Eyes seldom lie‘Who are you?’ calls a woman’s voice, pulling me out of my thoughts.
The hours of daylight send me kisses from the scorching sun as I get down from the local bus. Just a few minutes walk on the residential roadside has me dripping in sweat. I renounced myself of an umbrella this afternoon. An old man like me ought to take what nature bequeaths upon him. Only some kilometres away from my home, but this neighbourhood bathes in such a rare sight of spotlessness to be witnessed in the capital that it has me pondering over the breed of people my granddaughter has found herself associated with.
After almost a fifteen-minute walk, I arrive in front of the building that reads ‘The Sharma Niwas’ on a bronze plate. I fish an aged phone book from my pocket to confirm the address. Reaching at the leaf in which I had hustled to scribble the address, I smile at myself as even though my eyes often betray me, I get the whereabouts precise.
I fiddle at the dark black ironed gates of the Sharmas’ rethinking the outward shell of my presence. An unadorned button-down crème shirt jagged around the edges paired with black, khaki pants, two inches short towards the ankle. Cracked feet in display through the dull blue slippers that mirror the sky on a cloudless winter morning. Accompanied by whiffs of cigarettes and perspiration. But one thing I would give myself, I am a darn good-looking seventy-two-year-old man, or so my granddaughter says.
“Who are you?” calls a woman’s voice which pulls me out of my thoughts. Upon a glance towards her, who bears a sternness in her expression with lips pulled tight in a line and brows that jiggle together, I deduce she must be in her early fifties.
“I am Gajhanan.” I speak.
“May I ask what you are doing outside my house?” The woman says.
“It’s about my granddaughter Prasanakashi who starts a job at this house next week,” I tell her. “I would like to discuss some things if you don’t mind.”
On hearing Prasna’s name, her reluctance to trust me comes down a notch, followed by a mild curiosity. “Oh. Please follow me.”
Inside the drawing room of the house, I am seated at the far end of the sofa. It’s impossible not to notice the framed photographs on the pristine white wall of the chamber. Some family pictures. Some graduation pictures of a young man. Some gold medals and some trophies too.
The windows in the South allow the warmth of the sun’s rays to spread across and light the room. The wonderful smell of coconut permeates the air, and I am taken back to the time when Prasna would cry in refute as a very young girl every time I oil-massaged her hair.
“So what did you want to talk about, Gajhanan ji?”
As much as my twenty-one-year-old granddaughter fills me with pride, her stubbornness garners an equal measure of distress in me. I am well aware that it is not respectable of me to do this. Especially to her. But, what kind of a job is this woman offering my child that demands she stays at this place for as long as the work continues?
“I would like to talk about the work my granddaughter is supposed to do here.” I sigh, looking around. Her forehead crinkles, and her eyes narrow. “She told me that she would be compiling some literary works of a woman who was no longer alive. That’s fine. But what troubles me is the fact that she has to stay here.” I pause. “Why is that?”
“Umm… your granddaughter was hired to compile the manuscripts of my late sister-in-law. She wrote plenty in her life. My brother wants his late wife’s writings to be published and read by the people out there. Might I add your granddaughter was one of the very few candidates that my brother showed interest in.” She tells me with ease. “As for why we asked her to stay with us, I request you ask her that.” It was your granddaughter’s choice, her gaze conveys to me.
“Would she be safe here? I am not questioning you, simply putting my child’s safety above everything else.”
“She is safe with us, yes.” The woman nods as she speaks.
“I might have to let you know that Prasannakshi doesn’t know of my visit today. And I intend to keep it that way.” I say to which she simply nods again.
“Would you like some tea, dai?” She asks. I am taken aback by the salutation but don’t show it. “Sure.”
A young boy, almost Prasannakshi’s age, brings tea for the two of us. Hefty scents of cardamom and cloves ring in the room with the gentle breeze of favour trying to catch the sky.
In the quietness that descends with the calm sip of our teas, I permit my mind to ramble into the route that only warrants anguish and gloom. Had my son, Prasna’s father, been alive, would my child be able to pursue what she really wanted to be?
She believes that I know nothing of her dreams. She has no inkling about how my spirits squeeze in agony each time I see the glimmer on her face as her eyes travel up to the sky to trace the roar of a plane engine, how her gaze ignites with an undiluted elation only to be dulled by a sorrowful yearning. A yearning to fly the plane, which might never come to tangibility.
“She is fortunate to have you in her life.” The lady says with the barest hint of a smile. This time, her eyes reveal warmth. Giving her a trivial smile, I nod along and catch the hint of the descending sun through the window.
“How do you know that? I could have caused her hurt and pain.” My answer challenges her statement.
After a thoughtful contemplation, she says, “Eyes seldom lie,” following a pause. “And yours are singing songs of praises and protection for her.”
Sapkota is an aspiring writer.
garners in me