The house was small but full. Grandma lay on the makeshift bed in the single room.
Dad, tired after a long day at the factory, stretched his legs out and lay in the recliner. Delicious smells wafted from the little kitchenette where Mom stirred gravy in a steel pot, all the while humming a song from the previous era.
“Beta,” Grandma croaked from her corner, “doosri side mudna hai. Ab peeth mein dard ho raha hai…”
Promptly, Dad jumped up. Dodging the little side table and the plastic chair, he reached his old, arthritic mother. Gently, carefully, he pushed her soft, wrinkled body. She flinched in pain and he cooed soothingly.
The young boy walked through the open door, wearing his stylishly ripped jeans and half-untucked shirt. The room seemed to brighten the moment he stepped inside. All eyes turned to him eagerly.
“Aha, here comes my MBA!” Dad greeted, proudly thumping his back.
The son smiled and touched his feet. Then, he sat on the edge of the bed and gently ran his hand over Grandma’s withered one. Mom hurriedly lay out the mismatched dishes on the floor, a big smile on her face.
At dinner, the house rang with laughter and brief exchanges of the day’s news. They took turns guiding Grandma’s khichdi-filled hand to her mouth. Dad spoke about the sweat-drenched labourers toiling away in the terrible heat of the steel workshop where he supervised and asked Mom if she could send lemonade for them the next day. Mom nodded and narrated how happy she had made three street children when she treated them to ice candy while shopping for vegetables that afternoon.
The young man stirred the khichdi in his plate. He smiled quietly. Then, he said, “Spenta has offered me a job. I will be Assistant Manager in their Marketing Department. I will be travelling all over India opening up stores for them. They are offering me 45,000 rupees a month plus an annual performance bonus.”
The room was silent. Then, for the first time in his adult life, Dad’s eyes filled with tears. He broke down, he laughed, he exclaimed with joy. He clasped the hands of his only son, his MBA, his pride. Mom folded her hands and sent a silent prayer to the heavens. Grandma’s voice floated over the sudden commotion, “Kya hua? Kya kiya mere laadle ne?” But, she knew it was good news, and her wide, toothless smile almost made her glasses fall off her nose.
And then Dad called the local kirana store and asked him to send a family pack of special chocolate ice cream, with those sprinkles, just as his son liked. And Mom translated the news to Grandma. And the young son stood and watched the ongoings. And his eyes filled with dreams. And his limbs felt energized. And his heart swelled – with happiness and pride and above all, gratitude that finally, he could attempt to give back to the ones that had picked up a lonely orphan from the streets and filled his jholi with food, a roof, education, joy, warmth and above all, a family.