It was a warm morning to wake up. Though the rest of the country was immersed in a heat wave, this place nestled in the foothills surrounded by tea gardens was comparatively pleasant. And the tinned roof overhead cooled overnight to make the early morning much better. Still, it was summer and there was no escape from the heat as soon as the Sun came out.
I was always an early riser, generally speaking. And in summers, you tend to rise early. The sunrise was happening before six o clock. And we had to be early for another reason. The water supply. The morning supply was for three hours, five to eight. So we had to finish off the morning chores and also store water in the drums for cooking, washing and cleaning. The next supplies of water would be in the afternoon and evening. I would come home for lunch. And my wife enjoyed a small siesta with my son, post lunch. In the evenings, both of them strolled to the shopping centre where my office was. We returned home, together.
As I got off from the bed, I noticed my wife was already up and in the kitchen, preparing the tea which we generally had together, sitting on the veranda, overlooking the flowers in the small garden, birds on the trees around and across the narrow road the green lawn of the Army Mess just in front of our quarters. And after the tea, either a small walk or tending the plants in the ample garden at the back returning with the harvest of the day. There was plenty of time before office started at ten o’ clock and anyway it was just a couple of minutes for him to reach there in his scooter.
Getting back from the toilet, I tried to wake up my son more in a playful manner rather than in a strict way. He was just about three years’ old and was the best form of entertainment to have. My wife came out of the kitchen with the tea and both of us went out to the veranda. The first thing that struck me that morning even as the morning looked so normal otherwise was the fact that the volume of the TV in our neighbour’s quarter was unusually loud. But we didn’t bother about it and sitting side by side, finished the tea . Then we had a stroll in the backyard garden and coming back found our son was still sleeping.
My wife went to the kitchen to prepare the breakfast and I switched on the TV for the news on Doordarshan . I was humming a tune softly, keeping with the morning mood when the sombre face of the newsreader announcing something important jolted me out of all the good feelings of a pleasant morning. Ex-prime minister and Congress leader Rajiv Gandhi was no more. As we slept, he was assassinated by a suicide bomber, the previous night. The smiling face of Rajiv Gandhi filled the TV screen . I gave a small shout to call my wife. Both of us watched, aghast. And as we were watching and discussing what happened , my son silently entered the drawing room through the adjoining door and asked – “ What happened , Baba ?"
As I answered the innocent child , I found my voice choked – “ Somebody died , son “ . I was wondering what to say . How do I explain the innocent child about assassination , hate and politics. And I was also wondering why in spite of not liking the man who died and bearing a grudge against him for being a privileged person due to birth , I was feeling so distraught with his death . All my derisive animosity towards him, as a politician , as a member of the ruling elite , as the person who coined the insincere slogan Mera Bharat Mahaan , as the one who had the Bofors scam attached to him , everything vanished . I was just left with the memories of a smiling young man , a gentleman , a family man and a loving son to his mother.
After twenty five years , I still remember him the same way . An ordinary man who had responsibility and mantle of greatness thrust on him . A loyal son, a loving husband , a doting father and a gentleman .