Days moved onto become weeks and weeks gradually into months and Nellur seemed to have erased Kannan from its memory for he had no visitors, not even from Ullas Villa. The only reminder of his past came in the form of O.G’s letters which were filled with sympathy and optimistic advice. He would also dutifully inform Kannan about all the happenings at Ullas Villa. Shankaran Nair had seriously taken ill after the fatal fall that day. Janakiamma had put the past behind her and now looked after her husband as a dutiful wife, attending to him day and night and trying to make the last few days of his life comfortable and pleasant. However, there would be no mention of his mother Saraswathi. He would search the letters for some clue as to the reason behind his mother’s betrayal but find none. He knew O.G knew the reason for he had seen them go into Saru’s room and talk for a long while, before he was taken away. Kannan felt like the victim of a great conspiracy. He made sure he replied to each and every letter O.G sent him, enquiring about Ullas Villa and at the last of every letter he would pose the same question, “Why did Amma lie?” But for that alone he never got any reply. There was also no mention of Chinnan’s parents either.
Kannan and Ali had become the best of buddies meanwhile. Kannan even began to get along with the fat boy Chandran and his gang. Having picked up the street jargon he began to chat freely with all of them. Ali was successful in getting Kannan to get the proper hang of Bombay Hindi though he himself did not get very far in learning English.
“You know you have begun to talk like the local Bombayite. Why don’t you come to Bombay after you get out” suggested Ali.
“No, I must go back home. That’s where I belong” replied Kannan.
“Well think about it. I have only one more month here. Tell you what, I’ll leave with you my address in Bombay. If you ever change your mind write to me” said Ali.
Kannan could only smile in reply to his friend’s unflinching sincerity and earnestness.
So Ali was going back to Bombay. He at least knows what he is going to do with his life. What about me? I don’t know even where to begin, thought Kannan.
He was wondering if anyone cared anymore when the guard announced a visitor for him. A flood of excitement ran through him as he wondered who it was. He hoped it would be his mother. He just wanted to see her, bury his head in her lap and cry; she had come perhaps to say she was sorry. I’ll forgive her, he thought. And at that moment he had got rid of all anger and frustrations towards his mother. All this time he had imagined hating her but now that she had come he felt incapable of doing so.
“Ali my mother has come” he said excitedly as he ran to the visitor’s room.
But inside he found no Saraswathi, instead a stranger, a man who seemed vaguely familiar. He stood doubtfully wondering if the guard had made a mistake, when the stranger spoke to him,
“It’s me son, your father. Don’t you recognize me?”
Yes, it was him. He had changed so much, he had bags under his eyes and his hair had begun to grey. For a second Kannan did not know how to react. Raman however came forward and hugged him, his voice choking as he said, “I wish I could say something to comfort you but I myself am at a loss for words”
Kannan did not reply.
“Say something my son” pleaded Raman.
“Why hasn’t mother come?” asked Kannan.
Raman was not sure if he could answer the question but he made a weak attempt by saying, “She wanted to but she was not keeping well.”
The answer however made it clear to Kannan that she was avoiding him on purpose. Kannan suddenly felt sick to his stomach- she was not his mother, she was a stranger whom he hated so much that he almost wished it was she whom he had killed instead. He now wanted to go back inside but he felt he owed his father some courtesy, he being the only one to have bothered to pay him a visit.
Raman handed him a box of chocolates and biscuits. He then spoke to Kannan about a lot of things, many of which he only pretended to hear. At the end of the visiting hour, Raman hugged his son again and before he left said reassuringly, “Don’t worry son. I am here for you now.”
“Too late father, too late” said Kannan as he walked back inside.
Raman stared after him, realizing with guilt the gravity of the words uttered by his son.