“Did you try Tatkal?” He said. For the 476th time. I wished I could explain to him. How making our PM speak was a possibility as compared to getting a Tatkal ticket on IRCTC. About how I woke up for the first time in years at 6:30 A.M and was staring at the clock to strike eight. About how the engineers behind the IRCTC site had designed an all-new session management logic: meant to log you out every 3 seconds.
I wanted to tell him that our neighbour, a docile, 40 plus, Iyer boy that chanted Krishna bhajans had started playing Slayer at 6 A.M thanks to IRCTC and its antics. It was only a matter of time before he killed his wife and burnt down the apartment.
But I didn’t tell my father anything. Because he has the habit of asking the same question a MINIMUM of 476 times.
“Do you have to travel to Chennai on a weekend?” I said.
My father stared into empty spaces for a while, cleared his throat, and said, “Did you try Tatkal?”
My wife stopped me from tearing off the damned grill from the 4th floor balcony and jumping off it.
She handed me a towel to wipe the foam off my mouth and said, “Why can’t you book him a flight ticket?”
Yes! Why not? So I asked my father. He lifted his head from The Hindu, cleared his throat- and I jumped on him.
“Okay, great I am booking you a flight ticket.”
He looked at his daughter-in-law for help.
“Uncle, I think you should.” She said.
“But I have never flown! I don’t know! Isn’t it risky? I am a little scared you know?”
A vacuum developed. I was getting late for work.
“Anyway, think about it and let me know dad.” I said.
“Even a bus is fine.” He said.
But I wasn’t sure if his 70 year old body could take the strain.
“They have new buses. Vulva? Or some such.”
“Yes, yes. Volvo.”
“I’ll try and get you a train ticket. Else, I’ll book you on a- um- Volvo. okay?”
He blinked and said, “Yes. But did you try..”
I bang-shut the door and ran up to the terrace, remembered I had to go down, so I said “FUCAAACCKKKKK!” aloud and the retired Civil Servant, Mallu old man on 5th floor said, “I will have sexual congress with your extended family. Each one of them. Including your dogs.”
By the time I reached work, I was mind-fried. I actually forgot about the ticket. Somewhere between my 9th coffee/smoke break and mid-afternoon snack (2nd episode), I remembered. Trains from Bangalore to Chennai were all full. I spoke to travel agents and they couldn’t help either. So, I went ahead and booked my father a ticket on Air Deccan. I decided that I won’t tell him till the last moment that he has to take a Flight.
I did exactly that. On the day, he was supposed to travel, as the cab rolled on Old Airport road, I said “You should reach Chennai by 8’O Clock. Call me when you do.”
He was staring out of the window. He slowly turned towards me. He eyes spoke. They said, “You corny little bastard! You’re teaching your dad how to-”
He cleared his throat.
“See, I tried. All buses are full.” I said.
“VOLVO. Yes. All full. Private. KSRTC. Everything!”
He looked out of the window again.
The cab swerved into the Airport approach road.
“You needn’t have spent so much- ” He said.
“Dad, it is not as costly as you think it is!”
“Yeah. But you should have tried Tatkal.”
I bit my own hand. Took deep breaths and counted till 3600 within a minute, showering the cab driver with my saliva, while my father looked out of the Window.
At the Entry gate I asked an Air Deccan staffer to help my father.
“So first I get my Security Check done and then go get a boarding pass right?” He said.
“NO NO!” I screamed.
“Got you there! Didn’t I?” He laughed, slapped my back and walked into the airport.
He messaged me at around Nine.
“Reached. They didn’t serve me any food.”
During lunch, my Mom called.
“Your father has been on the phone all day. He’s been showing off to all his friends.”
“Oh yeah? What is he saying?”
“He told Venkatesh, ‘Just landed. Slight jet lag is there.’ ” She said.
I should have tried for a Tatkal.