‘Today is your first day as House Physician. A full fledged doctor. Will you not wear a new shirt to work today?’ He asked. My father. On his cane chair. Glancing through Anandabazar Patrika. As I left for my first day of duty. As House Staff. Shambhu Nath Pandit Hospital.
I was a Charminar smoking, Guevara swearing , Mao eulogising youth from Bengal. I scoffed. I frowned. I shook my head. I said ‘No’ softly ( because it was he, my father ) and touched his feet. A custom before a special occasion. A culture. To me, I said ‘What is in a shirt, that we call a shirt, by any other name would have been a mere wear.’
My father also said ‘But today. At least you could wear.’ I said ‘No’. To me, I said ‘Pari Burjoa byapar-syapar jotto sob.’
Ma was there too. As I touched her feet, she said ‘Mithu, Baba bolche. Ak bar dakho na.’
I shook my head. And moved on.
Late evening. I returned. From Hospital. Baba was in the drawing room on his cane chair. He asked ‘How was your day?’ I sat. Over tea. I told him all about the day. He listened to everything intently.
All done. I went for bath. Bath done. I opened my almirah. For a new payjama and a vest.
On top of the few shirts and trousers I had then, there was a cream coloured shirt. New.
I pulled it down.
This was a shirt my father had bought for me to wear on my first day as a doctor. A surprise.
I had ruined his pleasure. I had deprived him of the pleasure of witnessing the sparkle of joy in his son’s eyes. On opening the cupboard. Morning.
I wanted to run and embrace him. And tell him how sorry I was. But that would be too dramatic. I was too vain. And my father too prosaic for such drama.
A guilt I shall live with.
I remembered the above incident because I watched a movie yesterday which had a similar story.
A youth was going away from home. To a distant city for work. From a modest income family. As he was to leave, his father said ‘Open your trunk. I want to check .’ The youth refused. He was bitter that his father suspected. His honesty. He left without the customary greetings.
After he reached his city, still bitter from his father’s suspicion, he sat down to unpack. As he opened his trunk. Lo and behold, on top of it all was a box. In it a watch. The family’s only fortune. A gold plated watch. A note. ‘ If in distress, with no sadness, sell.’
The child in the youth cried.
And legend has it that he ran all the way back to embrace his father. To say ‘Sorry’ . For he had deprived his father. Of the pleasure.
Love is a mystery. More mysterious is the way in which the mystery manifests.