It had been an ordinary day. A routine trip to Chennai from Bengaluru. The company had sent a message that a Sundar would be picking me up. I walked past the jostling crowd towards the exit and I saw a man waiting for me. He grinned at me as though I was his old buddy!
It took me by surprise, but I was quick to recall that he had been our family driver during my stay in Chennai for a year in 2003. Sundar asked, “how is paapa?” Paapa, in Tamil means baby. He was referring to my son. The paapa in reference was now an 18-year-old, six-foot man who towered over me.
I grinned. “Sundar!” I said. “You remember him!” “How can I forget Saar?” he asked.
My son who was a two-year-old then and ensured that our driver was engaged throughout the day. While he was not driving, Sundar was assigned to getting things from the backyard. Things like spoons, toys, cups, tumblers and even at times knives and keys! Our ever-agile paapa would climb chairs, mount the washing machine and reach out to the grilled windows to dispose of stuff he considered was not required in the house.
Without any expression, Sundar would collect them from the ground and get it home and give it to my wife whom he called “Amma”. This Amma would heave a long sigh and return the objects to their places. It had become a routine affair. If we questioned paapa, he would give us a victorious look as though he was proud to involve us in his game of fetch!
Once paapa had attempted an altogether different stunt. He decided to lock the inmates of the house--my wife and her mother. Paapa had to just push the latch a bit to the side with his nimble fingers. Having locked the door, my child started banging on the door as though he wanted them to open. Now this required rocket science! My wife called out to Sundar through the window and told him that they had been locked inside the bedroom and asked Sundar to come up with the spare key and release the captives. Again, it had been Sundar to the rescue!
I came back to the present. I looked into Sundar’s eyes and smiled. I enquired about his family and he enquired about the others in my family. He looked good and seemed to be doing well for himself. I was happy for him and for this world that sometimes shrinks to connect people.