The market closed bringing a frantic day of trading to an end. Ishan usually stayed in the office for at least four hours to reconcile the numbers. On that day however he rushed out of the office after two hours only. It was an important evening. He had a point to prove and he was already late. They could still finish at the top. He wanted to avoid the rush hour. He zipped out of his cubicle, didn't wait for the elevator and climbed down the stairs in a hurry. He got into his car, turned on Black Sabbath and started his drive. Ten minutes after his phone started to buzz. It was a call from his father. He had never called at that time. He ignored the call and thought that he'd call him back later that night. The phone rang again. That was a surprise. He had ignored his father's call on numerous occasions and never had he called back again, immediately. He picked it up.
"Hello, Ishan. I have a bad news." his father said in a voice that he didn't recognize. He realized that he was sobbing.
"What happened dad?"
"Your chaachu is no more. He died in an accident this afternoon. I and your mom couldn't get any tickets for this evening. We are taking the first flight tomorrow morning." he said. Ishan took a deep breath, slowed down and parked his car on the left. He had always thought how he would react to the news that brought the death of a family member. He had thought that news like that would send a shiver down his spine but nothing of that sort happened.
"I'm sorry to hear that dad."
"Where are you?"
"I'm in office dad."
"Ishan, head straight to chaachu's house."
"Dad, I have an important meeting. Let's go together when you guys are here tomorrow morning."
"Ishan, when will you grow up?" he screamed. Ishan stayed silent. He knew his father won't listen anyways. "Pratiksha and Manan need us. Your chaachu was their only support after your chaachi passed away. Please go spend some time and sympathize with them. Let them know that you are there if they need anything in this difficult hour."
"Dad, my meeting is very important."
"I'm sure the meeting can wait. Now get up and please leave your office immediately."
"OK." he said and disconnected the call. There was no point arguing. He shook his head and cursed his bad luck. His chaachu's house was thirty minutes away from where he had parked his car. He picked up his phone and sent an SMS. "I'll be late. Please keep me updated."
It had been more than three years since he had met his cousins. The last he had seen them was when their mother, his aunt had passed away. He had just started working in Mumbai then. Mumbai was the city where he had always wanted to live in. The love for the city went back to his childhood. He spent his childhood in Amritsar, that's where his father was posted. Every summer he along with his younger sister would spend their entire vacation, worth two months, in Mumbai. It was best time of the year. It was his chaachu who would always come to pick them up at the railway station. It used to be vacation time for Pratiksha and Manan as well. His father was strict and preached too much discipline, his chaachu however was exact opposite. He would give them two rupees each every morning before leaving for his work. They spent the whole day working on their summer vacation homework and waited for him to return. On some evenings his chaachu would take them to the beach where they'd play tennis ball cricket, on some they would go for a paav bhaaji, some were ice cream evenings, some dedicated to street Chinese food, some were simply spent at home playing Ludo. He would surprise them with little gifts. He would get comic books, board games, Bollywood movies and music cassettes, all the things that were prohibited by his father. Ishan was a great chess player and it was his chaachu who had taught him the secrets of the 64 squares. Chaachu's limitless energy and his love for all ensured that the two months passed in a jiffy.
The Mumbai summer vacations stopped after his Xth. He missed them initially but they became a distant memory as time moved on. He graduated from Amritsar, did his MBA from Bangalore and finally landed a job in Mumbai. Only once in this period he visited Mumbai, during his MBA. He stayed at his chaachu's place for a day only and spent all the time with his friends roaming in the city. Chaachu had asked him to visit them after he settled in Mumbai but he never had the time. The phone buzzed, an SMS. "It's started. What's to be updated? We all know what'll happen :-)."
There was commotion outside the flat, the same flat he had spent eight summers in. He walked in, found a few familiar faces and bowed. He found Manan surrounded by what looked liked his friends, crying. Ishan was perplexed and clueless. He stood there watching the chaos around him. "Ishan Bhayia."
Pratiksha was standing beside him, her face a mess. She asked him if he needed water. He said no and hesitantly put an arm around her. She cried profusely. He remained silent and let her cry. After sometime he took her to where Manan was seated and made her sit as well. "I'm very sorry. Mom and dad will be here tomorrow."
He sat there staring at the ceiling with blank mind, without uttering a word. After an hour he got up and put his hand on Manan's shoulder. "I’ll come back tomorrow. Let me know if you need any help."
He rushed out and looked at his watch. It would be all over by the time he reached. The saving grace was the message he had received a little while ago. "Manchester United - Two nil up at half time."