It’s never too late to be reborn as a person that you want to be.
“Train arriving on Platform number 4 at 20 hours and 3 minutes is expected 15-20 minutes late today.”
He looked at his wristwatch that pointed 8:10 and his distant eyes stopped their search.
He found a place to sit in a faraway corner on the crowded platform. If only the train wasn’t late today. He took a deep breath and dialed a landline number.
“Madhav! Why didn’t you call earlier? Did you get it?” A high pitched voice rushed out from Madhav’s receiver.
“I’ll be late, you guys go on without waiting for me.” He slipped his hand in the bag. His heart skipped a beat when he couldn’t touch it, but he felt the rustling plastic, eventually. “I’ve got it.”
“Priya is asking you to get a cab.” But Madhav bluntly rejected it.
“I’ll come soon. Have fun!” A halfhearted smile crossed his face and he thought about being with them at that moment.
His concern was much more than the late train, it was the hour’s journey ahead and the increased amount of rush due the lack of punctuality. It was his fifth time in the same month of returning late after a hectic day at work. However, that day he had left an hour early to get the wrapped box in his bag.
The train arrived at 8:31 and as he was crushed from all sides by the crowd, his mind wandered off to a memory of 16 years ago. The doctor called him inside the room at exactly 8:31 p.m. and it was at this exact moment when his life changed.
“Andar chalo aur jagah banao.” Screamed the men who stood dangerously risking their life at the door. Madhav wondered how could someone live so carefree while standing literally one step away from a life threatening accident. A hard push on his back derailed his train of thoughts and he hurried to get closer to his friends who always exchanged seats with him.
“Took you long enough to get here.” The youngest member of their group, Ranjith, stood up to offer Madhav his seat.
“Don’t you think I should be the one saying that?” As he leaned towards the seat, his sandal’s final stitch came off and he tripped over.
“For god’s sake, Madhav! Buy a new sandal already. How long are you going to repair that good-for-nothing sandal of yours?” His friends screamed in a single voice.
“Surely with my next payment.” He pulled the bag closer to his chest and dozed off with an inward smile.
Like a preset alarm clock, he woke up exactly when the train reached his hometown. Madhav wished his travel partners a farewell and rather than walking, he took an auto to his home.
Once he reached the entrance of his chawl, he saw a group of kids leaving from the same gate. Way too late, grabbing the bag close to him, he ran for his home. Priya was about to close the door as her friends had just left but Madhav stepped in time.
“Won’t you invite me in?” He spoke with pausing at every word to catch his breath.
“Nope. You’re too late. And where’s my chocolate?” She pushed the door shut.
“First, let me in.” He motioned to his bag with a sly smile and Priya opened the door out of curiosity.
Madhav picked out Priya’s favorite chocolate box from his bag and she jumped with joy. “Thank you so much, Papa!”
“See, I told you he’d be here before 10.” Madhav’s wife walked in the room and her high pitched voice seemed to resonate in the tiny apartment.
“You always get me my favorite chocolates, I so love them! It’s extra special because I get them only on my birthdays. You two are the best.” Priya pulled them together in her arms and hugged them.
“Are you really that happy with this gift?” Madhav pulled away from Priya and looked at his wife, “I guess we shouldn’t give her the gift we wanted to give her, yes honey?”
“There’s another gift?” Priya tried to take a look in Madhav’s bag but he raised it high away from her.
“Wait for it.” He handed her a tiny box wrapped in pink gift-wrap and she gently opened it. As the gift unveiled Priya’s excitement turned to silence and her eyes filled with tears. Once it was completely exposed, Priya was holding a brand new smartphone in her hands.
“I don’t want this, Pa!” She held back her tears and tried to put on a brave face but Madhav pulled her in his arms and said,
“You’ve been an understanding kid all your childhood, beta. I don’t want you to be understanding, I want you to be a princess. I may not have been able to give you the riches nor the luxuries yet you never tried to rebel or uttered a no. Alas, it is what destiny served me, but no more! Your mom and I have realized what a gem you’ve been and without your understanding or support we may still be living in the illegal slums. You became a warrior too soon, baby. Now it’s time to live like a princess.”
With every tear that touched the ground, Madhav and his wife were happier than the day Priya was born in their poor little family. For today, she was reborn as a princess who they’d do everything to keep the happiest.
Madhav Ramanathan is a fictional character of the Fabler’s imagination. Resemblance to any person alive or passed, is purely coincidental.