The bumpy ride and the horns blaring from all sides signaled that we were inside Jaunpur. Appu was constantly on the phone, talking to Teju and conveying the directions to our driver. Presently, the bus coughed to a stop by the side of a road with huge potholes. As I scanned the area from inside the bus, I spied a small reception party standing by the side of the road in front of the shops and eateries which lined the street.
‘I think this is it,’ Appu said and we started to disembark from our vehicle, happy for the stop as our limbs were aching from the long journey and longing for some exercise. The driver also jumped out from his seat and loitered to a nearby shop to have tea. We, on our part, were welcomed warmly by men who looked like Teju’s staff. We felt like heroes returning after a successful expedition. After the pleasantries were over, we were hurriedly led to Teju’s clinic cum hospital cum residence through a small by lane which opened out inside to reveal a huge space.
And there he was, waiting in front of his hospital, flanked by staff and guards, smiling and waving his arms.
I looked closely at him. Maybe he had lost some hair, and gained a little weight, very little weight, but more or less he was still the same. Warm, friendly and talkative – just like twenty-five years ago. We hugged, and Teju took us around his clinic quickly and then we proceeded towards his house. It was a huge house, by city standards anyway, with a beautiful lawn complete with a swing, a driveway and a kitchen garden. The sitting room was on the first floor and the staircase wound around in Bollywood style to open onto a glass door which led into the lounge or the sitting room.
Once inside the privacy of the sitting room all of us had a good look at each other once again. Teju hugged me and Appu, and introduced all of us to Gita, his kind-eyed wife and Harshita and Divya, his beautiful daughters. Everyone was happy to see everyone.
‘Harshita has a copy of your book,’ Teju said, referring to my recently published book ‘The Battle of Panchavati’, ‘Will you sign it for her?’
‘Sure bhai (brother), I will be most happy to do so,’ I replied.
Harshita brought the book from her room, and I happily signed it for her and wrote a note for her and Divya. I was happy to see Teju’s children interested in mythology or scriptural stories, whatever one may want to call them.
It is a travesty that today’s children are more interested in Harry Potter and Captain America, than our traditional books which are a treasure house of great stories. For this, we, the present generation, have to share some of the blame. We have not helped our children get interested in our own stories. Thus, it is now up to us to correct the wrong.
While I was talking to the children and signing their book, Gita Bhabhi brought out cake and sweets and tea and dry fruits, and Teju started his campaign of stuffing our tummies with all the delectable stuff on the table. He went around the table, serving everyone, once, twice, thrice and then pushing some more. We had to literally hold his hands to stop him from stuffing us anymore.
When we were finished, I thought I would not be able to get up from the sofa, I was so full.
‘I think we should get going now, if we have to reach Banaras in time,’ I said to Appu.
‘Yes,’ Appu concurred.
And thus, we climbed down from the Bollywood drawing room and into Teju’s beautiful lawn where we clicked a few pictures and then, saying our goodbyes to his beautiful family, we were off again, eager to reach Banaras.
The bus bumped and swayed as it made its way from the city roads onto the highway again. The sun had started to go down by now as evening approached, but the day was still warm. The cabin of the bus was cozy, and the children were tired and ready for a nap, as was I. The humming of the bus’s engine proved a soporific for me, and my eyelids started to droop. From the corner of my eyes, I could see that Appu, Swati and Vaishali were also quiet, each busy with his or her own thoughts about the upcoming events.
To be continued………………………………….
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