Time had eroded everything but the memory of his smile…..And of course there were the other things. The way he held the door open as I walked into the saloon holding dad’s hand. The way he pat my shoulders with both his hands as I sat on the seat atop a cushion specially kept for us kids. He would deliberately spray cold water on my ear to make me chuckle and chuckle I did with my eyes closing and neck swaying downward to avoid the water, catching a glimpse of dad looking up from his newspaper and observing with a smile in the mirror.
He fluttered from table to table, cracking jokes and mouthing the songs playing on the radio. He terrorized me with the razor and mock-threatened to shave off all my hair, gesturing at a bald/ balding person in the saloon.
Even when it was dad’s turn, he kept engaging with me. Punching my newspaper as he walked by to draw a scowl from me. He would then reply with an almost similar scowl and would have me in a split of laughter.
It had been a cocoon and an absolute, the visit to the saloon. Always a Sunday, always in the morning and always a haircut from him. On occasions he would not be in the saloon (sick/ on leave) and I’d complain when I saw him the next time, only to draw the familiar smile.
Now, almost 15 years later, I feel a bit guilty to not have gone to meet him. Say a final goodbye before I moved to Mumbai. I wonder if he waited for a few Sundays, waiting for me and Dad to come. Did he miss me and shrug away the memory with a smile?
He had talked about his family, a home in some faraway place, his favorite singer, actor and (with a blush) his favorite actress. All the details are now forgotten. Time had eroded everything but the memory of his smile…..And of course there were the other things.