If I tell you I have a scripwriter waiting for me to write my story because he thinks it is film worthy, would you believe me? If I tell you I have faced the threats of underworld don, would you believe me? If I tell you I have met a dacoit and had a happy interaction with him, would you believe me? I am certain you won’t. But I have. I have.
I was perhaps 7 or 8 years old. I had my tutions early in the morning and school in the afternoon. I came home from my tutions. And was lazing on the sofa watching cartoons network, when the bell rang. Like Sweety from Hum Panch, I danced around and opened the door singing. (I used to do that quite often emulating the character of Sweety.) But my song died in my throat when I saw a tall, dark skinned, wide frame of a man filling the door. The instant I set my eyes on him I knew he was no usual visitor. He asked me if my father was around. I nodded a No. But Aai welcomed him inside, offered him water, tea and biscuits, as was and is the ritual. Soon the man left saying many thanks.
Weeks passed but I couldn’t forget that face. It scared me to bones. And one lazy sunday morning while Baba sat reading newspaper and me and my brother watching cartoons, the bell rang again. He had come back, I knew. I saw him and holding my brother’s hand ran inside in the bedroom. While my brother started to play with toys I made my way into the kitchen. I asked my Aai who this man was. She told me he was once a monster but isn’t anymore. Monster? Why a monster? He could have been anyone – a teacher, a doctor, a boxer like Baba, – why was he a monster, I didn’t understand.
Months passed and my mind still thought about what Aai had told me. Who was this man? Why was he a monster when he could be anything else! And once again he visited us. Baba had been out for a meeting that Sunday. Being inquisitive as I was. I dared and didn’t move an inch from the sofa. Aai offered him water, tea and nashta while I kept looking at his face. He saw me staring. The scar that ran from his hairline towards his eyes, left eye, was noticeable now. More clearly. I can so clearly remember him sitting in front of me as the sunlight streaming from the window enhanced his large feature more making him look like the Monster that my Aai had told me about.
“Kaka…” I began.
I still don’t know how I got that courage to speak up but I did.
“Who are you?”
“A person your Baba helped.”
“Helped? He helps everybody. How did he help you?”
“Beta, I was…”
He was hesitant. He looked towards the kitchen. Aai wasn’t in sight.
“Beta, I was a daaku…”
“A daaku???” Hearing just that my eyes shot up to my hairline. Daaku like a real daaku. Like Gabbar Singh?! My mind was muddled. He must have seen my expression and so he further said…
“I was a bad, bad man. But your father he made me a good man. Now, I am not a Daaku.”
“Not a daaku? No guns?”
“No guns.” He laughed. Loud. It was scary. Very scary. I managed to give a feeble smile.
That was my first interaction with him. The next time he came, he told me something that has stayed with me till date.
“Beta, your father is a saint person. If he can mend a bad soul like me, he can do anything. Be like him, always. And never, ever hurt him. Never, ever!”
After finishing this post I asked my mother if she remembers the dacoit’s name. She remembered the man a few months ago, I told her. “Everyday over 100 people visited your father asking for some or the other help. Now no one comes. I don’t remember anything. Maybe this guy as you say he visited and after your father asked him not to visit us, he stopped coming home. He met him somewhere else but I really don’t remember any of this now. Maybe if you show me the face of that actor you said he looked like maybe then I will remember him. Siddhi, I am over 60 you know. My bones are tired now. I don’t remember much.”
“But Aai you had such an adventurous life with Baba. You do recall the letters from that gangster, don’t you?”
“Yes. Yes. I must have kept it somewhere in the cupboard.”
“Can you tell me the story about the first time you received it?”
“Well, it was in 90s just before you birth and then in 93 or 94 again. He was the only Marathi don to fight against the Muslim gangs of Mumbai….”
More about this story in a later post, maybe….
Everyone posted pictures with their fathers on Father’s day and I didn’t know what to post. Because my father is magnanimous. His soul is so pure. So pious. And I miss him. This is an ode to him.
I embody your spirit Baba. I always will. Always.
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