Tuesday, June 28, 2005

That was quick!

We were all there to see my brother off; my parents, my cook, and his (i.e.- my cook’s, not my brother’s) man-Friday. Bro was flying to Italy to join his ship that would then sail to Tunisia. There he was – wearing a crisp white shirt (my father’s), flat-front charcoal trousers (my uncle’s), excellent shoes (my dad’s again), and shapeless asymmetrical spectacles (his own).

I, on the other hand, did not know where Tunisia was.

We went in to the visitor’s area and sat down. Cook and his man-Friday started arguing about why the other didn’t just shut up and listen. Father and son were talking about the same thing…and yes, ditto with mother and daughter.

Then my brother got up, after I think conceding a position or proving a point, and touched my parent’s feet. It was time for him to go. Cook and man-Friday stopped arguing, shook hands with bro, and told him to eat well.

My brother came up to me and gave me this look that only a sister could understand; he’d be having a happy time at Italian beaches, smoking and trying to impress Italian women. He then shook my hand (we didn’t hug because my windcheater was wet), said I’ll see you soon, and went off.

He lumbered awkwardly to join another group of awkwardly lumbering marine engineers (I’m telling you – it’s an anthropological mystery – the way these guys walk) and was soon lost in the crowd. Sometimes, when a mass of people shuffled around, I could see a blot of his bright orange and glowing mint totebag.

But this was not how his last departure was.

Last year, my brother was sailing for the very first time. He was fresh out of college and ‘caffeinated’ with nervous energy. My father was talking to him, one seaman to another.

‘Listen and learn – from your chief engineer of course, but more importantly, from the sea,’ said Father.
‘Will they pay me in Euros when the ship’s in Paris?’, asked Son.
‘You’ll never get bored on the ship. You’ll be on ship for so many months – and you’ll never see the same ocean twice. It always, always changes,’ said Father.
‘Will they pay me in Euros when the ship’s in Paris?’, asked Son.

Cook was sitting in another corner, holding a tetrapack of Frooti – my brother’s favorite drink…just in case ‘baba’ got thirsty.

Ma was holding my hand and weeping – that silent, heartwrenching weeping that only mothers do. She couldn’t talk but when she saw the crew of British airways, she looked at me and I instantly knew what we was thinking of – my brother when he was round, fair, dressed in a tight-striped shirt and six years old.

Ma used to take us, that’s me, bro, and cook (he’s been with us forever) to the airport every time dad would return from his trips abroad. We would wait patiently peering at streams of people – she’d try to locate her husband, I’d try to recognize my father, and my brother would hope that the guy with the biggest bag of presents would be his dad. Every single time, the crowds would thin and mom would get worried. My brother would look at mom and tell her, “He’s getting presents I think” (ah! the many virtues of materialism) and Ma would smile.

Then, bro would get impatient. He’d go to the first nice-looking gentleman and in his case, it was always someone from the British Airways..and ask, ‘Sir, have you seen my father?’ The gentleman would smile, talk a little, and give him a chocolate. (It was cute the first time, though – later, he just got greedy.) And then my dad would come.

It’s funny, I think, how we know that holding someone’s hand does not mend a heart but we do it anyway. Ma had been holding my hand for a while now. It was white and clammy. She just couldn’t stop crying and I was getting impatient. The guy chose to be a marine engineer- those people sail, and then come back. What’s the big deal!?

Yet I was sad too – not because my brother was going away, but because I wasn’t going anywhere. You look at planes taking off with hollow, empty eyes and that longing to leave is so cruel..you just HAVE to grit your teeth and bear it.

Then it was time to leave. My brother started fumbling in that fluorescent tote of his. (ever noticed how permanent hideous accessories are?) He fished out his passport but couldn’t find his tickets. Dad got impatient, Ma grew worried, and I knew he was trying to buy time.
Anyway, things did come together and my brother was finally on his way. He turned back twice to wave – and dropped his tickets and passport both times. I don’t think I’ve seen a 23 year old boy look so lost.

Cook was flailing his arms trying to get his attention.

‘Baba can take the Frooti.’
‘Oh for God’s sakes! He’s going in a plane!’
‘They have Frooti in the plane?’
‘Yes, yes..they’ll give him Frooti!’

My brother went and we waited – until the flight took off.

This time, it was different. My father was talking about some automated engine and my brother, by now, knew that he’d not be paid in Euros if the ship docked in Paris. Cook knew that planes served drinks and was explaining this to man-Friday.

Then my brother got up to leave – passport and tickets in breast pocket.

As soon as he dissolved with the travelers, we got up too. I dug into my bag for my house keys – I tried to buy time.

‘Wait for 10 mins.’
‘What for?’
‘Nothing…just wait for 10 mins.’
‘It’s a long drive back home and it’s raining and…’
'10 minutes’

Everyone dispersed and left me alone.

There I sat, in my wet windcheater, looking at the Flight indicator hearing planes take off. I know I was crying and I had a huge, painful lump in my throat – and I also know that I didn’t blink.

I stared and stared and stared until I saw – Alitalia: Security Check.

THEN…I got up to leave.

There I saw them. Ma, Papa, cook, and man-Friday were having Sprite and laughing…they had just spotted the crew of British Airways.

Gosh! They grow up so fast!


anumita said...

What a lovely post, Mukta!
I hope bro finds some hot Italian woman and we hear plenty of stories.

Mukta said...

Hey anumita!

He always finds some Italian woman...it's another matter they don't find him interesting enough! hee hee!

I'm hoping he find a nice italian guy for me..but he'll just buy me a scarf (dare I hope as much!) or something!

Nagesh Pai said...

Hi Mukta,

Thanks for visiting my blog and leaving your encouraging comments which has energized me to write more.

I have just learnt to read good stuff and taking baby steps in writing my experiences too.

Pardon my ignorance, but are you into professional script writing? i am enjoying your blog, and am sure there are many more waiting for your blog post each day.

Thanks and Regards

Rabin said...

I agree with Anumita, its a lovely post! :-)

Gotta show this to sis, prolly it might make her think nice things about her brother (though I am not going to bet on that :P)

jaygee said...

Superb! I am feeling as though a bro of mine left for italy..

Deep said...

just want to say that it was a real pleasure reading this post... a very honest and touching account...