Gulshan gets a much anticipated call after 10 years.
|Gulshan Mukerjee walked cautiously towards the kitchen window, exhaled on his glasses, rubbed them off on his shirt, and held the piece of paper against the light. Gulshan was trying to read an instruction manual about cross breeding lilies, but he had difficulty reading. His sight was weak and his hands shivered with age. He wished he had a chair by that window; his legs couldn’t bear his weight for too long any more. At that moment the phone rang. Gulshan sighed, put the paper down and began to navigate his way to the hall, from dark to light; leaving behind the fragrance of garlic and ginger, entering jasmine incense.
The hall was pretty well-furnished for an old, ex-clerk his age living in Pune, but the house had the aura of a lonely man. Gulshan's wife had died five years earlier and Arjun, his only son, was somewhere in America. The old man had sent him there to study twenty years earlier and had lost touch about a decade later.
Gulshan got to the living room. Looking ahead at his destination, the chair by the phone, Gulshan could imagine his wife sitting there, bidding him to hurry. She had occupied the old chair by the phone for years, waiting for a phone call, a familiar sound, the sound of her son.
After her death Gulshan had vowed to carry on the ritual, but that had been a few years ago, he was tired and old now, his heart couldn't bear the emotional roller coaster of the lone phone calls that rang every once in a long while, and would turn out to be anybody but his Arjun.
"Hello..." he said, louder than he expected, after fumbling with the receiver; he was clearly out of practice.
The voice on the other side was a woman, a well-spoken one at that.
"Mr. Mukerjee, I am Ashley Stevenson. I am calling to talk to you about your son." She had an American accent. Gulshan was so excited that he hesitated to even blush, in case he might miss something.
The old widower had been reduced to a man of few words, but his starved ears listened well. The woman had news of his son. According to the American woman, Arjun had managed to secure a scholarship early on and was eventually admitted into a prestigious university. He had graduated from law school, entered politics and was now running for the U.S. senate...
This was all too much, too soon, for Gulshan to take in.
"Mrs. Stevenson...Am I going to be able to see him soon?" Gulshan interrupted her.
The woman at the other end was momentarily silent. She then went on to explain how that was the nature of her call. There was a lot Gulshan had to learn, he must understand the current state of affairs in the United States, public opinion, polls, state of foreign affairs and political climate. She also explained the role of Public Relations which she was in charge of, and how tricky it was.
Mrs. Stevenson was aware that Mr. Mukerjee had recently made multiple attempts at locating his son, and she wanted him to know how emotionally uplifting it was for his son to know that during such challenging times. She and her team were champions of family values and would like to be able to bring the father and son together as soon as possible. However, the current political mood in the U.S. would make that very difficult. According to her, it was bad PR for his son and could cost him heavily in his bid.
"But your son has assured me that you are a very understanding man, Mr. Mukerjee. Arjun has told me that I can rely on you for utmost discretion. He has also mentioned all the sacrifices you have previously made for his sake and he knows that he can count on you to do the same again," Mrs. Stevenson paused to clear her throat, " and of course we are prepared to make any arrangements necessary to make up for this temporary inconvenience."
Mrs. Stevenson then stopped and waited for a response.
Absolute silence...She broke the silence, "Mr. Mukerjee? Do you have any questions? As I said we are prepared to make any arrangements necessary. Did you have anything in mind?"
"Yes, Madam." long pause,” do you know how to cross-breed lilies?"
"No, Mr. Mukerjee..." she said in a confused tone.
Gulshan hung up the receiver, relocated the chair by the phone to its new home by the kitchen window, and resumed to wrestle with the gardening manual.