All of us are now collectively looking at the car which ascends up the narrow hill road. As I shift my gaze from the moving car to the elderly couple, I notice that their faces are glowing with happiness. Both of them seem to be smiling, as they get up from where they sit in the porch and enter the house. Maybe they are expecting someone, some family member? The entrance to the house lies on the other side, and hence I cannot see them anymore. I divert my attention to the car whose sound is now echoing in the valley.
Which car is it? I ask myself. It is an old game I have been playing since decades. The game is to guess the make of the car before once can see it fully, clearly. To predict the brand of the vehicle, the model of the car only by looking at its headlights, tail lights or its silhouette. Let me see, I say to myself, it is not a small car. Is it a sedan? It is difficult to say as the road is now darker than the hilltops where I sit. The valley has been plunged in darkness while the sunlight still crests on the top of the hills. The sky is light, the mountainsides dark. It is a typical ‘mountain moment’. The typical coming of the night in the hills.
The car drives up to the house, enters its wide wooden gate, and drives inside, into the driveway, around the house. The sound of the engines is much less now, now that the car is on level ground, and I can hear the crunching of the gravel in the driveway as the car turns the bend in front of the house. It is a mid-size SUV. I cannot see the make of the car from the distance, and because the darkness is now slowly creeping up from the valley, stealthily, in patches, hindering clear vision. The car must definitely be a seven or eight seater, I tell myself, as I see the car come to a stop in the driveway, just before the path disappears behind the house. Maybe the guests want to walk around the house, I think.
Two men, one may be a driver, one woman, and two children disembark from the vehicle. The man who looks in charge, is in a uniform. Even in the gathering darkness it is impossible to miss the olive green uniform. It is an army uniform!
The woman is dressed smartly too, in a shirt, trousers, and jumpers.
Presently their attention is drawn to the elderly couple sauntering towards them, from behind the house. The children squeal in delight, and run towards them. The elderly couple, beaming with delight, pick up the children, one each, and kiss them on the cheeks before letting them go again. The children run off to explore the yard. The elderly gentleman hugs the man in the OG uniform, warmly, tightly, letting the embrace linger for a moment. It is clear that they are family.
Things fall in place in my mind. Now I know why I admired the trimmed handlebar moustache, the tweed coat, and the well tied saree with the brooch. They are obviously an army couple, maybe retired now, and living in their mountain retreat, away from the maddening rush of the cities. The man in OG is obviously their son, with his family, come to visit them in the mountains. They are an army family, OG runs in their veins!!!
My wonder turns to admiration. I have always admired, and respected army families. My wife comes from one. They live, and they die for the country. What better way to lead one’s life, I wonder.
‘Dinner is served’, Bindiya calls from inside, breaking my reverie.
‘Come quickly,’ Vaishali follows Bindiya’s notice with her own command. ‘I will not reheat it.’
I get up slowly, my heart aglow with the distant encounter with the elderly couple, and turn to go inside. Before I leave the balcony, I turn and look at the lake and the surrounding mountains once. It is dark now, but I can make out their dark outlines. They are silent now, but sometimes they do talk to me. …………………….
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