The Visitor

Sneha Sadan was abuzz with activities.

“Here,” beamed Yadavji, guiding the cake delivery boy towards the table.

“Where is Srivastavji?” Indira maushi looked anxious. “The birthday boy is taking too long to get ready,” she grumbled, only to evoke laughter from her best buddy, Vanita Kaku.

Ganpat, the home-helper for the aged, was busy pasting colorful ribbons.

“Have we ever had a birthday celebration like this in Sneha Sadan?” Ramji wiped his moist eyes, looking at his wife. She sighed. “Our children never come to celebrate our birthdays.” She tried hard not to cry.

“Let us not spoil the mood with our sob story. Srivastav’s son is coming today, and if I am not mistaken, it is nearly five years since he has paid a visit to his dad. Well, but who are we to pass a judgment? Our children have not been here either,” Manpreet Singh’s voice trembled with emotions. His son and daughter thought a father with an ailing heart was more of a burden to them. After their mother’s demise a couple of years ago, they left him in the Home.

Many others had similar stories to narrate. Those who had no progeny were somewhat better off; they never had to look forward to a visitor. The disappointment of waiting and not getting a visitor was more agonizing than not having children.

A son visiting his father was such a rare occasion, hence this celebration today. The manager was only too happy to use the fund from the trust for the arrangements.

Srivastavji, a septuagenarian, entered the main hall, dressed in a white dhoti and blue kurta. Everyone ran towards him like a school kid. Some tugged at the new kurta his son had sent by courier last week.
“It is made of silk,” Bhavji, the oldest member, rolled his eyes. “Must be very costly,” Lisa aunty nodded her head in appreciation. Everyone looked pleased except Srivastavji.

“You should be bubbling with excitement, your son is coming, and he has promised you a handset.” Ramji hugged his bosom buddy and wished him a happy birthday.

After a while, a blue Mercedes stopped near the entrance, and Srivastavji’s son stepped out, a tall man in his forties. He walked in with an elegant bouquet and a gift-wrapped box that every one knew contained a handset.

“Happy birthday Dad,” he said, handing over the bouquet and the gift. But Srivastavji held back his hands folded tightly.

“Son, I know why you are here,” he smiled. “You have become aware of the family property case culminating in my favor and making me richer by two Crores, isn’t it? Otherwise, why would you come all the way to celebrate my birthday only this year?” His son fidgeted uneasily on hearing this.

“You can leave,” said Srivastavji. “I have informed my solicitor to give the entire proceeds to Sneha Sadan after my demise.”

An eerie silence followed, but Srivastavji’s baritone voice broke it.

“Hey, aren’t we cutting the cake?”

Many eyes glistened with unshed tears.

Sudha Viswanath

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