Bruno, wagging his tail, started chomping down on the over-flowing bowl of food. He was happy that his master had given him all this extra food. After stuffing himself with the feast he was bestowed upon, Bruno laid down near the welcome mat where he always stayed while his master got ready for his work. His master, Vinit, was getting ready for the most important meeting of his life and tried to look his best today. Vinit always focused on his work, his plan was to work hard now and live a luxurious life later. He never really had any friends, the ones he had were all from his office, besides them, he only ever hung out with his family. He never got a proper chance to date while he chased for opportunities to make his future better. As they were a close-knit family, he still lived with his parents. Vinit came rushing down, worried he was going to be late, and he sat next to Bruno. Bruno’s head followed his master’s movements as his master finished wearing his socks and shoes.
“Today is a very important day Bruno!! I’m going out of the country for this meeting! Which means I won’t come back at the time I usually come back at, it’s sad I know but you be a good boy and don’t create any troubles for mom okay!?” He said patting his lovely dog, and continued “I’ll ask you to not wait up for me, but you’ll still be here waiting for me when I get back won’t you!?”
Vinit said goodbye to his family and took their blessings and Bruno followed him till their gate from where he saw Vinit wave him goodbye from his taxi.
Vinit reached the previously agreed upon place and was the second one there. Mr. Jaikanth was the first one to reach, Vinit pretty much expected it as Mr. Jaikanth was a punctual man and he was always before time. Mr. Jaikanth had a cold, stone face which made him look uninterested at all times, even when he was happy. Although he was a very schedule keeping man, he had just gotten married this past year at the age of 47 to a bride much younger than him. It was, of course, an arranged marriage but he believed that love could sprout in their marriage eventually. They had been married for almost 18 months but nothing had happened yet to constitute it as a real marriage. They were strangers living under the same roof; they spoke only when spoken to, never had a real conversation about anything let alone their feelings. It is not like he never tried, but Mrs. Jaikanth always shut him down with disinterested responses.
She had studied Mechanical Engineering and later took a job as a teacher at a local college only to last a few months before quitting. She felt she didn’t fit into any of the careers and didn’t want to work so her parents thought to marry her off as a last resort. She was 30 years old when she became Mrs. Jaikanth; she was on the chubbier side of the scales with a dusky complexion and a thin head of hair. She also didn’t want to put efforts into how she looked or how she dressed, she was always walking around in a greasy ponytail that made her face look wider. The one thing both Mr. and Mrs. Jaikanth had in common was that neither of the ever smiled. In their own wedding photos, they look like the mannequins put out in stores during the wedding season. When Mr. Jaikanth told her that he was leaving the country for a few days, he watched her face to see if her expressions changed. She asked nothing except that if he would be eating at home before leaving. When Mr. Jaikanth did leave he only waved her goodbye at the door because he was apprehensive she wouldn’t see him off or even check from the balcony. He was right.
“Hello Jaikanth, Sir!” Chirped Vinit and stood beside him. “Been waiting long?” He enquired.
“No, I got here 5 minutes before you did.” Then they stood side by side sharing the silence waiting for others to come. Vinit did not mind the silences, he understood that Mr. Jaikanth didn’t make small talk. Mr. Jaikanth had mentored Vinit since he joined the company and Vinit was so in awe of his wealth of knowledge and simple life, he started looking up to him. Vinit took it upon himself to try and make Mr. Jaikanth laugh, he just wanted to see what would make him smile. He always cracked silly jokes and puns around Mr. Jaikanth and tried slapstick with their office interns, but none of that ever worked, that only made Vinit’s resolve to make him smile stronger. To Vinit’s surprise, when he asked Mr. Jaikanth about his wife, he became self-conscious and Mr. Jaikanth’s heart fluttered.
“First time away from your spouse, huh!?” Vinit teased with a coy smile and continued, “Mrs. J must be waiting eagerly for you to come back na?”
Mr. Jaikanth, for the first time in forever, blushed and let out a smile imagining if things would change after this trip, he wondered if distance really made the heart grow fonder. He chose to believe.
Vinit was humbled watching Mr. Jaikanth blush. Vinit got envious thinking “Man! What love he must feel.”
His respect for Mr. Jaikanth only deepened after this.
Meanwhile, their youngest colleague, Akash was running around his apartment, still packing at the last minute while his girlfriend, called a cab for him. Akash was supposed to share a cab with his Boss as they lived fairly close and were going to the same destination. But he was only cursing himself for being late, this reputation, he thought, was never going to leave him. His lack of punctuality was the butt of the joke with his friends and colleagues. Living with his girlfriend, who he had been dating 7 years now, didn’t help with his time management as he had hoped. Just last night as he was supposed to be packing, he distracted himself every time she pouted her lips telling him she’ll miss him, to help her first was his priority and that involved silly talk and kissing and deciding what to get her as a souvenir. Before he stepped out the door and rushed to the cab, he kissed her goodbye and said,” I’ll be back in a flash.” She waved him goodbye from their corridor balcony with a big smile and eyes that said she missed him already.
Mr. Deepak Shukla was already packed and ready 10 minutes before the meeting time appointed and now he was just sitting in the living room waiting for Akash. Mrs. Shukla was used to the trips and an empty home, her lonely heart only wished to see her son but what’s a mother’s wish to male egos.
Her son believed that he was his own person and didn’t want to follow what his father had planned for him. So he left his father’s house to live an unconstrained life. To his mom, none of this was something they couldn’t just sit and talk through but what was done was done and nobody ready to budge, both men were stubborn, like father like son. HE left never even once to come back to meet his mother and this broke her heart, not as much as when she would call him and he would give one-word replies and hang up on her.
The cab blew horn downstairs and Akash came running up. For a moment her fragile heart leaped up, falsely making her believe those were her son’s footsteps, ready to come to her open arms any time now.
“You’re late. Not that it should surprise me.” Mr. Deepak said in a stern, disappointing voice.
“I’m sorry, Sir!” Akash said picking up Mr. Deepak’s bags.
“You don’t need to do that! I can pick up my own luggage.” Mr. Deepak said.
“It’s no problem, Sir! It’s the least I could after making us late.” Akash said with a gleeful smile.
“Wait!” Mrs. Shukla exclaimed as she picked up the bowl of ghee and sugar and fed a spoonful to Mr. Deepak as a good luck wish and she looked at Akash with hopeful eyes and a heart filled with mixed emotions. Akash obliged as soon as he caught the look in her eyes and let out a nervous laugh as he approached her. She fed him a spoonful too and he touched her feet, she gently touched his hair like he was her own son and wished him all the success in his endeavors. Akash gave her his brightest smile and rushed to the cab. It was only for a moment, but her heart was happy.
As Akash and Mr. Deepak left, their last colleague Reyansh now stood with Vinit and Mr. Jaikanth. Reyansh used to be just like Akash when he started out but he changed drastically when his father died. His father was his best friend since day 1 and even after his passing, he remained his best friend, but losing both a father and a best friend leaves a hole in your heart that never saw it coming. Reyansh knew his father wasn’t immortal and that he would die someday but he had never prepared himself for it, why would a fan think about his hero dying? His father’s sudden demise made him lose his playful side, he became serious and got married to a woman of his mother’s choice and now had a 7-year-old son. His son now looked at him with the same hope-filled eyes that he used to look at his father with and that was all he ever wanted. He was happy being the hero this time. His sadness about losing his father never really went away, his happiness for his son just took over him.
They all boarded the company plane and cozened themselves before the takeoff.
“Boss! Would we have time after our meeting?” Enquired Akash.
“Our scheduled are packed for the day but maybe we would have a few hours before dinner. Why?” said Mr. Deepak
“Oh! I promised my girlfriend I’d get her some souvenirs. And I thought maybe a ring could be a good souvenir.” He confessed shyly.
Vinit exclaimed first “Oh! Big man, finally popping the question!!” Akash laughed with him and everyone congratulated him on once in his life not being late about something important.
As the plane started rolling on the runway, everyone buckled into their seats. After a few minutes, they started going over the content of the presentation and they started feeling a slight turbulence which just in a few seconds turned into a seismic level of disturbance and within the next few seconds they felt a horrifically heavy rush as the plane plummeted in a downward spiral.
Reyansh screamed out “DAD!” with a face filled with terror as he saw his fate, which could only be saved by a hero.
Mr. Deepak turned around as he thought he heard his son cry out and reach out for him. And within a moments notice, they were on the ground, burning to ashes.
Reyansh’s 7-year-old son stood in front of his mother, confused as to why his mom was crying so terribly. He couldn’t understand what was so horrible that she couldn’t tell him. He held her hand and told her that whatever it was, dad would fix it when he comes back. His mother cried even harder as she held him so close to her and so tightly. Feeling too overwhelmed, he gave in and cried too.
Mrs. Shukla kept calling her son but he was not bothered enough to pick up the call until he was asked by a friend about his father’s company. Seeing on the news that his father’s company airplane had crashed with no survivors, regret and fear swelled up at his throat and anxiously he called back his mother. Her his mother’s trembling voice, tears started to run down his cheeks and his heart and gut felt this weird pain and pang that he’d never felt before.
“I’m coming home.” He said. Finally, the words she wanted to hear for so long, now had come at an unfortunate cost.
Mrs. Jaikanth fell onto her sofa and stared at the space in front of her. She looked at her reflection in her TV and felt this tremendous sea of guilt, regret, pain and frustration just takes over her. “I am a horrible human being.” She thought to herself. She never felt lonelier in her house, that apartment never felt bigger, she never felt so smaller. She profusely remembered everything at once, and all that come out of her mouth to her dead husband’s memory was “I’m sorry.”
Akash’s girlfriend was greeted on the door by her mother a day after the news broke. She went back to her old place with her mom as her parents thought she had lived in sin long enough, and low and behold what this sin had brought. They considered it lucky that they weren’t married yet, making it easier for them to fix her up by the end of the year. She was crushed and still would be for years to come, but that didn’t matter. She had lost hope, love, and faith all in one flight.
Vinit’s family lost their only son, there’s nothing they could do, nowhere they could turn. Parent’s worst nightmare of burying their child had just become their reality.
Eventually, everyone moved on from grief to grief counseling and some even moved on with their life. Some had patched up their wounds and now only scars remained as a reminder. A reminder could be anything, a similar name, a similar face or a ringing in the ear or maybe some days it was just overwhelmingly obvious that they missed their loved one. These people had a tool which helped them, that was the capability to move on.
But Bruno still waited near the welcome mat every day, where his master had guessed correctly, that Bruno would still be waiting for him no matter what.