My dad was very little like a father, and more like an annoying brother. Or so I am told, because I have no brothers for comparison. There were many times we plotted together, mostly leaving mom out because of her halo. [I told her some of our shenanigans later, and since they were all harmless, she had a good laugh and shook her head.]
But there were times where my dad would have gotten into trouble with her, if she had been with us. Most of those times, I covered for him, because he was chastened enough. [Examples are things like tripping over something because he wasn’t being careful, or eating/drinking something he wasn’t meant to, and the like.]
Except for one time.
Around the time we lost him, the pair of us had trotted off to the market. The market is very familiar, as we go there very often. He wasn’t keeping 100% well, so it was imperative that he wasn’t too far away from me at any point. Plus, he had a new phone, whose ringer was absurdly low for Mumbai. He couldn’t hear it ring, essentially.
I had to stop at a store to pick up a couple of things, but he didn’t want to come in. So we decided to meet in 10 minutes at a nearby eatery for lunch. He would head off there first, since he was tiring and wanted to sit. I headed into the store, and bought the stuff I needed. I then proceeded to head to the eatery. No sign of him.
I was surprised, but not worried yet. I figured he would be in the next eatery, as this one seemed full. Nope. Tried the next, nope. And so on, till I was in the midst of the crowded market, having a complete panic attack.
I tried ringing his phone, but of course he didn’t answer. I went to where we had parked the car, but didn’t see him. I started asking passers-by and shopkeepers whether they had spotted someone of this-and-this description, but no dice. I stood in the middle of the pavement, at my wits’ end, so panicked that even tears had seized in my eyes. I knew calling my mother was the next step, but she would immediately panic and we would have a full-blown crisis on our hands, so I waited.
And then I spotted his salt-and-pepper head bobbing close by. In mingled relief and rage, I ran across roads and people to get to him.
Only to be greeted with the most seraphic smile, and mild surprise: “What happened?” he asks me, with the utmost guilelessness. If ever I came close to strangling my father, it was that moment.
Anyway, I told him off a little, because he never took my annoyance with him seriously anyway. And we proceeded to have lunch, finish our errands, and head home.
When I got home though, I knew I had to tell mom. I asked her to take a seat, and gently told her everything, in front of him. As she proceeded to take in all of what I was saying, the colour drained from her face, and her eyes widened in horror. Only the fact that my father was sitting opposite her, in front of her eyes, stopped her from whipping herself into panic-stricken frenzy.
When I finally finished the tale, my father was fixed with an exceedingly beady-eyed, far from amused look. He grinned at her placatingly, but it didn’t make a dent: “If she had called me before she had found you, you would have gotten the pasting of a lifetime, and I would have walked out of here!”
He had the grace to look at her with a little more shame than I apparently warranted, and said that there was nothing to worry about since he was here now, wasn’t he?
My mother harrumphed, and declined to grace that with a response.
He then turns to me, wrinkles his nose in some disgust, and says: “Sneak! It’s not nice to tell on people, you know!”
That’s when he got a smack from my mother, and I walked out laughing my guts out. Because which father accuses his only child of being a sneak?!