3

His Last Hurrah

As the Bard might have said, he entered this world, a mewling, puking infant…but he hasn’t stopped since. He has a perpetual scowl, his eyebrows seem never to get enough of each other, they are always meeting above the bridge of his nose. As for his lips, they emote, and out of his mouth pop his latest grouse against, and these are myriad, the world. “What did my father leave for me, for my future? Neither land, nor legacy, nor lucre! Just education!” Yes, he was educationally qualified, but found no suitable employment. I refer to Full Stop, my grandfather’s Last Hurrah, his sixth and final child.

Thereafter began Full Stop’s quest for that perfect job, commisurate with his status in society, as also one which had to be tailor made for him. Nearing seventy today, he’s a trier, he is, he sporaidically keeps hunting for that job. He never really felt any need to find work. He’s all his life been in the enviable position of being a ‘kept man.’ Kept in clover, kept with a suitable roof over his head, kept with clothes and more on his back, and kept with three full and square meals daily. He has large hearted and generous siblings, all of whom contribute to this existence. From his dual SIM Card cell phone, his idiosyncratic ways, his irresponsible responsibilities, and his crass disloyalty to them, collectively. They do, only because he is the cross that their beloved eldest sister has to bear, by her own self-inflicted guilty admission! He is there, because she is, the mantle protecting his moving shadow. Sadly, but not surprisingly, this fact hasn’t even remotely struck him, he doesn’t have deducing powers. From cradle to grave, he thinks that it is his god given right to have his family take care of him. The cherry on the cake was, when very recently this very sister underwent a life threatening surgery. Full Stop was told that while pre-op tests were being run, he had to do the hospital patient’s night shift for two days prior to surgery. All he had to do was watch television in her room, and ring the bell for Nurses if required. The day of surgery dawned, and Full Stop was in a very delicately shattered situation. All of us were in various stages of nervous anxiety, while he tottered out of his sister’s room, saying that he hadn’t been able to sleep a wink the previous two nights by his sister’s bedside. He was on the brink of a total collapse. The diagnosis? He had irresponsibi-litis, and was summararily told to take himself home. He lived, and laughed himself to his next layabout day! I wouldn’t be human if I say that I would like to be that fly on the wall for his rude awakening in the not too distant future, when this gravy train dries up! Even angels are human, and have a shelf life.

Barely a few years after his umbilicus was cut, than he became an uncle, to his oldest sister’s daughter. So, as the youngest of six siblings, this new entrant, quite stole his thunder, by being the first grandchild to his father. Full Stop barely had three or four years to bask in the limelight, before the arrival of this, his first niece. No sooner had she arrived, barely a year on, came his other sister’s daughter. Never mind that there is photographic evidence, in Kodak Black and White, of a boy aged about four or five years, lying on a bed, working his furious way through a half litre of milk,fingers wrapped firmly around the bottle in contented bliss. In the same frame is a little girl, his toddler niece, looking on in amazement, it seems, to see this hulk, drinking milk out of a bottle, and slurping it too. Full Stop was indulged at every turn, is what I am getting at, never deprived. Well, Full Stop never quite succeeded in whatever he turned his hand to, and every failure of his was usually laid at the door of his mother, who he was convinced, neglected him entirely, because his older sisters had chosen to get married and steal his thunder, by presenting his parents with their first grandchildren. As for his father, that kind and and loving man, who never turned anyone away from his hearth and board, even if this good nature left the old man with very little to leave as legacy to the Gen Next, nobody minded. Barring Full Stop. Later in life, he usually graced the home of his oldest sister, or one of her long sufferring progeny. He expected all this as his right from each of his siblings, solely because this was how it was meant to be. He was living on their charity, only because of the love and gratitude that they harboured towards their parents. Sadly he never thought so, he didn’t have that much intelligence, just native cunning.

In Full Stop’s early years, his first passion was cricket, close upon this game’s heels was his second, whining. By the time Full Stop plodded through school, scraped into university, and eventually graduated, even if not quite suma cum laude, to his passion for cricket and whining, was added his obsession for body building and Marxism. His scowl rarely slipped, nor his grousing. Many a time did he land a job. It was no secret that it wasn’t his qualifications that got him this, but the earnest behind-the-scene pleadings of a kind relative or family friend, calling in a favour. At his job interview, he would lay down his terms and conditions. Among others, these were that he should be permitted to play cricket matches whenever he was called upon to do so by his team. Also that he be permitted to attend those body-building classes where he was honing his eight packs to dethrone the Mr.India of the day. If the lazy layabouts at work muttered and grumbled to him about having to earn their minimum wage and pull their weight, he would be Karl Marx himself, fighting for their laggardly Cause. Small wonder then, that within some weeks, he would call it quits, and announce to the family that he could not take any more of his employers whims and expectations. Rarely was he sacked, he would throw his resignation in their faces, or so we were told. It was at one time his burning desire to find himself a pretty heiress to marry, so he too could add to the gene pool of the future generations of his illustrious family line. This scheme of his, was thankfully nipped by the family, unanimously and smartly, in the bud.

To get to the present. Life was good for Full Stop. He got to watch television till the wee hours of the morning, slept, woke up refreshed about noon. A quick shower, then, laid out on the dining table, breakfast at around 1 by the clock. In his trail would be an unmade bed, clothes piled higgeldy-piggeldy around his unswept room, pools of soap suds and water on the bathroom floor, his used plate and dirty dishes in the sink, and the half read newspaper in an untidy heap near the couch. There were some tasks that perforce, he had to perform. One of these being walking the family dog, with strict admonitions never to ‘take it past that garbage heap around the corner.’ This was also the time for his evening smoke, shooting the breeze with passing acquaintances, cribbing to them about his lot in life, slave-driving ex-employers, an uncaring and unhelpul family and the prospects of a likely job. By which time he would have unthinkingly walked past the out of bounds garbage heap. Unluckily for Full Stop, he was once actually jerked out of his nicotine high, by the sounds of agitated canine yelps, interspersed with angry porcine grunts. Before he could blow another smoke ring, he saw trundling at great speed towards him and his canine charge, a very irate mamma pig. The earth shook beneath her cloven hooves, an assortment of rotting fruit and vegetable peels hanging drunkenly from her head and stuck at random over her body, her udders swinging wildly, did not deter her determined charge to save her grunting piglings from sure deccimation. She thundered towards man and dog . Full Stop, jerked into self preservation mode, first yanked up by its collar, the by now hysterical dog, and then shot off his starting blocks at goodly speed. He was unfortunately not fast enough, and felt the thud of a snout at his heels, the tearing of cloth, and the sting of a smart nip at his ankles. Her maternal instinct assuaged, the pig ran out of steam and slowed to a stop. By this time dog and man were a speck on the horizon. Full Stop got home, expecting to be rewarded and praised for his heroics with the irate porcine. Imagine his dismay that he not only got an earful at home, about jeopardising the life of the loved dog, but was actually ticked off at his irresponsible actions. Now, he was angrily chastised, the family had to bear the expenses of getting him medical treatment. That much for gracious and loving relatives.

So, Full Stop, seems to have taken a vow to teach the family a lesson they will not forget. Anytime he’s asked to run an errand or shoulder some family responsibility, his reply is, “I may not be able to help out. You see I have a job interview in the offing…”

One sample was enough, then god threw away the mould. It takes all sorts to make this world, no less than The Lotus Eater, whose name is Full Stop…