Son Of A Spy
My dad is a spy. I believe he is alive, even though it’s been years since I last saw him. I believe so for Maa believes so. He would come home once a month. Maa would burst into tears and hug him while I peeped from behind the pillar. I was scared of him. He never hugged me. We shook hands. He would tell me that I was the man of the family in his absence, and unlike him I was always supposed to be on duty for Maa. I don’t know if I was very fond of him, but his presence made Maa ecstatic. I guess that was all I needed. I think I miss his visits.
Maa looks at his photograph every day. She makes an extra roti in case he surprises her with his visit. She cries when she feeds the stale roti to the stray dog. I think crying is a part of her routine. She stares at the gate for hours for no reason. She snuggles with me as she cries to sleep. My nights resonate with her quivering gasps. I don’t know what to do to make her feel better.
Last week I showed her the essay I wrote on my ambition in life. I want to be an Army officer. She slapped me hard when she read it and then cried louder than I’d ever heard her. She hugged me saying she was sorry. I never understand her. I think I should find a new ambition.
Sometimes she tells me stories about Dad. I love gazing at her eyes when she does that. They sparkle with joy as the story begins and are flooded with tears while it ends. She doesn’t answer when I say I want to be like him.
I saw Maa unlocking the old trunk yesterday. She dressed herself in a white sari. I had never seen her in a shade of white. She looked stunning and sad. She took me to the vegetable market. People stared at her and then looked down. I think she’s the prettiest woman on Earth. I am proud of her. I told her that but she broke down on the street. Maybe she doesn’t know how beautiful she looks in white.
Sometimes I see dad in my dreams. We walk together in the garden. I keep looking at his intense eyes. He bends to hug me and says, “A son is never off-duty.”