Surabaya left the house on his bicycle when the servants at the house were readying the supper. His leather bag hugged his body. His mother’s Volkswagen Beetle was on leave that day and was resting inside the garage and his father’s Skoda was parked on the road. Shanker dai, the driver was taking puffs from a cigarette while waiting for the master. He had his almost dying cigarette between the fingers of his right hand and with the left he was waving in the air as an attempt to shoo away the air contaminated with the cigarette smoke. His father detested smokers. Shanker dai had been warned earlier but even the fear of being unemployment seemed distant while being with the forbidden pleasure. If he was to believe the family heresies, his father had turned into a new leaf after marrying a high-class family girl—his own mother—a distant member of the royal family. So his father carried a ‘No Smoking Zone’ around him because his mother loathed smokers. ‘Funny business life is’—thought he.

 

His mother was busy working on her laptop in the family’s parlor so she didn’t hear when he shouted ‘Bye Mum’ to her. She had established a NGO, dedicated to the upliftment of women and these days she is busy in planning for the seminar to be hosted. Consequently, a large number of meetings were being held at their residence—a lot of comings and goings of people—almost all ladies with cars—witnessed the neighbors. Papers littered the floor, the living room, the couple’s bedroom. The two telephone lines were never free. The house had become the ‘working zone’ of the NGO. During the family trip to the family’s summer retreat house in the Far Western Region; precisely in the first year of her marriage, the mother counted her blessings and those of the unfortunate women she had met and took no time to judge the difference. Results astounded her. On the same day, the family returned to the capital and upon her arrival, the mother hosted an emergency meeting of her friends. Thus an NGO was conceived. The mother was taking the task of women upliftment seriously—in fact too seriously. It was allowing the father to have dinners outside and take foreign trips frequently. They slept in separate beds. A English style, thought he, while others took it as ‘the first sign of strain’ in a relationship.


The busy parents didn’t care if the son was bicycling around—believed the grandfather. The grandfather was of the opinion that riding a bicycle is condescending to the family prestige. It is the subjects who ride it—declared his grandfather, who once served as a Minister to the Government of Nepal. He made such declarations every time the eldest and the youngest members of the household gathered. Grandfather considered the worldwide campaign ‘Save the Planet’, a hyped and his grandchild a mere victim. The planet is not in peril, pronounced the grandfather.

 

His mother had asked him to visit Mr. Shah’s house—their relative who had just come back from the U.S. The mother sought for Mr. Shah’s financial assistance for her NGO. Mr. Shah had actually lived in New York for 18 years working for a software company. And many (those who crowded Mr. Shah’s house the same day he arrived) proclaimed that his heavy accent was not an act and that his dialogues were not scripted. Mr. Shah and his wife didn’t have a child. That also led the couple to flee to America—said some. The Shahs owned a lovely apartment—evident from the Facebook pictures that Mr. Shah had uploaded. Trouble knocked at the door when Mrs. Shah fancied one of her colleagues—a Canadian. The Shahs had been separated for some time and one day Mrs. Shah filed for divorce. Ex-Mrs. Shah now lived with her partner.  The new couple wanted to ‘take the vows’. Like a defeated boxer, Mr. Shah had left the ring for the defending champion to rejoice. Mr. Shah had thrown the towel and had come back to the old hiding place, his country, his town, his old house, his old mother. Old Mrs. Shah wanted her son to remarry—thus was the gossip flying around. “By the time mangoes in my garden ripe, I’ll have my son married off to a nice girl and die looking at the face of my grandson,” old Mrs. Shah believed.

 

That day, Surabaya wore plaid shirt, black loafers from Tod’s, white linen trousers from H&M, Rayban wayfarers. He had rolled up his sleeve high up to the place from where peeked his evolving biceps.  The Tod’s loafers were his current favorites. He would not leave the house without them. His curly hair which had grown longer since graduation was flying in the air. A ring itched with the image of Lord Ganesha found itself on the forefinger of his right hand and two plain gold rings on the left. Audioslave sung to him from his iPod. He looked left and then right and took a turn to a narrow alley. Surabaya crashed with the car which was speeding towards him from the opposite direction. The papers, in his bag, all belonging to his mother’s NGO flied everywhere.