Trichinopoly, the summer of 1947

My grandfather paces up and down the platform
At the Trichinopoly junction
Awaiting his youngest son and his family from New Delhi.
It is 4.30 in the morning,
The train is expected at 5
Half an hour late, as usual.

Three years have passed since they last met.
The grandchildren must have grown up.
The girls now in their teens,
The boys, now six and eight,
Naughty like their father was.

He has many grandchildren
Most of them live nearby,
These come only once every two or three years.
He gets letters and an occasional photograph.
How do they look now? He wonders,
How much have they changed?

They love mangoes, he recalls.
Good that I bought a full basket yesterday.
The youngest, I remember, was cheeky.
He had asked me to tie his shoelaces. Imagine!
And I did! How could I say no?

The train finally arrives and he waves to them,
He pats the children one by one.
They head back home to Krishna Vilas,
Taking his 1939 Buick and a taxi.
Rangan, his faithful servant,
Loading the luggage in his bullock cart.

Geneva, the summer of 2023

I am at the airport,
Pacing up and down, leaning on my stick,
Waiting for over an hour
For the children and grandchildren
I have not met since January 2020.

We have kept in touch through email and Zoom,
Exchanging pictures
Sharing jokes,
Drawings and stories,
And accounts of their doings.

So many times, we have planned trips
Only to cancel them,
After fresh outbreaks of COVID-19.
Hopes frequently raised, only to be dashed.
Fortunately, there is now a new vaccine,
Which will keep us safe and immune.

The screen shows that
The flight has finally arrived
I am anxious and impatient to see them.
‘Thatha!’, shout the kids
Waving from a distance.
I cannot believe what I see.

Two strapping young men sporting beards,
One lovely girl of 14,
And one 11-year old boy, little no more.
All very excited
Dashing towards me.
Still eager for hugs.

My daughters and my son-in-law
Reach for me
Wending their way through
The medley of trolleys and children.
They have not changed.

Why didn’t Granny come?
Is she busy making her special Payesh?
Thatha, did you get mangoes?
Yes, Alphonso.
Is the ice cream place, Manu, still there?
And the English library?
Can we go to Saas-Fee or maybe Paris?

After three quiet and lonely summers
So much to see and do and eat!
Laughter and games and shouts of delight,
Is all this real?
I had not thought I would live to see this day!

J. Krishnamurty is an economist and an economic historian who lives in Geneva.

Featured image credit: Zahra Amiri/Unsplash