He hated summer mornings. It was too god damn hot in this country for his taste. He hated this city even more. It was dusty and hot just crawling with miserable people, leading miserable lives in cramped squalor. He hated the food that his son's wife dutifully sent over every morning. Saw dust had more flavour. He made it a point to tell the insipid woman that every time he saw her.
Some days he thought of just getting on a plane and going back to London and never coming back. Foolish thinking.
He was old, too old to get on a plane and travel anywhere alone. Even if he managed to survive the journey, where would he go? His son had settled his family here now. His wife was dead. He was stuck here. More than anything else he hated that. Actually if he thought about it, he hated everyone and everything.
Well expect for her. Sarah. His granddaughter. He couldn't conceive of there ever being anything more beautiful or perfect than his little girl. She was six years old, with wild light brown ringlets and fat rosy cheeks.
Afternoons were a time of unadulterated joy for him. Sarah would come to his house right after school. The two of them watch T.V together, play board games or on days that the heat was too unbearable nap together on this large four poster bed. Sometimes Sarah would ask him to tell her stories. She was naturally inquisitive girl, not afraid to ask difficult questions. He thought it was a sign of intelligence and encouraged her to ask him anything she liked.
"Dadaji, can I ask you a question?'
"Dadji, why don't you like mom. "
"It's not that I don't like her duckling…" Well some questions were a little bit more difficult to tackle than others.
One day while they watched a movie on television, she suddenly asked, "Dadaji, did you ever have a girlfriend?"
She looked up at him and smiled, her eyes had a naughty glint in them and her cheeks dimpled adorably. He could never resist that smile.
"Yes", he smiled back at her.
"Dadaji! Tell me! Tell me! " She jumped around excitedly.
He had meant to tell her the story of how he had met his wife, her grandmother. How they were both studying in London at the time and been introduced to each other by common friends.
The naughty glint in her eye though, had stirred other memories. Older memories. Things that he had tried to bury and forget. Things that it hurt to remember. A very, very long time ago another Sarah and looked at him with the very same way.
"Close your eyes", she laughed, looking up at him.
He had her pinned against the wall. School had ended and hall way was empty. Her eyes danced with mischief. "Why?" he said slowly.
"You trust me, don't you?" She retorted.
He closed his eyes expecting her lips to brush against his. Instead he felt a sharp pain under his chin.
"I'm sorry", she said in mock seriousness. "You had this one long hair growing on your chin and I had to pull it out!"
"Sarah! God damn it! That hurt. It will just grow back again,..." He began angrily, but she was laughing and hugging him now. His anger melted away.
"Her name was Sarah too duckling, we went to school together."
My little angel clapped her hands excitedly. "Then Dadaji? Then what happened to your Sarah?"
He had promised himself years ago that he would not talk or think about it again. It was just too difficult. He started the story though; he had no choice but to finish it now.
They were walking out of school hand in hand. She was worriedly biting her lower lip. Lost in thought. He was worried too. They had only a few more months of school left before they both would have to take their place in the wider world.
She was upset when she spoke, "I'm going to be in the US studying for four years…what are we going to do?"
"Long distance for four years…." He trailed off.
Suddenly she looked crestfallen, her eyes shone with unshed tears.
"After all that time we would just have to get married right?" he finished.
She kissed him then. Full on the lips for the first time, right there in the middle of the footpath, not caring who saw.
When she pulled away her cheeks were red. "I'll just see you tomorrow then", she said shyly her eyes unable to meet his.
When she was halfway across the road she turn around to smile back at him.
Still in shock, he waved dumbly back at her. They were so absorbed in each other none of them saw the bus.
His voice was hoarse. He felt empty. Drained. All the bitterness that had fuelled him for the last 50 years was gone. His shoulders sagged. He was tired, so tired. Tired of being upset, tired of missing her, tired of the dull ache that never really went away. Tired of being alive.
A small pudgy hand wiped his west cheeks. "Don't cry Dadaji", her little distressed voice chased away his dark thoughts.