*In a city*
Roshan Toppo stared at his phone which rang for the 3rd time within 10 minutes.
He couldn’t have ignored the call for ever. But he wanted to avoid it, having a feeling if he picked up it wouldn’t be the words he would want to hear.
“Mr.Toppo, why are you not picking my call?”
Roshan hated that tone.
“Sorry, sir. The phone was on silent.”
“Ok, listen”, the voice softened a bit. “I have bad news for you.”
There was a pause.
“I can’t grant you the leave. I am sorry.”
Roshan sulked. He wanted to shout back but he controlled himself.
“But sir I applied early. I have to go sir.”
The stern voice continued, “I am sorry Roshan. Vijay has had an emergency. I need a stand-in. I can’t let you go.”
*In a Village*
An old woman pours out a grey-coloured liquid from an earthen-pot into the steel glasses. Her forehead is creased and she has a tattoo of a cross on it. It’s a plain tattoo, two small dark lines at a right-angle. With the help of another woman she distributes the glasses to the men and women who are seated on the floor in the open space outside the house. She greets each of them as she hands them a glass.
The men and women converse with each other. They share a laugh. And then a man asks this old woman if her son is going to come home.
The old woman’s eyes go full, but she stops her tears. She says, “Dharmes hi ondrna raee hole emaan eraage baros jun” (If God willing he will come to see us).
She continues her chit-chat cheerfully and then all of them break into a folk-song. It talks about a bird which has flown away and the keeper wonders if he will ever see it again.
In the village akhra (dancing ground) the boys beat the mandars and the nagadas with great vigor and enthusiasm. The Karam tree is at the center. The village girls, married women and elderly women hold each other’s hands forming a chain and sing along and dance rhythmically to the beats around the Karam tree. The steps are simple, well-synchronized and the whole group moves in such cohesion. They keep singing even after their throats strain.
*In a city*
Roshan sat in the cafe sipping a glass of cold coffee.
He felt guilty. He thought he should have tried harder to get leave. Not only this time but before too. How could he not visit his home, his mother for such a long time. He was fed-up playing the nice guy trying to work harder and harder all the time. Promotion, which wasn’t guaranteed, would mean more work but what was the point of working if one could not even see his family.
“I think you should go home,” His friend broke his thought handing him a paper-bag of French-fries .
“Yeah I want to. But my boss never lets me go. And that nasty Vijay always does this.”
His friend chuckled, “You should speak like that more often.”
“What? Curse more?”
“No, no. I meant you should let your feelings be heard.”
Roshan nodded munching the fries.
“You really should visit home. It’s been long. And it’s an important festival of your community and it would be a great time to be at home.”
*In a Village*
Roshan stepped down from the bus. The smell of the soil freshened him up. The beating of the drums and the vibrant tunes of the songs thrilled his ears. But a familiar sound jarred and spoiled the moment. Just for a while. Roshan saw the number. He switched off the phone.
The old woman with the wrinkled face and the cross tattoo on her forehead lighted up. Her eyes were watery and this time she couldn’t stop them. She embraced Roshan.