This was his last hour.
He knew it. Every neuron in every cell in every part of his body and every drop of his blood told him, whispered to him in chorus – this was it. The sand had begun to slip, into the other hemisphere of the clock, out of his grasping tightened fingers, out into a vacuum, where he would soon follow.
His breathing was quick, shallow. His hands felt the tremor that reverberated inside his head. He could feel the heartbeat rise, the seizure coming on…and then his head said, wait a minute! Lets do a quick recap, shall we? And bless his cranium for relaying in realtime the sights he loved the most: his wife, arranging knick knacks around the room at that very moment; his little angel Inaayat, who was trying to get his grandson Aman to eat his dinner; his mute brother Hussain, signing furiously at him, and laughing inaudibly at the joke he’d just told; his Royal Enfield, which he wanted his grandson to have; his paintings, sitting in the dark room nobody was ever allowed to enter; his mother, may she rest in peace; his books, Virginia Woolf, Bach, Madhubala, his bed; his land, to which he had dedicated his legs, an eye and his soul; Toto, his parrot, swinging in his cage and doing imitations of him…
They said one’s last moments on earth brought everything back, reconnected one with the oldest memories. Well, he didn’t know about that, but everything that had ever made him happy was in this room, and right in his vicinity. He’d been aching inside this cage for so long – aching for freedom, and that’s all, because everything else, thank the lord, was with him, here for him. And here it was too, a chance to leave, get up and get out, go on a free run over buildings and walls and garbage bins and trees and parks and statues. Here it was, his being ready to climb, jump, run, jog, twist, clamber, throw himself away.
The recap continued, and so did the rising heartbeat. Only, now it rose for excitement about this new adventure. The runway, he realized, had been a brilliant joyride – he’d done his jaywalking, loving everything, the pleasures and the pain. This last fight might be His, but the balance sheet was in his favour, with this huge credit of happiness weighing it down immeasurably…
Inaayat was the first to look up and see her father grinning, staring straight ahead, his gaze fixed on some unknown point in the street outside the open window. Something about his rigid posture and the lifeless swinging of the armchair alarmed her. Appa! She yelled, rushing towards him. Her mother ran towards her too, Hussain was already trying to shake the unconscious form out of stupor, miming his dissatisfaction at his brother leaving so early, before he’d even tried his new recipe, the kebabs from heaven.
Aman stood in a corner, staring at his Abba, wondering why everybody was making a fuss about him napping. Abba looked about as happy as he himself felt when Sharma uncle gave him lollipops.
Abba is dreaming about red lollipops, Amma. Let him be, he said, pulling at Inaayat’s salwar.