There was an eerie silence in the ICU, punctured by the sudden beep and noise from the machines.
Keshav sat still as if carved out of stone. Occasionally, his eyes strayed to the frail figure that lay on the hospital bed, pitifully gasping for breath from time to time.
Keshav’s eyes closed. The leaves of the book of his mind fluttered, turned back in time…
LEAF 1 – CHILDHOOD
The sun grinned ghoulishly as he burned like a cheerful bonfire, enjoying the sight of the unfortunate earthlings scurrying to the safety of cool abodes. But, these boys playing gully cricket didn’t budge. The sun shined brighter, sweat drenched them to the skin. They continued playing unfazed until a young Keshav got badly hurt and was rushed home. His busy, irate mother opened the door, glaring at him, “Hurt again? Go to grandfather, your thatha!”
“Come!” said a voice, a delightful mix of steel and sunlight.
Keshav rushed inside wailing, showing his grandfather his hurt.
“Aiyyo! This looks deep but why worry?”
And eyes twinkling, thatha opened his almirah, revealing a silver trunk, polished to shine like a diamond. Keshav felt a thrill dancing to the marrow of his bones as thatha winked. On cue, both made strange movements with their hands and legs, chanting in a sing-song voice, “Gurram bandi, kooja chombu, trunk petta, doin doin, doin doin…!”
And Keshav, convinced that the trunk was a magic box holding the solution to every problem, held his breath when it was opened. “Here!” said thatha, extracting a tube of funny-smelling medicine. He gently lathered it over his wound. Wincing, Keshav asked the same question, he asked every time the trunk was opened, “What’s the meaning of the rhyme we sing?”
“In those days, travelers used to carry a trunk for their belongings, a kooja chombu, a special metal pot for water and gurram bandi or horse-cart to travel. And doin doin was the noise it made!”
Keshav smiled. Suddenly the wound didn’t hurt anymore!
LEAF 2 – PATHFINDER
“Thatha, I want to go abroad and learn break-dance. Parents are not agreeing. I am so angry. I want to break something.”
Thatha grinning wickedly, opened his trunk.
Inspite of himself, Keshav smiled and sang “Trunk petta…doin doin!”
The trunk was opened and thatha presented him with his old sturdy bat, “Here, kick it. That way you can break a leg, literally! Why go aboard for that?!”
Both collapsed on the bed, laughing hopelessly…
LEAF 3 – MEDICAL COLLEGE
“Keshav, Thatha’s serious. Rush home…”
Thatha was shifted to the private ward.
His distraught parents decided to chant the Gita for the departing soul but Keshav stopped them.
His tall frame, bending at an awkward angle, he sang brokenly, “Gurram bandi….trunk petta doin doin, doin doin…!”
A rush of red lit up Thatha’s grey pallor, a brilliant smile curved his lips for a fleeting moment.
The leaves gathered themselves into one whole again….
“Trunk petta doin doin…”
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