Disclaimer: All characters and incidents in this story is completely fictional. Any resemblance to any people, dead or alive, or incidents in real life is purely co-incidental.
I can still remember my childhood days. There were only three of us, but we had the biggest house in the village. Kala Bungla was how the local kids referred to it. The bungalow wasn’t black, but because of the big black gates, it earned that name. My father didn’t let me mingle with them much though I wanted to. I never went to the local school either, and as I would pass by the village market in our car on my way to the private school in a nearby town, the kids would chase behind, hitting the glass windows and the trunk of the car with much gusto.
My holidays would be spent in the premises of the bungalow with friends from the same economical background. We used to play cricket in the space of the big driveway, four against four with runs only on one side of the wicket. Father didn’t mind broken windows, he said it was all part of the game, though I still think it was a ruse to keep me in the compound than go out and play in the big playground with the local kids. Whenever the ball went out of the boundary walls, our gardener’s son would run and get it for us. As he gave it back to us, he’d say, “Raju bhaiyya, your ball” and wait to see if we’d let him play. Some of us wanted to, but the watchman would quickly shoo him away. Looking at me, he’d say, “He should know his place. Don’t worry.”
One weekend, when father was away on business, I had watched with interest as our gardener, Kishen uncle and his son Ram worked tirelessly in the garden, watering and tending to the flowers. Spring was in the air, and the fragrance of roses and the pink Bougainville would fill the air. I had watched as Kishen uncle had put a seed into the damp earth, then patted it down and added fertilizer to it. Ram would sprinkle water on the flower bed then with a watering can that lay on the top shelf in his room. I had gone up to him and asked him to let me do it too. “Raju bhaiyya, if your father, the Sahib came to know of it, he’ll dismiss us. I don’t have other work. Please…” he had started but I’d cut him off. I’d told him I’d talk to father if he objected, I’d not let them lose their job. He had been reluctant, but I’d reassured him again, and he had agreed. As I bent down, my knees had got dirty in the damp earth but I was happy. I’d placed a stem into the soil; a rose bush would soon flourish in that space. I had looked up and seen my mother on the verandah, a smile on her face. Later that night, father had called me and with a smile, encouraged me to continue. Fun days awaited me, I knew.
Spring passed, and the summer had begun to set in. My gardening had continued under Kishen uncle’s watchful eyes. That first rose bush now was blossoming with roses. I had taken Kishen uncle’s pruner and cut a single red rose. With pride and joy, I had taken it to my parents. They were happy to see the fruition of my effort, but father had told me something that day.
That was twenty five years before. I am no longer in that big bungalow. A few years after that day, I left the village for studying in the city. I studied hard and became what my father called “a success”. I got married ten years back, and now live in a cramped three bedroom apartment in the fast paced life of the city. My life revolves around my family, and Isha my daughter has taken up trying to make my life less hectic. She has taken up gardening too, earlier than I had thought.
Today I see her on our terrace garden as she looks at a beautiful white rose, the first she had planted. I see her hold it in her hand and take a deep breath. She sees me looking at her, and she smiles before coming to my side. I tell her, “I’m proud of you, Ishu” and her smile becomes brighter. And then she whispers something in my ear that makes my love for her go more deep.
“You were right, papa. The rose does look more beautiful on the plant than in our vase”, she says and I hold her close as I remember my father’s advice. Somewhere in the heavens, I’m sure he’d be smiling.
Image from DeviantArt: Breath by ~mechtaniya