The railway station was crowded. Bhiku Kaka was squatting idly on the platform. Priya noticed that he was not being his real self. There was desertion in his eyes and he looked distantly at the passengers alighting the train.
This was not her Kaka, she recalled. Being a regular commuter on the route, she had seen the old porter ever energetic and agile, carrying as many bags and suitcases as he could. Priya admired the porter’s steely determination despite his age. After all, he had had to fund his son’s education.
Kaka had wanted a better life for his son. “I want him to be well-educated and land a white-collar job,” he had confided in her. He would even forgo his own health for his son. Every other week, his hands would be wrapped in plasters to heal his frail bones. But he would carry on with his work anyway. Priya was worried for him. He was getting older and lifting heavy suitcases was harder.
Kaka’s dream had turned into a reality when his son landed a job in Dubai. She had been delighted to hear Kaka’s childlike giggle when he broke the news to her with a box of sweets. “I will go to Dubai, child. My son will take me,” he had told her. Priya grew very fond of Kaka. She saw in him a responsible father she had never had.
But in the last five years, the old man hadn’t been himself. His son no longer kept in touch with him. Priya had witnessed Kaka wilting, bit by bit, turning into a hollow shell of a man.
One fine day, she made up her mind. “Kaka, let’s go,” she said to him.
He seemed unmindful, even as Priya pulled him up gently and walked him to her house. She may never be able to wipe off his misery, but she could certainly try giving him a new family.