Thud! Thud! Thud! The loud thumping had broken the sound sleep of Mrs. Khosla. At first, she thought it might be the unhinged windows that were fluttering to and fro to the gusty winter winds. So she gave in to the sleep again. A few moments later, again the loud thumping sound awakened her. She sat up straight trying to decide whether she should wake up her husband or not. Deciding against it, she climbed down her bed and slowly yet vigilantly walked to the front door. As she was nearing the door she again heard the thumping which was more precise and more audible. She stood still in the in front of the door contemplating whether she should open the door or not.
She slowly unhooked the upper chain to open the door slightly to see who was on the doorstep. In a dim vision, she saw a manly figure standing, his hands rubbing against the cold. She stared more closely so the face may become clearer. The man straightened a bit and bent little forwards so his face could be illuminated by the limited light of the overhead lamp.
Mrs. Khosla covered her mouth with the shock so she could refrain herself from shouting. It was her son Deven standing before her. Soon her knees gave up and she almost buckled up but her son caught her midway and supported her to stand. He helped her move inside from the cold. When she recovered a little the first thought she had was that she was having a vivid dream. But Deven was right there. Her husband had come to the room with all the commotion and was looking at Deven as if he had seen a ghost too. Well, she was not alone in it then.
“Fifteen years. Fifteen years you stayed away from us. You didn’t even care to see whether we lived or had perished. Now when we were finally adapting, you came again. Where were you, Deven? Do we have the right to ask that?” She tried to speak in a very determined voice but her voice faltered many places.
For a few moments, her son did not speak. He had abandoned them for fifteen years deceiving them, torturing them and ignoring his duties for them. But how will he explain to them? How can he tell them that he tried but had no other option? The situation which he was facing now, it had been eating him from the time he had made the decision to disappear. What would he say that would be good enough?
After a long silence, he finally opened his mouth to say something which was as far as possible from a deserved explanation. “Mom, I know how you are feeling right now. At this moment, it is really difficult for you and dad to cope up with the distance I created for fifteen years. I cannot tell you where I was or what I had been up to but I can assure you that a day hasn’t passed that I didn’t think of you. I had not been involved in any activity that might bring disgrace to you guys. But please do not ask me about my whereabouts for the last fifteen years. When the time will come I will tell you everything. But not today.”
Somewhere deep down he knew that it is a huge struggle to just wave off a gap that fifteen years have created and it’s an impossibility for him to explain why he had distanced himself from his parents.
Next morning while Deven was having the best breakfast in past fifteen years and reminiscing their of whatever they can tell each other the doorbell rang. Deven got up and went to check the door. When he came back he carried a letter. Seeing his father’s eyes stuck to the letter, Deven immediately hid it in his pocket. Recovering from the sudden change he festooned a smile across his face and rushed to his room. A few hours later as Deven was arranging his things in his bedroom, his father approached came. His eyes were still searching for the letter.
“Paa, I know you want to ask about the letter that I hid. But I can’t tell you anything. I assure you though, I am not involved in anything that was wrong.”
“I know, dear. I know you since you were just a day old. I also know that when the time will come, you will tell us what everything is about. I just came here to tell you that we missed you…a lot.”
Deven’s eyes had real emotions when he hugged his dad. His dad trusted him as well as giving him his space. “Best dad ever…”
“You didn’t tell us. When you left the army, what did you do?”
“Nothing big after that. I joined an IT company because I had my engineering. They sent to a few places and that has been my life. The only thing that has changed is my ranks.”
“Do you like this job?”
“Yes, dad. It’s the best. It is the kind that if you knew more, you’d have been proud.”
“I don’t have to know if you don’t want to tell me. It’s written all over your face. I am proud of you, kid. If not army, I am still sure you are serving the country and your parents really well.”
* * *
As the days passed on he saw Deven was becoming more restless and anxious. But he never shared anything. More letters came and went wherever Deven was keeping them. Mr. and Mrs. Khosla were happy that they can live with their son once more but to them, this happiness looked short-lived and couldn’t be taken for granted.
One day, while he was reading the newspaper, he saw that Deven was talking to someone in some coded language. After this, Deven appeared a little apprehensive. A few hours later a white sedan came to their house. Seeing the car Deven approached it and touched his forehead as if saluting to them. The window slid down and the man gave him a parcel and the car sped away.
Immediately after the car’s disappearance Deven again concealed himself in his room. This went on for two more months and made Mr. Khosla anxious day by day. He had told Deven he was proud, but he couldn’t help but feel disturbed. He dashed into Deven’s room and saw him putting clothes in a bag.
“I cannot hold my anxiety, son. I need an answer. Something’s wrong around you. Are you in trouble? You are behaving oddly and are often very secretive. Tell me please.”
Deven too sensed a helplessness that was accumulating in his father and he knew he needed to know. The time had come. He knew that now he can’t delay it. He had to tell him. They deserved a better Goodbye, especially now that he’ll have to leave them again and he didn’t know for how long this time.
“Dad! I am sorry for all this secrecy. But all I got from you is love and care. Dad, I am a spy for the Indian government. When I told you I am leaving army was because Indian Intelligence Bureau recruited me as a spy. I cleared all the examinations but I was refrained to tell anyone. When I was trained as the spy, my undercover identity was created and my work took me to many countries. I have been a spy for the past fifteen years now, dad. Every day I used to think that when I will get the opportunity to come back, what will I say. I guess nothing can be better than the truth.”
“No…nothing can be.” Mr. Khosla pulled Deven into a strong hug as tears flowed out of his eyes uncontrollably.
“The car that approached me yesterday was to give me the information for my next assignment. This is all I can say.”
“For now, this is enough, son. Are you leaving soon?”
“Tomorrow morning.” Hearing his son uttered these words Mr. Khosla cried more. “Dad, please don’t tell mom. No one is supposed to know. You do, but mom will be terrorized.”
The father and son sat for another half an hour and packed the stuff. They spent the day together as a family and in the evening Deven told his mom he’ll be leaving the next day.
“Will try to come back soon, ma.” Mrs. Khosla hid her tears as she prepared for her son’s favorite breakfast the next day. Deven had brought the best thing in their lives for past three months almost…himself. But now he was to leave.
The next day Deven got his final stuff in row as his mom entered the room and handed him a few packets of sweets. “Son, I know you’ll be busy. But try to come before a gap extend to fifteen years this time. We may not have as much time now.” Mrs. Khosla cried as Deven hugged her.
“I’ll try to come back as soon as possible. I love you, ma.” A white sedan entered the driveway and another comeback was waiting on its way.
Co-written by: Ramachandran Koppar and Lipi Gupta
Copyright: Ramachandran Koppar and Lipi Gupta, 09/03/2018, 21:00 IST