“Rao saab, Mirza sahib is waiting for you”, the driver came and gave a shout at the door. The 70 year old, Gangadhar Rao, got up from the rocking chair. He called his wife, for a cup of coffee for the driver, and went to his room to get his coat, turban and the walking stick. The driver did a namaskar and showed him to the car. He opened the back door as usual, but Rao saab insisted he sit in the front that day. The driver was confused, but it was master’s order, never to disobey Rao saab. He opened the door of the famous “Fiat Padmini” and Rao saab sat, in the front seat, after a decade.
The driver started off to Mirza sahib’s house, which was 50kms from Rao’s house. He never understood, the relationship between, Gangadhar Rao and Ali Mirza. He only knew that every 3 months, Mirza sahib would send him to pick up Rao saab. They would spend 2-3 hours at Mirza’s house and then he would be dropped back. This had been the same since 25 years, his dad had done this, and now, he was doing it for the last 10 years.
Ali Mirza was one of the greatest script writers in the film industry. Almost all the movies he was a part of were blockbusters. It had made careers of a lot of actors/directors. People would become desperate to work in the film, if they knew it was Mirza’s script, they knew something good was in store for them. For the past 30 years, Mirza had not failed to attend any award function, and his mansion had a room which adored all his awards.
Gangadhar Rao, was from a humble background. His father was the temple priest. He never like Gangadhar mingling with Ali. Despite punishments, he always found Gangadhar and Ali playing together. Ali’s father was in the british army, hence gaining the wrath of the villagers. It was not his will to serve the army, some past experiences forced him in. Nobody dared to question him, not even Ali. After independence, Ali’s father decided they would move to Pakistan, and packed their bags to leave. The partition was not kind to them, and due to religious fueds, Ali’s father was no longer there to protect him. Ali was left alone, he dint know what to do, so he ran back to Rao’s house. He was a teenager, scared and shivering. Gangadhar’s eyes did the pleading, and so Ali was then, for the first time, welcomed in the Rao household.
Ali was not allowed to continue in school. Even though he was given shelter, he was not given the same status as Gangadhar or other siblings. He had to take care of the farm, while all the kids of the Rao household went ahead to get education. This saddened both the friends deeply, but Ali had no grudge against the old man, afterall, when the country was burning, he gave him shelter and life.
Gangadhar, would hide from his father and teach Ali, anything he learnt in school. Infact, Ali was so good at things that, he would do Gangadhar’s school work and let him have the credit of all the good work too.
As they grew, Rao wanted his eldest son to become a doctor, but Gangadhar’s interest was not in medicine, he loved nature, he loved poetry, paintings. There was no way out for him, he had to take up what his father wished for. He was sent off to Delhi to study medicine. Ali was still working at the farms. The friends would write letters to each other. Gangadhar would send his paintings and poetry to Ali, and the latter would spend lot of time, safeguarding his friend’s possessions. During the final year of medicine, he wrote a story to Ali. It was his love story. How he liked one lady at an orphanage, in Delhi, how he met her, how he had proposed to her. But now, he was scared. How would he communicate this to his father? Ali suggested he just marry her and come to the village, this way his father couldn’t do anything. Gangadhar thought this would be the best solution and got married to her. He then came back to the village with her.
That night Gangadhar saw his father’s eyes filled with pride. He was happy that Gangadhar was married. He gave the orphan a life. When both of them bowed, to seek his blessings, he gave her one of the jewels, which his wife had left behind.
“What’s your name child?” he asked.
Scared of what might happen next, Gangadhar said “You know baba, she cooks very well. Come dear, I will show you the kitchen”.
“Chutki, come and help your sister-in-law here”, he called for his younger sister.
Days went by, Gangadhar opened his clinic in the village. Everybody was grateful, they had a doctor in their village. Ali was quite busy those days, he had gone to the city for some personal work, nobody knew what it was.
One evening Gangadhar picked up the evening paper, Ali stopped him, and gave him a book.
“what’s this? I don’t have time to read books now. You know that” Gangadhar was staring at the bound book.
“I know my friend. Just read this once, and tell me what you feel” Ali forced him to sit with the book.
After 2 hours, Gangadhar closed the book, sighed and addressed Ali “How did you know?”
“This is not what I expected. Your reaction is totally different from what I thought it would be” Ali was completely taken aback. “And what did you mean by how did you know? What am I not supposed to know?”
“How did you know she is not a Hindu? I have been trying to hide it from Baba, you know what will happen if he knows she is not a Hindu? Look at yourself, I have seen how my friend is ill-treated, how can I let my wife be treated in the same way” Gangadhar was in tears now.
“I didn’t think it that way, Ganga. Please forgive me” Ali was apologetic. As he was about to leave, Gangadhar stopped him “Baba doesn’t need to know it’s my story. It will make a good movie, you know”.
“What? What did you say just now?” Ali was excited.
“Yes, my friend. It’s my story, but the way you have written this, is wonderful” Gangadhar hugged Ali.
“You know what let’s have a deal. I will tell you a story and you make it as beautiful as this.” Gangadhar held his hand. Ali took it in his, and exclaimed “Deal, my friend, It’s a deal”
“Rao Saab, the house is here” driver opened the door of the car. Rao took out his walking stick and got down the car, looked at the mansion, smiled and went in. the maid, bowed and ran into the study. Mirza sahib was adjusting his spectacles and reading, with a cup of tea on his chair.
“Sahib, Rao Saab is here” the maid informed.
“Get the old man a cup of tea and something to eat”
“Who is the old man here, you are the one who needs constant monitoring, who needs to see a doctor” Gangadhar entered the study.
“Come in my dear story, oops I mean Doctor. Now, I have everything ready, are you ready with the next part of the story” Ali took his laptop to note down what his friend had to tell.
“I sat in the front seat today” Gangadhar said with tears in eyes.
Ali was shocked “You did? That’s really brave of you. I am glad you have moved on. Baba would have wanted you to do this. He loved that seat dint he. He even took his last breadth in that seat”
“Will you write about him?” Gangadhar looked at Ali. His eyes were filled with tears.
“Yes, I will write about Baba. But on 1 condition” Ali smiled. “You will have to take Padmini forever”
“Ofcourse, it’s always been mine” both of them laughed their hearts out. For the first time in a decade, the mansion was filled with this laughter.