It is a small world after all.
“Are you ok? What took you so long? It’s already past one?” Alisha demanded as she opened the door and let her husband in the house.
“Don’t even ask Alisha,” Robin mumbled as he walked past her.
“What happened? Why do you look so messed up?” She replied with a worried look on her face.
“Nothing… there was a fight at the bar,” he said. “And then the stupid card machine wasn’t working properly. It took a lot of time to do the closing.”
“Oh, God! Why do you always get stuck with these ridiculous bar fights?” Alisha rolled her eyes as she shut the front door behind her.
“Because I’m in charge. I can’t just drop everything and leave, can I?”
“Krish is sleeping?” Robin asked in a low-pitched voice.
“Yes, he waited for you and then we tried calling you but couldn’t get through to your number,” she said.
“I wanted to call you, but I just didn’t have the time, and my phone has stopped working. The screen got cracked,” Robin said, flashing his phone in the air.
“It got smashed in the fight?” Alisha questioned as her eyes widened.
“No. If that had happened, I would have smashed their heads,” Robin chuckled.
“I don’t know why people love to get so drunk and fight?” he grumbled as he took his shoes off and changed into a pair of shorts and a t-shirt. “I mean, when I get drunk, I get romantic.”
Alisha giggled. “Are you hungry?”
“No. I’m only tired. I need to cuddle you and sleep,” Robin said as he turned off the lights. And they both got under the covers and were asleep the moments their heads hit the pillow.
The following day was a regular school day, and Alisha was up early. She finished off her kitchen chores and got Krish ready for school. Alisha quickly draped a pink chiffon saree, threw on some make-up, tied her curly hair in a bun and adjusted the pleats of her saree. She had become a pro at getting ready in less than ten minutes.
Krish peeped in to see his father sound asleep and snoring. “Mom! Do you think Dad will be home when we get back from school?” Krish asked.
“I’m sure he will, Krish. We’ll let your father sleep now. He came in late last night,” Alisha whispered as she pecked Robin on the cheek. “Now, let’s go; we have to catch the school bus.”
Alisha took Krish by the hand as together they both walked down to the bus stop. They made it on time and boarded the bus. Alisha made herself comfortable in her usual seat in the front by the window, and Krish seated himself next to his friend at the back. Alisha enjoyed the cool breeze hitting her face as she gave a sigh of relief. It was the only moment of peace she had in the morning.
Alisha was a secondary school English teacher, teaching at the same school where her son studied. Krish was in class one who was a busy little boy, perpetually up to something or the other. He really knew how to keep his mom on her toes. After a long day at school and the return bus ride, Alisha quickly heated some food as they both gobbled their lunch and chatted about their day.
“How come Dad has already gone to work? He is usually here when we come back from school,” Krish complained.
“Dad is a bit busy with work, dear. It’s a new job, and he has a lot to do,” explained Alisha.
“Ok…,” he said, sounding a bit disappointed.
“How was your day at school?” she asked.
“The same. I thought dad would be home today so we could go play some football in the park,” said Krish.
“Tell you what. Why don’t you take a nap after lunch? Then I’ll wake you up, we’ll grab something to get to eat, and we will go to the park together,” suggested Alisha.
“Ok. So, you’ll play football with me?” Krish asked excitedly.
“Yes, Krish, I’ll play football with you. But when we come back, you must do your homework,” insisted Alisha.
“Ok, ok! I will, Mom,” Krish said happily as he finished the food on his plate.
Later that evening, both mother and son got ready and went to the park near their house. It was a huge park covered with rich green grass. Around the border of the park, a variety of flowers growing, making the whole area lush and beautiful. Krish was so excited and started running around the park. Unfortunately, there weren’t any other kids at the park that evening. When it was almost time to go home, a tall man entered the park with two kids. They were twins, a boy, and a girl. Alisha and Krish took one look at each other and walked towards them.
“Hi!” Krish said. “Do you want to play football?”
The twins took one look at each other and then at their father.
“Go on,” said their father, trying to encourage them to play.
The man and Alisha nodded to each other as they watched their kids play together.
“How do you manage twins?” questioned Alisha breaking the awkward silence.
“Actually, it’s crazy. We have two more kids living on the floor above ours. These guys usually get together after dinner and create a racket,” he explained.
Alisha looked at him, stunned. “WOW! Four kids under one roof. I go crazy with one,” said Alisha.
“Yes, we live in a joint family. They can get kind of crazy sometimes, but it’s alright,” he said.
“So, do you come here regularly?” asked the man.
“No. I have never brought my son to this park. We usually go to the park on that side of the colony, but it has too many stray dogs around. Krish freaks out a bit. He was desperate to play football this evening. Really… he’s been asking all day...,” said Alisha.
“I’m Umesh, by the way,” he said as they shook hands. “Alisha,” she smiled.
“Where do you live?” he questioned.
“Behind that row of houses,” she replied.
“Oh! I live right there,” he said, pointing his finger to the enormous mansion.
As the sun was low in the sky. It was time to go home.
“Krish! Let’s gooo!” Alisha shouted.
“In a minute, Mom!” Krish shouted back.
“Come on. We have a lot to do when we go back home. Let’s go. It’s getting dark,” insisted Alisha.
“Ok, but tomorrow I want to come again,” insisted Krish as he ran towards her, flushed and out of breath.
“Yes! I promise,” smiled Alisha. “We will come tomorrow and play with your new friends.”
After saying their goodbyes, Krish skipped happily, holding his mother’s hand all the way home.
Krish played football with the twins several times over the next few days. And each time they got together, they seemed to have more fun.
Umesh and Alisha became acquainted and started to enjoy each other’s company without realising it; they looked forward to seeing each other in the evenings.
Umesh was the sole caregiver of the kids while his wife worked for a big corporation where she put in long hours.
Alisha made it a point to get some exercise every evening, jogging around the park at the same time Umesh usually joined in the game of football and made sure that the kids played fair. The kids were noisy and boisterous in their enthusiasm for the game.
One Sunday, Alisha had taken Krish to the mall to do some shopping. At the check-out counter, she bumped into the twins who were standing in line with their mother.
“Hi! I’m Alisha. Krish’s mother. “Our kids play football in the evenings together.”
“Oh! I’ve heard so much about Krish. I’m Radhika,” she smiled.
Umesh walked up from behind and gave a high five to Krish. “What are you guys doing here?” questioned Umesh.
“Nothing. I needed to do some shopping. I don’t have time during the week, so Sunday is the best day for me to shop,” Alisha smiled. “We were just going to get something to eat. Do you want to join us?”
“Yes, yes!” the twins shouted excitedly.
As the chatty banter continued, the two families feasted on spaghetti and hand-made pizza. The children insisted on playing video games at the gaming arcade located on the top floor.
Later that night, before bedtime, Krish narrated his fun-filled day to his father. “I think it’s time for you to sleep now,” said Robin. “Tomorrow is Monday. It’s a school day,” Robin lovingly hugged his son and tucked him in bed.
“Who is this Umesh Uncle?” questioned Robin, sounding confused as he came into the bedroom.
“Umesh is the father of the kids Krish plays with at the park. They all have a great time together, explained Alisha. “His kids are twins. And two more kids living on the floor above the twins. That’s four kids under one roof! At times they also join us in the park.”
“Wow! I’m so happy Krish has finally made some friends in the neighbourhood,” said Robin.
The following week, during park time, Krish tripped and had a bad fall. He started to cry as he held onto his ankle. He howled in pain as Alisha rushed towards him. As the little boy was unable to stand, Alisha decided to take him to the nearby hospital. Umesh quickly dropped his twins home and offered to drive them down to the hospital. They put an ice pack on Krish’s ankle to reduce the swelling. On the way to the hospital, Alisha called Robin, but there was no answer. She finally sent him a message explaining the entire situation and their location.
In the emergency room, Krish clung to his mother as she tried her best to manage the situation. The doctor advised Krish to be x-rayed to make sure that he hadn’t fractured his ankle. Krish rested his head on Alisha’s shoulder while she wrapped her arm around him as they waited for their turn for the x-ray. She saw Robin rushing to them through the crowd. “What happened?” Robin asked frantically.
“I tripped over the ball and went thud,” Krish said sadly.
“It’s ok...,” said Robin. “You’re going to be fine,” he said. “That’s what uncle also said.”
“Uncle?” he asked Alisha.
“Umesh. The man at the park I told you about the other night. The man who has twins,” replied Alisha.
“Oh!” said Robin.
“He was kind enough to drive us down to the hospital,” said Alisha.
“So, he’s gone?” asked Robin.
“Yes, he had to; I didn’t expect him to wait,” said Alisha, sounding a bit flustered.
Finally, Krish got an x-ray. Luckily, he had managed only to sprain his ankle and bed rest was advised for the next couple of days. Krish was sad that he would be unable to go to the park and would have to stay home.
Once they were home, Alisha settled Krish down in his room and went to the kitchen to get him something to eat. Robin stood by the kitchen door and said, “I’ve turned the television on for Krish. I have to go back to the bar,” he said.
“Why?” questioned Alisha looking shocked. “Can’t someone cover for you today?”
“We have a shortage of staff, and it’s Friday night,” he tried to explain. “I’m sorry, Alisha, but you know how crazy things can be.”
“Just go, Robin,” said Alisha, sounding fed-up as she continued preparing dinner. “Your stupid bar won’t shut down without you.”
Robin arrived home even later than usual that night. He let himself in through the front door and found his wife and son sleeping soundly. He had had quite a crazy day and called it a night.
The following day, Alisha took leave from work. It was a working Saturday for teachers and informed Mrs Puri, the lady in charge, that she wouldn’t come in.
‘But you can’t take leave on Monday too,” said Mrs Puri. “I know how difficult it is, but I don’t have anyone to cover for you.”
“Alright,” Alisha said apprehensively over the phone. “I will try and make some arrangements at home.”
After the morning phone call, Alisha desperately needed a cup of coffee. Krish’s moans of pain had kept Alisha up half the night.
“Can I join you for a cup of coffee?” asked Robin as he stood in the doorway.
Alisha looked at him and nodded her head. “How come you’re up so early?”
“I couldn’t sleep without you. You slept in Krish’s room last night. Our bed felt empty,” said Robin.
“Don’t try to butter me up first thing in the morning,” she said as she handed him his coffee.
The twosome made themselves comfortable on the balcony as they sipped their coffee in silence, enjoying the cool morning breeze.
“So, how was last night?” asked Alisha.
“Crazy. We had a corporate party at the bar last night, and there was just way too much happening,” said Robin.
“I’m getting tired of all this, Alisha. I can’t keep living away from you guys. But there aren’t any vacancies anywhere. I would love to get another job or work a nine to six job, so at least then I could spend some time with you two,” he explained.
“Keep trying, Robin. I’m not complaining. But Krish needs you. He needs a father figure in his life,” she said lovingly.
“I know. It kind of hit me yesterday when we were at the hospital when Krish said, ‘Uncle said the same thing’. I thought to myself, who the hell is this Uncle dude.
“Haha! The Uncle dude came to the rescue yesterday,” she replied.
“Sigh. I’ll ask around for any vacancies today,” Robin replied.
“I need you to look after Krish for the next couple of days. I spoke to Mrs Puri. There isn’t anyone who can cover for me,” explained Alisha.
“Ok. I’ll leave for work only after you return,” agreed Robin.
Three weeks later, Krish was much better. He was up and about and back getting into mischief. That lousy fall gave Robin a chance to spend some quality time with his son. Before they all knew it, they were back to their same old routine. Krish was happy to be back at school, and he was even more thrilled that he could go back to the park in the evenings.
The next day, Robin decided to take Krish to the park to play football. Alisha followed behind, carrying a chocolate cake she had baked, especially as a token of thanks to Umesh for all his help the other day.
As they entered the park, Krish went running to meet the twins and Umesh Uncle.
Umesh’s eyes lit up when he saw Krish up and about. The kids were so excited to see each other after so long, and their cheers and laughter filled the air. Finally, Robin met the so-called Umesh uncle in person. Apparently, they both had a lot in common. The kids couldn’t resist the chocolate cake and insisted on having a slice of cake even before they started their next game of football. Hoping to get Robin better, Umesh invited Alisha and her family over for a cup of tea.
It was not long before Umesh’s wife walked through the door. She saw a man from behind standing in the hallway talking on the phone and wondered, ‘Who is this? I don’t have the energy to entertain any guests now!’
“Oh!! Robin. What are you doing here?” she questioned.
“Wow! What a small world!” Robin said.
“This is Krish’s father,” said Umesh as he walked up from behind. “How do you both know each other?”
“My company recently had a corporate party at the pub. Robin is the Bar Manager,” said Radhika. “I must say, you guys did a fantastic job. Just yesterday, I was recommending your bar to a couple of clients.”
“Wow! That’s so kind of you,” Robin replied.
“Oh! Hi Radhika!” interrupted Alisha.
“How do you both know each other?” asked Robin, looking a bit confused.
“We bumped into each other at the mall on Sunday,” explained Alisha.
“This is weird how we all have connections with each other from somewhere else,” chuckled Robin.
Pretty soon, the two families were regularly visiting, and they all became good friends.
Radhika helped Robin get a new job as a beverage consultant. This was all very new for him, and he found he could spend more time with his family.
One morning, Alisha and Robin were sitting on their balcony in their usual spots. Alisha was delighted as their chaotic, hectic lives had taken a U-turn.
‘How life has changed over the last couple of months,” said Robin as he sipped his coffee.
“I know, sometimes I wonder what if we hadn’t met Umesh and Radhika,” she said.
“We would have met them somewhere or the other,” Robin said. “It is a small world, after all.”