“Are you with Arjun Reddy?”
“What is he doing?”
It’s 9:00 pm and I am climbing up the stairs after my dinner. I hear this voice coming from my bedroom. He is on the phone with someone. I creep closer, trying to tip-toe, noiselessly.
“What did you tell him?”
“Is he in your house or you have gone out somewhere?”
“I told you not to go out.”
He sounds angry.
“Do you have my gun? Will you shoot him?”
I enter my room quietly. He has not noticed me. I pounce on him from behind and grasp him tight. And give him our special mamma-baby kiss!
Prithvi throws the phone and starts pummelling me, asking me why I had scared him.
He was on the phone with Arun, our driver. Well, technically speaking, our driver.
Arun had joined our household few years back as the driver. This was before Prithvi was born. When P was born, a bond developed between the two, I guess right from the time the nurse got him out of the OT!
Arun is the ‘homemaker mother’ P never had! He makes him his breakfast, bathes him, dresses him, feeds him, packs his bag, takes him to school, gets him toys and so on. A typical breakfast table scene is Arun making dosas and serving them to A and P.
Sometimes I wonder if he will steal my clothes, dress in them, and replace me completely. To guard against that, I keep my cupboards locked.
Arun’s phone has 82 pictures. 79 are of P, 1 of some unidentified south Indian heroine and 2 of his Gods.
He plans his diet (‘You have not had egg for 2 days now’) and the recipe (‘Shall I boil it or make an omelette?’)
He teaches him Kannada. P asks the plumber ‘Yeno Shishya?’ in a local tapori accent.
He teaches Moral Science as well, ‘Say sorry to didi, you tore her book’. He is punched in response to this, and his finger is twisted out of its joint.
So, he seizes the opportunity to teach self-defence. Which, in his scheme of things, is just running around the house, and bumping into furniture till he is captured and tortured again.
When I am ready to leave for work, I can see Arun disappointed that he’d have to leave P back. The farewell is long-drawn and full of promises – I lose patience – sometimes I feel I should just teach the maid to drive and leave Arun back home to complete the perfect family picture.
Talking of family, Arun belongs to Coorg where go annually, to chill. It is customary for us to visit his parents there and hand over gifts. They don’t speak any Hindi and we don’t speak any Coorg.
So we just sit there, smiling politely during 15-20 minute visit. They ask us something. To help us understand, they speak loudly and clearly. In Coorg. We get nervous and gulp more of the Rasna till we choke on the sugar sediment.
Arun is on top of the world. He seems to be telling his mother how smart and intelligent P is and how he is the best-looking kid in the school and so on.
P is completely at home. He picks up an air gun and fiddles with it. Arun’s father laughs and says something. We are not sure what he says…
‘Don’t worry, it’s not loaded’ or ‘’Good boy, aim at your mother and shoot!’