“We cannot accept such an expensive gift from you”, Sucharita Mukherjee told her son Parimal. “Go and return it to the dealer from whom you have purchased the car.”
“Ma, I am not going to return the car. I want you and dad to use it. I will pay for the petrol, for the driver, and for its regular maintenance. I want two of you to travel anywhere you want. Go to temples if you like, go to meet my sister in her in-law’s house, go to watch movies, but for heaven’s sake, please do not ask me to return the car.”
“But car is a very expensive item, son”, his father Deben Mukherjee told.
“Dad, I can afford to buy it. I work in America now. I earn good salary. It was my dream to gift something to both of you.”
“But we do not deserve this. What have we done for you”, his mother asked.
“Ma, you and dad did everything possible for me. What I am today is for two of you. “
“We have not done anything special for you, we could not send you to any good school or any good college”, his mother said.
“Ma, you could not send me to a good school or a good college because you could not afford it. Now let us not get into this debate and come with me, I will drive the car and take both of you to any place you would like to go. Before I return to America I will also hire a driver for this car.”
The three came out of the house and stood near the car.
“Get out of here! You have bought us a Toyota Corolla! I will tell everyone that my son has bought me a Toyota” his father started talking like a child.
“No don’t tell others; since Parimal have started working in America, some of our neighbors have already become jealous of us . I do not want to see jealousy in their eyes any more. This could harm our son. Parimal, tell your father not to tell others about this car.” his mother sounded very strange to Parimal.
Parimal wanted his father to drive the car with his mother sitting beside him and he wanted to sit behind. When he was small he used to dream that his father was driving his own car, his mother sitting next to him and his sister and him sitting behind and fighting with each other for every single thing and complaining to their mother and asking her to settle their dispute.
His sister was two years older than him; his parents got her married immediately after she graduated from college. She was only 19 years old at that time. He could still remember his sister was crying bitterly just before leaving for her in-law’s house; his mother was also crying bitterly. His brother-in-law was standing with a guilty looking face as if it was he who was responsible for the sadness of the two.
Since his father could not drive a car, Parimal sat behind the wheel, his father sat next to him. His mother sat behind. Suddenly his father asked him where the horn was. Parimal pointed at the center of the steering wheel. His father pressed the horn like a child to hear the sound.
Parimal suddenly woke up hearing the honking sound of a car from behind. He started from Boston, Massachusetts six days ago; his destination was Los Angeles, California. It was at the border of Arizona and California where every car would be visually inspected by the highway patrol. He had taken the southern route through Mississippi to avoid the mountain snow. Few lanes on the freeway were closed which brought the traffic to a temporary halt and most of the drivers stopped the engines realizing that the waiting time could be long. While sitting behind the wheel he did not realize when he had started dozing off. The cars in front of him had already started moving and the car which was just behind him honked, asking him to start his car and move. The total duration of his dream could be just few seconds. As soon as he came out of his dream he remembered that his father had died few years ago, his mother had died more than a decade before his father died, but the dream appeared so real and it made him feel so good.
The cars on the freeway have started moving slowly. He knew that the traffic patrol would show up at any moment and start knocking at a glass window, asking him to roll it down so that they could see the inside of his car.
As soon as he heard the knocking sound he woke up and heard that someone was knocking at the door of his flat in Malad, Bombay. “Sir we are here from the furniture store to deliver your new wooden bookshelf” he heard somebody at the door as a response to his “who is there” which he had told even before waking up from his sleep completely. He realized that he was lying down on the sofa of the living room while reading a book and fell asleep. But just before getting up to open the door he wanted to pinch himself once to make sure that he felt the pain.
Author: Mintu Ghoshal
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