After a long exciting day, Sameer barged into his home sweet home. Happy and content with the life he was living he gave a tight adorable hug to his mom and high fi’ed his little brother. Walls of his house were occupied with innumerable framed pictures. Since both father and son had a thing for traveling, the family had infinite memories captured on canvas. His father being a passionate doctor was quite often promoted, and transferred to different parts of India so that his knowledge in orthopedic could be used to the most. Where ever the father went, there went the family. Aakash Shukla made sure his family gets the most along with his passion. He had a special corner for his elder son, Sameer. Like the father, he had a liking for exploring new places. Aakash and Sameer, the duo traveled till they dropped. Kids grew and Aakash realized it was time to settle.
He chose Bangalore for a stable life. Sameer and his brother Rahul started a new life in the new town. Their mom Anita, a dedicated homemaker liked this stability. Aakash could not take this immobility for very long. His devotion to medical science took him to a small village in Udupi. He kept visiting his family regularly but the travel buddy was no more available for Sameer. He missed his father especially because of the travel diaries they both enjoyed in the past. Trekking in the dense forests of Manali, swimming in the beaches of Goa, random hiking in and around cities of Gujrat, tasting the unique cuisine of Kolkata were only a few pages of this diary.
Love and longing for traveling made Sameer professionally an important part of a quirky travel group of Bangalore. Sameer was soon recognized as “Vagabond”. Vagabond, with innumerable journeys and memories. He made people jealous. The world was his stage and he left no corner untouched with his drama. His phone was full of innumerable contacts and pictures. It was overwhelming to the extent that some of past memories and experiences were fading. It was for four times a week when his foot was on the ground for reporting to his humble office for documentation.
Sameer was changing in his room when his mom called him. She offered him Jaggery and roasted chickpeas. She asked,” Do you want to guess who has sent this?” Sameer scratching his head took some random names. With a mixed feeling of disappointment and excitement, she declared “Mahmood Bhai (brother)!” A big smile and a hint of tears came at once.From his huge bag of memories, he could clearly pick up the times spent with Mahmood bhai . He took his number from the old black phone book and called Mahmood Bhai, as known to everyone. But for him, he was his childhood best friend.
“Hello”! A coarse voice came from the other end. “Mahmood Uncle!” This is Sameer” said the jumpy Sameer.
“How are you Beta(Kiddo)? How did you recognize my voice? Did you get my small gift? Oh!It’s been years since I saw you. Your mom told me now you have a beard. You must be looking like young Amitabh Bachchan”.
“I am good uncle. I really liked your gift. I am sorry I don’t call you that often but your gift was very yummy. I finished it all. Yes, I have a small beard. It is somewhat similar to Amitabh Bachchan’s beard. Are you still a fan of Amitabh?”
“Yes! Yes! I still watch all his movies in the new multiplex. You remember Khalid, my son. He is all grown up and he takes me for the movies. He is married now and I am blessed with a handsome grandson. When are you getting married beta?”
“Oh wow! Khalid is married and has a kid. Congratulations uncle. I am very happy. I don’t want to get married now. I have to see the world. Remember!”
“Oh no! You should get married. Your mom said you have a traveling job. She needs somebody to take care of her when you, her elder son is not around”.
And they talked for hours promising each other to call again as and when they get time.
The call was disconnected but Sameer found himself connected to some thoughts from the past. It seemed like yesterday when Sameer was 8 and young Mahmood came in his life-like Santa Claus. Sameer was quietly sitting in his dad’s office in Allahabad when Mahmood saw him for the first time. Sameer had tears in his eyes. He was missing his best friend whom he left in the previous city of his dad’s posting. Mahmood slowly with little nervousness went close to the little kid.
“Hi, “said Mahmood.
“Hi, “said sobbing Sameer and ignored to look at Mahmood.
“My name is Mahmood. I work as a compounder with your Dad “said nervous Mahmood.
“What’s a compounder?” Asked inquisitive Sameer.
“Compounder is a very important person. He helps everybody in this office” exaggerated Mahmood.
“Wow!! You are an important person. Can you help me too? Please!!” the innocence pleaded.
“Yes! Yes! I will help you.”
“I want my best friend. I miss him. Dad said I can meet him after few months but I want to see him now. He will soon make new friends and forget me. “And a tear rolled down his cheek.
Mahmood wiped his tear, wrapping him with his hands, he sat close to him. “I cannot get your best friend but what if I get you a new friend, a special friend with super powers”.
“Super powers! Like, Superman! Sameer exclaimed with excitement. The tears now made his eyes glow.
“No! More powerful than Superman. Let’s do one thing. I will go and take permission from your dad if I can take you with me to show you the super-powered friend. Wait here for 10 minutes I will be right back”
“Umm ok! You promise to come back in 10 minutes!”
“Yes! Promise” and Mahmood left eager Sameer in the room, to ask permission from his dad.
Sameer kept on counting till 100 for millions of time while he was waiting for Mahmood. Forgetting about his best friend he was impatient to meet this new being with powers.
Mahmood entered the room with a huge smile and Sameer jumped even before Mahmood telling him that his dad allowed him to take Sameer. Sameer hugged Mahmood and Mahmood said “We need to go fast your dad gave me permission for half an hour. Let’s run!”
They walked as fast as possible. Mahmood’s house was half a kilometer from the clinic. Sameer was amazed to see such a simple and humble house. In a very old building on the 1st floor was Mahmood’s house. House had only one room with bare minimums. It was a hall with 3 mattresses laid at 3 different walls of the room, one old television at a corner, one of the wall was used to hang clothes, and a small part of the room was used as the kitchen with limited utensils. Attached to this hall was a small bath with toilet, where the door was a pale white curtain. At the right-hand corner was a door which took people to the most beautiful part of the house, the balcony. Sameer holding Mahmood’s hand walked towards the balcony and he was left spellbound. It was nature at its best with many green tall trees. Beyond these trees, the Ganges was flowing with its full serenity. No sooner did Sameer realized he was in some place which was beyond imagination, he saw a white pigeon in the corner of the balcony. Though it was in a cage but it stood in it with its chest high, eyes wide open, looking towards the great sky meeting Ganges.
Mahmood took the pigeon out of the cage and introduced it to Sameer. “His name is Kiki and Kiki his name is Sameer.Sameer was scared but Kiki flew and stood on his arm. Standing upright and looking straight into the eyes of Sameer Kiki made his place in Sameer’s heart in no time. Mahmood’s explanations were going in the background when Sameer started caressing Kiki’s neck and head with another hand. Kiki welcomed it by moving his head towards Sameer’s hand direction. It was a unique connection. Never had Sameer been so close to a bird, delicate yet strong.
Mahmood moved Kiki to the cage and told Sameer it’s time to go back. Sameer was is an awe to say anything. He silently held Mahmood’s hand and starting walking out. Before the door could be closed behind him he gave a last glance to Kiki, to bid bye with a wave of his hand.
While they were on the way to clinic Sameer had innumerable questions. “Why did u name him Kiki? How did you find him? “When can I play with him?” “I am sure apart from flying he has other superpowers. Isn’t it?” “Ok, so I am not going to answer these questions now. I will write you a letter and Kiki will get you that letter. It will have all the answers. Once he comes to you, you can keep Kiki for a week so that he gets to know you well. I will give you a new cage where you can keep him. After a week you can send a letter through him to me and then I will keep him for few days and send more letters.” Sameer nodded yes with the biggest smile possible.
Sameer told everything to his dad after they reached home. He wouldn’t stop talking about it. Day and night he would describe his parents about how he felt about Kiki. He wouldn’t stop counting the days to finish the week. He would clean the cage cautiously, ask Mahmood what does Kiki eat, how should he treat Kiki, what’s Kiki’s favorite cartoon. It was all about Kiki. Sameer warned his mom and dad to be nice to Kiki and they with a giggle would nod their heads.
It was a bright evening when Sameer first saw Kiki flying over to him. Kiki had a rolled paper tied to his left foot. Sameer jumped and welcomed Kiki with wide open arms and heart. A picture perfect moment which his dad captured in his camera secretly.
Sameer placed Kiki in his brand new home with his food and water ready. He sat on his bed and unrolled the letter sent to him.
Letter 1: From Mahmood to Sameer.
This is the first letter for you from Kiki and me. I will try to answer as many questions as possible. So this is the story of Kiki. My dad gave him to me when I was leaving for Allahabad. He knew I will be alone so he gave me a friend. I am sharing him with you too.From now on he is your friend too. He is a great mate. Please take care of him .I have to keep him in a cage to protect him from cats and other animals. His name is Kiki because my father used to call him so. I don’t know the meaning of Kiki but I like to call him so. He is very precious for me.
Sameer read it many times and could not figure what to write back. He tore a paper from his notebook and wrote:
Letter 2: From Sameer to Mahmood.
THANK YOU, MAHMOOD UNCLE. YOU AND KIKI ARE MY BEST FRIENDS.
Sameer found himself back in his room in Bangalore standing on his balcony with watery eyes. This letter trail went for a year, till his dad got transferred to another city. The city changed and Sameer forgot about Mahmood and Kiki.
Sameer with the picture of him and Kiki stood there reliving an entire era. He made tons of memories and forgotten many of them but this one, this one was really special.His first beautiful interaction with nature, an inspiration for his aspirations of traveling. While all life philosophies were running in his mind he realized “I think I forgot to ask about Kiki to Mahmood Uncle”
Written By: Shalvi Govil