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Drink life to the lees

Drink life to the lees

Published: Fri 11 Oct 2019, 12:00 AM

Last updated: Fri 11 Oct 2019, 2:00 AM

It was a Thursday evening and there was total traffic mayhem on the road to Dubai Airport. The usual less-than-10-minute drive turned into a more-than-an-hour-long nightmare. Looked like the entire population was rushing to catch the last flight out. Hearts revved up as messages slammed into the phone at a frequency that demanded attention. Wifey read them out in a monomania that would beat the yelling and wailing of local soccer commentators.
"Flight landed."
"At the immigration now."
"Tensed because I'm coming after such a long time."
"Where are you guys?"
"Got a free SIM"
"In the baggage hall."
"Collected baggage."
"Please be there."
"Outside the airport."
"At the pick-up point."
She might have cooled her heels well over 20 minutes when we finally pulled over in the pick-up bay. We had expected to face a tsunami of angst, but Vava was as placid as a lake.
"I missed you so much," she muttered as she threw herself into our arms. After placing the only piece of luggage in the boot, she ran her index finger on the metallic red.
"Dad, take care of your car. Don't leave it to the mercies of the elements," she said looking at the pustule a morning drizzle had left behind.
"Now you know the difference between boys and girls," wifey whispered, rushing to take full credit for bringing up a daughter who already sounded like a responsible mother.
"Excuse me, I brought her up," I would not give up easily. I thought back to the times when wifey would leave for school early morning and I would bathe, wash, clothe and feed the baby. God knows how many times she had pooed on my tummy. She began to toddle clinging on to my fingers. It's me who finally walked her to the world of dreams.
"Listen guys, grow up," Vava said as she stepped into our Dubai home for the first time. She ran her eyes over the decor and creased her face.
"Oh my God! I have lots of homework to do. Have you been waiting for me to do up the house?"
"What's wrong with it?" I wondered.
"Dad, what happened to your sense of aesthetics?"
"Age is catching up, darling. It would be messier when you come next time," wifey rubbed it in, passing a glass of orange juice to the guest. Unlike when her son came a couple of months ago, there's no shopping mania this time around. There's no mad rush to stock up wafers, drinks and sausages. The beds had not been made. Fitted sheets had rolled up in the corners. There was a pile of clothes that needed to be ward-robed.
"Guys, you should learn to be house-proud. Come to my little space in Bangalore and see how tidy it is."
The girl nodded in disbelief and started to pick up pieces, literally, collecting sheets of newspapers and flyers strewn around our home. From the sofa, the study table, the dining table, the bed and the floor. She neatly stacked them under the centre table and glanced up at me, seething with anger.
"Dad, when was the last time you cleaned the centre table glass?"
"He takes his dinner there watching TV. It's for me to clean up in the morning," wifey wouldn't miss a chance to rile me. I watched as Vava brought a bottle of shiner and wiped the glass clean.
"Dad, why are the walls so empty? Where are your masterpieces? Where are all the collectibles you had brought home from around the world?"
"His focus has changed, baby. The only activity he finds happiness in is writing. And his weekend pubbing."
Vava surveyed the bedroom she was assigned. "Mum, this doesn't look like a bedroom. Why so much milky light? I get the feel of a five-dirham shop in Deira market. She soon darted to the neighbourhood hardware shop and changed the bulbs to golden.
"Amma, why do you need two cupboards in one bedroom? Throw the movable one and de-clutter. Let there be a seamless flow of space. It would broaden your mind, too. Why do you need another computer table in the bedroom when you have two study tables?"
In the next couple of days, she worked diligently like an interior designer, displacing lots of stuff, including a few statuettes. She made a few trips to the local bookstore to buy glitter paper. Like a kindergarten child doing homework, she sat on the floor making random wall hangings to beautify her bedroom. A crimson bulb made its way to an old bedside lamp fished out from the store.
"Dad, you guys were living like bachelors. Writing and teaching do not mean giving up on better living. Bring back the rainbow into your life. It's not sunset yet. You have miles to go. Like you always say, dad, drink life to the lees."

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