As usual, the little kid came to the bus stop on time with his dad, carrying his almost-new school backpack that he didn’t quite like. Just as any other day, the sweet-shop had just opened and birds gathered to enjoy a meal of the stale sweets left over from the previous day. The milk booth had begun to see a mini queue in front of it. The few old men, who gathered there every morning to share news – and a news paper, had come wrapped in shawls that had been gifted holes generously by time and negligence. The azaan calls could be heard from a distance, carried by a gentle but chilly northerly breeze. The Akashvani tune played on the radio in some house.
Everything else was routine, but for the school bus. It didn’t arrive. The kid and his father had to take a public bus to school.
“You’ll be waiting for me here till the recess, right papa?” asked the kid with a tiny spec of doubt in his mind, standing below the arched gate of the school compound.
“Of course I will, honey” dad replied.
“Promise me that you won’t go anywhere.”
Convinced, the little happy feet moved towards the school building in a half-running half-dancing way. It’s such a comforting thought that dad will be around. It would be good for dad, too, he thought, since otherwise dad always keeps a busy schedule. “May be I should let him go to work after the recess,” he debated with himself. But something didn’t feel alright all of a sudden, and he turned around. There was the lawn, the arched gate, and the road beyond. But dad wasn’t there. His eyes looked for dad at every probable place, and then at every impossible place on earth – on the trees, on the boundary wall, behind him, …… but dad was just not there. When helpless pain meets an endless void, it rains. He couldn’t stop the imminent rain, sat on the lawn, and murmured, “Papa, you promised.”
His childish requests couldn’t compete; dad had to go to work.
No one kept promises. No one keeps promises