Vinay fell hard on the road and a cigar dropped from his mouth. In few seconds, a small crowd gathered around him. As some of them tried to hire a rickshaw to take him to a nearby hospital, he could only remember the incidents of that morning. This morning started as usual september morning for Vinay, but what followed was not at all usual. He could not keep on thinking, It felt as if thousand ants were eating him from inside. A few seconds later he was dead.
Just a few hours before, Vinay was sweating heavily. Still, he thought that he should run atleast one more round. He had this routine of running for almost half an hour daily since his childhood. He remembered, when he would just about to stop, his late father used to tell him to keep moving atleast for ten more steps. Somehow after those ten steps running becomes easy. Is it about motivation or some physiological hidden power that all of us posses so that pushing our body further has almost no upper limit.
Anyways, the main reason why he wanted to continue was another. Tiwari sir was still not there. He kept running but his eyes were fixed at the gate of that park. In this colony he was living for last two years. When he moved to Shahjahanpur as a history lecturer in a degree college, he was a little paranoid. He grew up in Lucknow, which is not a metro but still a decent city. Shahjahanpur was just a small town in his opinion. So he was afraid that he would never find any worthwhile people to make friends with. But this habit of running had proved godsend as he found tiwari sir here, in this park only.
Tiwari sir, Jay Shankar Tiwari, well, Major (retired) J S Tiwari was a seventy two years old fellow, a retired RAW officer, who was also a regular at his morning walks. The impressive personality of tiwari sir coupled with his knowledge of indian history attracted the curious kid inside Vinay to come closer to him. They would sit on the bench of park and chat for hours. The job of a degree college lecturer has this unique advantage of having ample time. Just three lectures in a week and a few hours of college social visits. Rest is all God’s time. That is why we can easily notice that these fellows are most active in local politics, social work or tuition business.
After few minutes, tiwari sir walked in. He was five minutes late, just five minutes than usual, still good enough to make Vinay worry about him. Army people have this reputation of being on time and tiwari sir was a complete army man in all senses. Also the old fellow was living alone, as he had no children and his wife passed away almost two years ago, so Vinay was worried whether something happened to him. There was one more reason why these two men had such a good repo with each other, cigars, good quality cigars, which are very difficult to find in that small town, Tiwari sir always had one. Well army contacts, Vinay assumed.
Vinay always enjoyed puffing a good cigar after that exalting run of his. Tiwari sir came and they both sat on the bench. Tiwari sir was looking a bit washed, as if he was crying for hours before coming there. Vinay wondered whether he should ask. He had mixed feeling towards tiwari sir, one of childish fear, another of friendly respect, almost like a kid looking towards his father. He had in many ways accepted tiwari sir as his father because deep down he missed his own father sourly. He asked finally and tiwari sir explained slowly that this was his last cigar as he promised last night, in front of his dead wife’s photo, not to smoke again. Vinay never understood this compulsion of many people to attach morality with smoking. It is not as if old Major is going to die younger due to smoking, he is already seventy two, Vinay chuckled inside.
Vinay took the cigar from his hand and lit it, then extended his hand towards him. Tiwari sir, looked at that cigar, quietly, almost for fifteen seconds, then smudged it into the bench furiously and said, “I want you to have it”. Vinay was puzzled. Tiwari sir looked back sharply, his confidence was back, eyes stable and a gentle smile on face, “Vinay, there is one reason why I am giving it to you. I never told this to anyone. My father threw me out of home when I was a teenager because I stole a cigar from his box and unfortunately that was the last cigar in his box so he became very angry. One harsh word led to another and eventually I found myself out of home.” after a little pause tiwari sir continued, “I wanted to give that cigar back to him. I wanted to reach at some position so that I can talk with him as equals. I worked hard, faced many hardships alone and finally after getting selected in army when I went back to my home, he was already dead. Can you imagine, nobody even informed me about his death”.
Viany was listening attentively and wondering how this tragic story of Major saab will end. Tiwari sir was pleasant again and gestured him to keep that cigar. He took Vinay’s hand in his hand and murmured, “I consider you as my son. I could not give a cigar back to my father but I can redeem myself by giving it too you. It is my last cigar and I want you to have it.” After a short pause, he continued with a naughty smile on his face, “It is almost impossible to find a father figure when you are in your seventies. Isn’t that so?”. Then he laughed loudly, and that laugh eased Vinay a lot.
After making that cheerful remark, tiwari sir left very early, leaving a greatful Vinay behind, who found a true father figure today. He stared at that cigar for few minutes, then walked back towards his home. Tiwari sir on the other hand went back to his home, washed his face. He never really liked weepy eyes.
Then he put an old Mohammed rafi song on his music system and sat on his rest chair. After staring in the blank for few minutes, He reached out to the side-table, he opened the box of cigars, it still had a last cigar in there, he lit that cigar and started puffing it. After a few puffs, his hands dropped, his eyes were wide open, there was a sense of triumph and guilt on his face, perhaps finally he had shown his father what he was. It is hard for us to say whether he saw a son in Vinay or he saw an image of his father in him, what we can say for sure is that the box had a warning written in red bold letters, “weapon grade material, not for sale”.