama.
Insisting me to sit down, she made Kesari and filled it in a cup to reverse it like jelly. Meanwhile, I rested in a chair and Deepak took away the lantern to return with a diya.
Placing the cake made of Kesari and diya before it, both the parents sat beside Anirudh before mentioning, “Cut the cake Anirudh.”
Forgetting everything that was before him, Anirudh couldn’t help but cry the moment he realized it was nothing close to what he was expecting. As the couple sat on the floor pleading the child, I sat before them with tears filled in my eyes.
What wouldn’t I do to be in his position? Anupama reminded me of my mother as she lit up every situation and Deepak reminded me of my father. He always brought us a new ray of hope.
God gave Anirudh a party. It just happens that Anirudh is too young to witness or realize its beauty. A day shall come when he would realize how much more he has gotten today than that was ruined I thought.
Blowing off the diya in anger, Anirudh rushed to his room following the light from the lantern placed in his room. Taking a deep breath, Deepak relit the diya and Anupama smiled before she passed me a cup of Kesari.
Deepak then left to carry Anirudh back and laid him in his lap while promising him, “We will certainly celebrate your birthday as soon as the rain stops!”
Unable to redirect his anger, Anirudh stated, “I rather wait four more years!”
This short story has been published in an anthology of eight stories titled “Eccentric Endings”. Our artists would benefit if you could order a paperback to show your support. Check out the contents of the paperback and order your copy now!