bhOndOO had gone home. There was a mundane Mundan ceremony of a cousin’s son, who was two, and everyone insisted bhOndOO to come, especially his Daadi. Apparently, the reason was that his presence would help his nephew to become an engineer.
bhOndOO caught cold in the train while going home. By the time he reached home, his nose had started raining more than the monsoon. The condition was pathetic and bhOndOO decided not to take any medicines. He had forgotten that he was home.
His father brought him two tablets, his sister brought vicks, his mother dozed him with ginger kaadha, his cousin suggested him to wear sweater, his cousin’s wife suggested to use monkey cap and his cousin’s wife’s son (the Mundan fame) suggested him to wear socks and gloves. As more guests arrived, there were a few more, but mostly contradictory. For instance, bathing versus not bathing, bathing in cold versus hot water, going to a doctor versus to a baba, etc. With all the suggestions implemented, bhOndOO was now completely packed with only eyes visible. In order to save the monkey cap, he had to adjust it a bit to let his running nose perform its operations smoothly.
For the ceremony, the monkey cap was forced to be removed by bhOndOO’s mother. “It doesn’t create a good impression.”, was her remark. The Mundan was in the morning, but turned out to be a nightmare. bhOndOO’s nephew Bittu managed to be awake during the whole function and created all the possible troubles. It all started with Bittu sitting with his parents along with the Pandit around a havan. Bittu initially tried to imitate his parents by putting ghee into the aahuti, but it spilled and fell onto a lamp that extinguished. With the sophisticated Indian mindset, everyone did a hassh-hussh and continued looking at the pandit, since untimely lamp extinguishing is considered a bad omen. The pandit, equally unaware of controlling his fear, tried to pacify the crowd by chanting more mantras and a bit more loudly. When he realized that he can actually receive more dakshina for taking the family out of the trouble, he stood up and started whirling around himself with eyes closed chanting something (which anyway one never understands).
Meanwhile, as everyone was busy worrying, Bittu managed to pull out a small burning wood from the aahuti. As the pandit was performing his rounds, Bittu tried to move the wood to-and-fro, imitating him. When his father tried to snatch it from him, he resented and in the attempt, the wood swung into air and fell right onto the bottom part of the pandit’s dhoti. The spectators shouted and tried to warn the pandit, but he was busy chanting and whirling. Fortunately, before he looked inappropriate, the dhoti was extinguished and he was brought to senses by our dear bhOndOO, by throwing water on him. The pandit was sure unimpressed.
Bittu continued his attempts but were turned futile by his parents’ strategy of finishing the pooja as early as possible which almost all the pandits are well capable of. Poojas are the best examples of scalable algorithms. You decide the time and money and the pandit can do the same pooja in that time. Quite amazing.
As the pooja and the mundan ceremony got over, Bittu, not finding anything interesting, started feeling sleepy. Since his parents were busy looking after the guests, bhOndOO was given the responsibility of putting Bittu to sleep. Bittu initially resisted a foreign face, but when he found himself sleeping on a fleshy shoulder without any signs of bones, he allowed himself to be settled.
bhOndOO was told to sing some song in order to put Bittu to deep sleep. But bhOndOO was not in a mood. After he took over Bittu, he realized that he should go to the bathroom. He was in a dilemma what to do, but thought of controlling himself until Bittu slept. This reminded himself to check if Bittu had worn a diper and, to his relief, he was safe.
As Bittu started some movement on his shoulder, bhOndOO had to start singing. He tried all kinds of Hindi songs he knew, like Dheere se aaja re akhiyan me nindiya, Surmai akhiyon mein nanna munna ek sapana de ja re, but finally, Bittu went to sleep after hearing Dhoom machale dhoom machale dhoom, being played on a taperecorder.
bhOndOO’s next job was to, no no, not to go to the bathroom, but to keep the sleeping Bittu on his bed. bhOndOO was happy, as he would then be able to respect the nature’s call. At this thought, bhOndOO sneezed heavily and Bittu partly woke up. bhOndOO skillfully put him to sleep again. But calamities never leave bhOndOO. As he reached Bittu’s room, he heard someone playing a loud music of Kaala kanwaa kaat khayegaa. It was his mobile. Now bhOndOO was in a strange situation. He had held Bittu cautiously on his left hand and the mobile was in the left pocket of his jeans. Moving Bittu to the right hand would have been risky as he would wake up. Hence the only remedy was to try to pick up the mobile in the left pocket using right hand.
It was difficult. I mean, it is difficult. The reader should try it, with a baby in the left hand. Tension was piling up as his hand was not getting hold of the target and the target was simply ringing. And at this sweet timing, bhOndOO realized something.
He felt a small cold moving sensation in his nose. The sneezing a few moments ago had done its job. The vigour with which bhOndOO’s right hand started penetrating in the left pocket was now doubled, since bhOndOO’s handkerchief was also in the same pocket, below the mobile.
Let me summarize the situation. Bittu sleeping on left hand, eagerly waiting for the nature’s call, unending ringtone that could wake Bittu up anytime, the awkward posture of taking out the mobile+handkerchief using right hand and the drop running steadily down the nostril. Only an octopus can take care of all these activities in such a situation. But our bhOndOO is b-O-n-d, he finally managed to take out his mobile and … well, sneezed six times on its screen.
When the onslaught of the sneezing was over, bhOndOO realized that the call was missed and the younger male was looking at him with not a frightened, but a very curious face. The well-awake Bittu raised his hand to slowly move in the direction of bhOndOO’s mouth. bhOndOO was worried about his waking up and could not fathom the meaning of the act. Only when Bittu touched bhOndOO’s lips did bhOndOO realized that a lot of viscous fluid from his nose was encroaching on the mouth area of his face. Bittu found the jelly quite interesting to play with and he got enough time to make maps of various countries on bhOndOO’s face before bhOndOO shifted him to the right hand and took out his handkerchief.
bhOndOO did not bother about the missed call, but he definitely thought of rushing to a bathroom attached to the same room. He was not sure how since he could not take Bittu along. Handing him over to someone outside would be too insulting. Hence, bhOndOO decided to keep Bittu on the bed, instruct him not to move and then perform the ritual. Bittu listened to the instructions carefully. bhOndOO finally went inside the attached bathroom and relieved himself.
The extent of relief was quite comparable to that after a comprehensive examination.
As happy bhOndOO came out, as you guessed, Bittu had disappeared. bhOndOO went out running and the first person he encountered was Bittu’s father JoJo.
“Umm… well… yes…”.
“Great! You would become a good father.” and went away.
bhOndOO realized that Bittu had not gone out. He rushed in again and searched the rooms more carefully. He went panic to find no signs of Bittu.
“I think I should tell his parents. But what will they think of me! And what reason should I tell that I went to the bathroom leaving him alone! This sounds so silly. They will call me a stupid! But searching Bittu is more important than being tagged of stupidity. Anyway, this won’t be the first time someone would call me stupid. Yes, I should tell his parents. I must.”.
bhOndOO made up his mind and came out. He looked around to see some familiar faces.
“Bittu’s mother would panic. I better talk to Bittu’s father.”.
bhOndOO went to Bittu’s father, JoJo. JoJo was talking to some guests.
“Excuse me, JoJo?”.
“Can I talk to you for a minute?”.
“Yes, please go on.”.
“Can I talk to you for a minute in private?”.
JoJo got serious, looked around at the guests, then at bhOndOO and “Please excuse me.” and came to a side along with bhOndOO.
“What’s the matter, bhOndOO? Anything serious?”.
“Am I disturbing?”, Bittu’s mother JiJi approached.
Both bhOndOO and JoJo did not answer.
“Bittu slept?”, JiJi asked without waiting for the answer to her first question.
“Ummm… Yes…”, bhOndOO replied.
“You were saying something.”, JoJo enquired bhOndOO.
“Ummm… No, nothing… really. Just… just asking whether there is enough food for the guests.”.
“Oh! Don’t worry about that. Our caterer is very experienced. And this is a very small function for him.”.
JiJi put her hand around JoJo’s and almost pulled him away, “I want you to meet my…”.
bhOndOO was left alone, disappointed and more worried. His pulse rate was continually increasing at the thought of losing Bittu and not informing it to his parents.
“I need to be brave. I must tell it to JoJo and JiJi. Who knows, Bittu may have been kidnapped!”.
The last thought made bhOndOO miss a pulse. He dreaded thinking about the consequences of kidnapping, shrugged and rushed towards JiJi and JoJo.
“JoJo, JiJi, I want to say something.”.
Both of them turned, questioning.
“Actually, … Bittu is kid…”, bhOndOO could not utter further.
“Ofcourse he is a kid. What do you mean!”, JiJi.
“No, I mean, he is a kid and he is a sweet kid, but currently, he is not…”.
“What’s the matter, bhOndOO?”, JoJo got serious again.
“JoJo, please don’t misunderstand me, but Bittu…”.
“Is here.”, a familiar sweet voice was heard.
bhOndOO missed another pulse at the voice and when he saw her. Bittu was comfortably asleep in her hands. bhOndOO’s face suddenly started glowing with surprise and pleasure. For a moment, he forgot the whole world and he did not even bother how she was there.
“She… is…?”, JiJi asked looking at JoJo.
“She… is…?”, JoJo asked looking at smiling bhOndOO.
“She… is…”, bhOndOO doesn’t utter her name.
“I am Shami, bhOndOO’s colleague from IISc.”.
“Oh! Nice to meet you.”, JoJo said shifting his notorious gaze towards bhOndOO.
“Please give him to me.” and JiJi came forward to take Bittu from Shami. Bittu opened his eyes and slept again.
“Okay, then. Enjoy yourself.”, JiJi and JoJo left the love-birds.
There was an awkward silence between them for a few seconds. bhOndOO was so pleasantly surprised that he did not even care for knowing the reason behind the surprise. But to break the silence, that was the only normal way.
“So,… how come… here?”.
“Main bulaye rahi.”, bhOndOO’s Daadi entered the non-conversation. I invited her.
“Oh!” and bhOndOO could not question further.
Shami touched Daadi’s feet.
“Khush raho.”, Daadi blessed with her right hand on Shami’s head and her eyes on bhOndOO. Be happy.
“Safar thik raha?”. The journey was okay?
“Haan Daadi.”. Yes, Daadi.
“Thik hai. Tum log baat karo. Main jara mehamaanon se milke aati hoon.”. I will be back after meeting the guests.
The love-birds were silently alone again. The awkwardness pushed bhOndOO to senses.
“So, where did you find Bittu?”
“In that room, below the cot.”.
“Oh! But why did you go to that room?”.
“I called you, but you didn’t pick up the phone. So I asked people here for your whereabouts. Someone directed me to the room. I didn’t find you, but found Bittu.”.
“Oh! It was you whom I missed!”.
The statement made Shami look down and bhOndOO hold his tongue in teeth. He added, “I mean… on the phone call.”.
Shami did not say a word. But bhOndOO continued.
“You don’t know, you just saved me from a big trouble.”.
Shami smiled. bhOndOO did not understand the meaning of the smile: I will always be there whenever you find yourself in trouble.
“So…, what’s the plan?”, bhOndOO asked.
“Lunch! And then you are showing me your city.”.
They both smiled… a little longer.
“Sure.”, bhOndOO said joyously.
Looking after the guests, Daadi kept an eye on the two colleagues from IISc.