The waiting lounge in the airport was not that cheery as he expected, he bought a coffee and sat down on a cold chair in the depressing lounge. He checked his watch to note that he still had a long time, just then he heard her voice.
"Excuse me, Can I join you?"
He looked around himself to make sure she is talking to him and gestured her to sit down. He noted that she had no other place to sit, other than the chair vacant in his table.
She placed her trolley neatly by her side and slide in the chair opposite to him, placed her coffee down and smiled at him while she said "Thank you, I was hoping you were alone"
He was bewildered, imagining her flirting with him at the first contact, he squinted his eyes skeptically while he asked "What?"
She looked up to him, saw his expression and chuckled while she said "I mean, so that I can sit here. I didn't mean it in any other way"
But before she said her explanation he was smiling at the stupidity of his assumption.
Silence reigned while both enjoyed the hot coffee on a cold morning. He observed her while he drank his coffee. She was very comfortably dressed for travelling, looked flushed with cold, her eyes were small but long and gave a look of half closed even while it was fully open. In short she looked like a very friendly girl to him.
After a few more moments of silence he asked "Are you coming or going?"
She took a sip and said "Hmmm.... actually both, am in between. I have to catch my connecting flight from here. By the way am Katherine Salvador" she introduced herself, while she extended her hand.
He shook her hand and said "Nice to meet you, Am Kabir Rajath Sharma"
The talk which started with hesitation and caution was in full force in mere few minutes. Though both were not boisterous in their talk, they were talking with enthusiasm and interest.
Just then her phone rang, she fished it out of her jeans pocket, saw the identity of the caller and sighed. He asked with a mischievous smile on his face "What happened?.. boyfriend calling"
She smiled at him and said with a fake sigh "Oh I wish I had somebody to call that... but no this is my friend. She recently broke up with her loser boyfriend and she just calls up at her whim to bore me with her story"
After she rejected the call, she again said "I don't understand why do people have to broadcast their story all the time. I don't think everybody does that. But some people are beyond tolerable level."
He threw his empty coffee cup into dustbin and said "Everybody has got a story, everybody wants their story to be told, because everyone believe that their life is an untold unique adventure in itself."
"Is that what you think about your life?"
After a moment of pure silence he looked up to see her in the eyes and replied "No, my life was fairly routine"
"So you don't have a story to tell?"
"Oh ... I do, I do have a story to tell. "
"But not yours"
"Not entirely mine"
"Then whose story is this?"
"A person... "
"let's call that person as 'X', shall we"
"Okay, So you are going to tell me the story of Mr. or Ms. X?"
"Oh you are clever,................ yes am going to tell the story of Mr. X"
"Okay, am ready whenever you are"
"Hmm.... " he said as he stood up and walked to get another coffee.
When he didn't talk even after many minutes after getting coffee for both of them, she squirmed in her seat in anticipation. And then he talked.
He said "It all started one rainy afternoon..." and looked at her with smile in his eyes.
She waved him away and said "Oh, come on.... don't quote clichés to me. Everything starts one rainy afternoon only in movies"
He laughed and said again "Okay, Okay. No, it didn't start one rainy afternoon. And am not very clear how it started. There was a boy, a very boyish, naughty, high wired, full of superhero dreams boy. A boy of eleven years who had dreams and ambitions of 30 year old man"
She interrupted "What ? how can a eleven year old boy have 30 year old man's ambition?"
He said with smile "I was getting to that, before you interrupted." She smiled back sheepishly and gestured him to continue.
He started his story again "He had 30 year old man's ambition because, the ambitions and dreams he had were his father's. He had lost his father when he was very young. And his grandparents, especially grandmother in the fear that he will forget his father, never let a chance pass by when she didn't talk about his dad and explained his ambitions and dreams to this small child. So he had an image that his father was superhuman. That he was the most honourable, truthful, loving, caring man with big dreams and ambitions which he couldn't fulfill"
She interrupted again and said "Oh god, believe me no man is that good"
He looked at her with smile and was silent for a few seconds. She understood that she was interrupting his flow and gestured she is sorry and he should continue.
So he continued as if there was no interruption and said "That boy had the most wonderful mother on this earth. She was sweet and caring but at the same time she was strong and upright. She taught the boy the most important lessons of life. Even though she didn't approve that the boy's grandmother was exaggerating the image of his father, she didn't stop it also. Because she knew that by doing so the grandmother is trying to keep her son alive in the eyes of her one and only grandchild. And by the way because she was working, she lived apart from them and stayed near to her workplace, so the boy visited his grandparents only occasionally"
Kabir saw that Katherine wanted to ask something so he gestured her to go ahead. She smiled at him and asked "what was the boy's name? Is he the coveted "X"? What was the mother's name?"
Kabir smiled and said "Whoa, so many questions?... Okay the mother's name was hmmmm.. Nandini and the boy's name I will tell you later?
Katherine shrugged her shoulders and told him to continue.
Kabir saw that his coffee was cold, he threw the coffee in dustbin and started again "So one day when Nandini was leaving the boy to his school, she met Mr.X.......... he was there to drop his niece who was studying in 2nd standard in the same school"
Katherine asked "What happened... I mean how did they actually meet?"
Kabir smirked and said "Now don't say am quoting a cliché... but like in any romantic movies, they bumped in to each other, which spilled Nandini's things and they smiled at each other."
Katherine was smiling and saw that he was not joking. It was true that it happened. So she asked suspiciously "You are telling me a true story isn't it. Not some film story?"
Kabir laughed and said "I swear, what am telling you is a true story. Ok back to our story now. Mr.X who was a divorcee was mesmerized by Nandini's smile and enquired about her subtly, by which he came to know that she is a widow. And from that day onward he came everyday to drop his niece. And every day he waited to see Nandini. Small smiles turned into hello's and how are you's. Gradually it led to exchange of numbers and coffee meetings. And before the academic year ending, they both were in love."
Katherine sat straight and exclaimed "Wow, that was a short story?"
Kabir looked at her said "Who said the story ends here?"
Katherine was surprised and asked "It doesn't? But Hero met Heroine, they went out, fell in love... The End.... that's how the normal story works"
Kabir smiled and said "But this story doesn't end there... Actually it starts from there. You have forgotten the boy here. He is the key to the story"
Katherine exclaimed as she grasped the story line "Ahhhhh... of course... continue"
"So where was I?"
"They fell in love......."
"Yes, they fell in love and after a few months of this realization, they decide to get married. Now Nandini is in a dilemma. Because she knew that even if she could convince her in-laws somehow, she knew convincing the boy will be very hard. And she was sure of one thing. If the boy didn't agree or if she couldn't convince him then she would not marry.
So one day she talked to Mr.X and said 'I don't know how to convince him, he won't agree so easily. He will not look at you as a friendly person, rather he will immediately think am replacing his dad with you and see you as an enemy. And if I can say frankly, if he is not happy then am not happy. I am really worried."
Mr. X just smiled and said "Look let me talk to him, he knows me fairly enough to not see me as a stranger right, so let me approach him with the subject and convince him."
When Nandini was looked at him with suspicion he convinced her into letting him try to talk to the boy. That day when he dropped Nandini off at her home, he walked into the house with her. And there the boy was playing with his toys. Mr.X stood there for a few minutes to observe that the boy was playing a game of pirates. He smiled to himself and sat down beside the boy and asked "So Captain, where do you want me to attack?"
The boy looked at him in surprise and was silent for a minute considering the pros and cons of playing with this man. He looked up to see that his mother was smiling in encouragement. So he shrugged and said loudly 'I am not just Captain, I am Captain Jack Sparrow.' Mr.X gave a mock salute and said 'Oh am sorry Captain Jack, I will never make this mistake again'. Hearing this the boy gave a huge grin and started the game. Both of them played almost for about an hour before Nandini called them to have some snacks.
When they both sat down Mr.X said 'Hey Captain Jack, Can I call you Jack all the time from now. Will you like that cool nick name'. The boy grinned from ear to ear and nodded yes while he stuffed his mouth with biscuits.
Katherine suddenly sat up looking very pleased with her discovery and said "Oh so the boy is called Jack?"
Kabir laughed and said "Yes, he is called Jack. Well I need a coffee, would you like a refill?"
"Sure, would love it"
After getting another two coffees, Kabir checked his watch to see how much time is left, seeing that he had sufficient time finish the story he sat down offering Katherine her cup. Both of them sipped the coffee and enjoyed the hot coffee for a minute. Katherine rubbed her hands and said "Ok, continue."
Kabir took a sip and continued with a nod "Okay he started to bond with Jack for a few more weeks, till Jack got comfortable with him. One day, Mr.X stayed for dinner with Nandini and Jack, after dinner when Jack bid them good night Mr.X asked him 'Jack do you mind if I can talk with you for a few minutes alone', When Jack didn't answer Mr.X said in mock whisper 'Man to Man'. Jack was obviously pleased to be considered as a Man and nodded an yes. Nandini looked at Mr.X with question and he assured her that he will be gentle.
He went up to Jack's room and sat on his bed looking around. Jack was impatiently waiting for him to start the talk. Mr.X smiled at him and gestured Jack to sit beside him. As Jack sat down he put his arm around Jack's shoulders and said "Jack you are almost a man now and as the only male of this house, I want to ask your permission today."
When Jack didn't say anything in return, Mr.X continued "I love your mom". As soon these words were out of Mr.X's mouth, Jack physically stiffened. Immediately a thousand questions sprung up in Jack's mind. Mr.X continued "And I want to marry her. But only with your permission. So can you accept me to be a part of your family?"
Jack was silent for a long time, he shrugged off Mr.X's arm and got up. His heart was speeding at breakneck speed. He couldn't understand what do to, the only thing on his mind was that this man was trying to take his dad away from him. That this man who had become a friendly face to him will not only take his mom away but will also try to replace his dad. His face was flushed with emotion and his eyes were spitting fire when he shouted "You can't be my dad, you can never be my dad. You can't replace my dad"
Mr.X said in a calm voice "Calm down Jack, please listen to me. I am not trying to be your dad. Your dad was a good man and I don't want to insult him by trying to replace him in your life. Please sit down and let me explain"
Jack reluctantly sat down on the chair rather than on the bed next to him. He was still breathing heavily with anger, while Mr.X thought that Jack was taking all this remarkably well. Mr.X continued "Jack, I am not trying to replace your dad. I love your mom and you. I just want to be a part of your life. You don't have to call me dad or respect me like a dad. Wait let me explain to you like this. Wouldn't you like your best friend Ravi to come and stay with you always, so that you can play, study and share together?"
Jack was confused at his question but for a moment when he thought, he always felt bad when Ravi went home after playing with him and whenever he had a sleepover with Ravi he would enjoy it immensely, so he nodded yes. Mr.X smiled and continued "I am your mom's best friend and she is mine"
Jack questioned in confusion "But if you marry mom, wont you become my dad?"
Mr.X explained "No Jack, I won't be your dad, I will just be your mom's husband. I would love to be your dad, but only when you want me to be and not by replacing your own dad. I don't want you to forget him. Can you give me a chance. I make your mom happy and she makes me happy. And I do want to be part of your family. I want to make you happy too"
Jack thought for a few minutes and said 'I need time to think'. Mr.X nodded in understanding and left. That night Jack asked a thousand questions to his mom about this marriage and what it will mean to him and his mom. Nandini was surprised at the maturity a twelve year old boy was showing in such an adult matter. Jack thought about this for few days and finally he agreed to the marriage."
Katherine who was engrossed in the story blinked a few times and said "Its over!!!! Oh I was so involved in the story. So this is it. Happily ever after?"
Kabir smiled and said "No, not yet"
Katherine sat up and said "Not yet. Why? Didn't they get married?"
Kabir nodded no and said "You are confused as to the main characters of the story. This is not a love story"
Katherine was confused and was trying to figure out when Kabir said "Buy me breakfast and I will finish the story"
Katherine smiled at him said "Deal, I will buy you breakfast, but you better make the story worth it" and she got up to get some sandwiches.
She kept the tray with sandwiches and said "Start"
Kabir exclaimed "Let me eat a bite first". Katherine said "One bite and you start". Kabir smiled at her enthusiasm while he ate a bite out of the sandwich and then he started.
"Nandini and Mr.X got married in the next few months. Soon after the marriage, life settled down to a fair routine. Jack gradually accepted the presence of Mr.X in his home and life. Mr.X always respected the distance Jack wanted to keep between them. After an year, Mr.X said to Nandini that he wants to adopt Jack legally as his child. Nandini was not very sure of this. She didn't want to create any ripples in the pond which was seeming very calm for the moment. But Mr.X was adamant about it. Finally when Mr.X said that he would convince Jack, Nandini reluctantly accepted. So Mr.X again set out on another mission.
He opened door of Jack's room and stood leaning to the door frame while he asked Jack "Hey Jack, do you have a minute to talk". Jack nodded yes and beckoned him inside. Mr.X sat down on the bed exactly like before and he felt like he is having a déjà vu. Mr.X took a breath and said "Hey Jack, how is school?'
Jack raised his eyebrows in question and shrugged to indicate that there is nothing new.
Mr.X took a deep breath and said "Jack I like you and I know that you like me enough. Thing is that, I already consider you as my son and I legally want to make you my son"
Jack didn't quite understand what Mr.X was saying, so he kept staring at Mr.X expecting him to explain, so Mr.X again said "I mean that I want to be your father legally. And No, I am not trying to replace your dad in any way. You are my family and I want you to be my eldest son Jack. Please, just think about it. By doing this I can just be involved in your life as a small part. What do you say??"
Now Jack was so confused as to how to answer this question. He knew that Mr.X was a good person and his mom was happy with him. Even he had started admiring the presence of Mr.X in his home and appreciated how Mr.X respected him and the distance he kept between them. But now Mr.X was asking rights to his life, which he knew Mr.X was capable of respecting it but he was afraid he might somehow let Mr.X push his dad further down in the past. But Jack didn't want to say no, because Mr.X had earned that respect and he didn't want to disappoint Mr.X by rejecting him. So he said "Let me think about it"
Again he bombarded his mother with thousand questions and when he was sure that nothing in life will dramatically change and this will make Mr.X happy he considered it in positive light. Jack still thought that his dad is hero to him, he wanted to be the person that his dad aspired to be. And Jack was worried that by accepting this he might disrespect his dad's memory, might somehow choose a stranger over him. But seeing how much this meant to Mr.X, finally in the end he accepted. The formalities were over within a fortnight and Mr.X became his father legally. But what Jack didn't understand was that Mr.X already considered him as his eldest son and nothing less.
Years went by, the relationship between Mr.X and Jack grew stronger. Jack approached Mr.X to consult about his every problem. May it be a question about a subject or girl trouble Mr.X was the person he went to seek answers. They became very close to each other but still Jack was not comfortable to consider him any more than a friend. Mr.X was not behind in appreciating Jack's work anywhere. Whenever Jack achieved anything he would proudly announce it to everybody including his family about it. And whenever any decision was to be taken which affected the whole family, Mr.X never left out Jack and he considered his opinion very seriously.
In this time Mr.X and Nandini had a girl child, they named their child as Kritika. Kritika was always taught that Jack was her elder brother. Jack couldn't have loved Kritika more. Life again stumbled back to a routine. But Nandini just wished that Jack could see how much Mr.X loved him, she wanted him to have a dad who was there for him, not a dad who was only in memories.
Jack knew Mr.X loved him and cared for him very much, but he was not ready let go of his dad yet. He just didn't know that to accept Mr.X's love he doesn't have to let go of his dad. He didn't know that Mr.X will never demand that he replace his dad with him, rather he would just ask him to be a part of Jack's life and nothing more.
Jack was in 12th Standard and he had a reputation of being a very intelligent and honest student. He excelled in every field. While the sports day was progressing, Jack was in his class taking break between two events and drinking water. He came out as a group of his classmates entered the classroom. After a few minutes a commotion started that there has been a theft. The chaos spread very fast and while blaming game was going on Jack was suddenly blamed as a thief. The matter blew up to such proportions that the parents of Jack and the boy whose watch was stolen were called to meet the principal.
Mr.X and Nandini came to talk to Jack's principal, where already the other boy's parents were present arguing with the principal to take strict action against Jack. When Mr.X and Nandini entered the chamber with Jack, the angered father of the other boy erupted with new insults. Mr.X tried to talk calmly and to control the situation. But when the father of other boy pulled Jack to ask what he did with the watch Mr.X erupted and said in a loud voice "Don't you dare touch my son." Jack had never seen Mr.X raise his voice and the way he defended Jack filled his heart. That was the moment he knew that he has to cross the bridge, because the person who protected, loved and cared for him all this time was not the person who was only alive in memories, it was this person standing in front of him and defending him like his own son and he deserved much better. Jack kept staring at Mr.X who was defending him with earnest, listing his achievements and his qualities to the principal. There was not a hint of doubt in his voice when he said "My son is not the thief, it is not possible. He is my son and I believe him. If you have any problem with him, I will gladly take him out of this school, I don't care if he loses a year but I will not tolerate false accusations against him and will not let him study in a school which can't recognize the quality of its students. With his achievements other schools will give him admission by rolling out the red carpet."
Eventually the matter solved out in a few days when it was found out that the boy whose watch was stolen had actually lost the watch in a bet and fearing the beatings of his father he had lied that somebody has stolen the watch.
But the words of Mr.X was still ringing in Jack's head. After all these years he finally wanted to show Mr.X how much he has come to admire him, love him and respect him. But all of the sudden he was shy. The boy who shared even his first crushes with Mr.X was shy and nervous to say Mr.X what he meant for him. Days went by and Jack couldn't express his feelings. Every time he approached Mr.X, somehow he blurted out something else irrelevant.
12th exams got over, holidays came. Jack was preparing for Engineering Entrance Exams with full force. Result day came and Mr.X accompanied Jack to his school to get results. Jack had not only had come first in class, he had won the gold medal in science for highest marks in the whole state.
Principal personally came to congratulate Jack and asked him who has come with him. Jack saw the opportunity and pulled Mr.X who was talking with the class teacher and said to the principal "My dad has come with me sir"
Mr.X was shocked for a moment at this revelation, because in all of 7 years this was the first time Jack had called him dad with so much love in his eyes. He kept staring at Jack for a moment and then smiled broadly with pleasure, his eyes had filled up with tears as if his heart couldn't contain the pleasure he was feeling. When Principal said that "You must be very proud of your Son". Mr.X's chest puffed and he half hugged Jack with one hand and said "Yes, I am. After all he is my son"
Katherine who was deeply engrossed in the story, for a moment didn't understand that the story was over. She was still staring at Kabir with unshed tears. And when Kabir smiled at her with questioning eyes, she sniffed and said "Look you got me all emotional on a non-romantic story...."
Katherine took a moment to gather herself and asked "This in an unique story, I have to admire the patience and dedication Mr.X had towards Jack. The journey of a person from father to being dad is amazing. This is really an inspiring story. Now somebody tell a story like this and then I don't mind taking calls even in middle of the night" she laughed at that and after a moment of consideration said again "Well but I dont understand where do you come in this story. You said this story is partly yours. And unless this is the story of some famous person, I don't think there is any harm in revealing the true names of Mr.X and ..............."
Before she could complete her sentence she heard someone calling behind her "Jack... Jack... Oye my captain Jack". She was stunned for a moment and she immediately turned back to see who called.
By then Kabir leaped out of his chair and ran towards the old man calling "Dad, you are late"
Kabir gave a bear hug to his dad and grinned with joy at seeing him. Then he said "Come I want you to meet someone?" He pulled his dad towards Katherine and said "Katherine, this is my dad Mr.Rajath Sharma and Dad this is Katherine Salvador"
Rajath Sharma extended his hand and said "Hello Katherine, pleasure to meet you"
Katherine was still in a shock at realizing that Kabir was 'Jack', so this must be Mr.X. She shook her head and said while she grinned at him "Believe me Mr.Sharma, the pleasure is absolutely mine"