March 19, 2020
Flash news on National Television Channel: *A 24 year old Techie from Chennai with a recent travel history to Italy is believed to have spread the virus to about a minimum of hundred thousand people of many different states, and he becomes the first person to die from Covid-19 in India.*
And then the next line pops up, *“It seems he did not show any symptoms till 3 days ago and was not on quarantine since he landed here in Chennai International Airport, which was about a 10 days ago.”*
People on debate in the same channel:
Person 1: It is not his fault, he doesn’t even know he was infected by the virus.
Person 2: What not his fault? It is his fault completely. He knows he is coming back from the country which has been affected suddenly by the increase in the spread of this pandemic.
Person 3: Don’t say anything that is coming to your mind just like that. The Coronavirus pandemic was not so high in Italy when he landed, it was only in China at that time. Only now it has increased over a lot in Italy that too within one overnight. He would have never been aware or have been asked to be under quarantine. And remember he came back home from his work location and was at home till his death.
Person 4: He is a techie, he should be aware of this basic thing that he should isolate himself from everyone if he has been from a foreign country since he would have been aware how people from China have traveled to European countries a lot this past month. But what he did. These Techie guys are all like this actually. They just don’t care about anything and anyone. For them the world is nothing but Work, party, work, party and nothing else.
Person 5: His father should be ashamed of having such a son. Very bad example of a citizen for the society.
I switched off the TV and threw the remote control towards the wall after hearing that. I walked outside to the road to puff a cigarette since it was very frustrating and my mind is now getting out of control. That 24 year old techie from the flash news is none other than my son, John Mathews. And by the way I am Robert Mathews, not so very famous Writer but a very good farmer. I am 50 years old. I am alive but my son is not. And I am not Okay with that. Actually I found about his death only today. I isolated myself for 6 months from everyone for writing a book. This isolation I had for the last six months was all for my son. He told me to give my best in my final book so that I can achieve big. He asked me to give this one final shot towards my dream. But he is no more. Even he can’t read it now, The only best reader I had.Why Jesus why you did this to us. My son is not that dumb to travel all around when he is asked to be on quarantine. I just shouted, Aaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
(A gang of boys walking on the road)
Boy1: Hey bro, he is the father of that stupid. The one on the news about the virus.
Boy 2: Hey loser, stay inside your home. Proud of your boy eh? Now what! Since your son is gone and you are here to continue the duty on his behalf is it! Fuck off man.
Boys together in chorus: Corona Go! Go Corona! Corona Go! Corona Go! Go to your home loser. Else we will have to do it for you.
I got very very angry but I just walked away from there without saying anything. Because I was not really sure what had happened. As I said, I have not been here for 6 months now. I was in Kodaikanal for writing my last book “A Man without an Initial”. I isolated myself from everyone because I wanted this book to truly touch everyone’s heart. So I was working on it alone without even contacting anybody. Not even my son. Actually as I said it was his idea. I don’t even know what has happened to him before coming back here. I thought of giving him a surprise by telling him that I had completed my dream book at last. I wanted him to be the first one to read it. I have lost my wife long before, when he was a kid. So, he grew up without his mother. I took care of him very well. I did as much as I can for him. Yes, he is a responsible person as well. He worked very hard and completed his Computer Science Engineering degree with a gold medal. And this Italy trip was the benefit of his hard work. He got a chance to travel abroad for the first time in his life. I was not even capable of affording him to travel in an Aeroplane, even to Chennai. But he earned a chance to travel abroad to Italy for onsite work. It was all because of his skills and hard work. I thought he would become great in his life. But I never imagined he would leave me this soon. Now I have no one to live for. I lost my wife long ago and now my only son too.
(Robert burst out in tears)
Nooooooooooo!!!!!!! Son!!!! Come back please!!!! I know this is all a dream. Come back home soon!!!!!! (Crying aloud and banging the floor)………..!!!!!!!!
I was just lost in thoughts sitting there. All the memories I had about John were flashing off in mind. Like what all mischievous things he did in this same home. Like when he was a kid, he ran all around the place here. He danced on the dining table. He slept on the floors here. I carried him from the floor to the bed every night. He would just randomly sleep at places while watching tv or playing with a toy. We played cricket here inside the house. We broke many things. But we never stopped having fun. There were nights when he would run to me and hide under my arms when he got to hear the frightening sounds of thunder during the Northeast monsoon times. December’s are disastrous here. I taught him cooking here in this kitchen. We both made chill milkshakes in summer and hot coffees in Winter. We did farming together. I thought him all the basics of agriculture from when he was 6 years old. He became more aware of it than me as days passed, since he got to learn so much from the so called Internet, from other intelligent people in the world. And for us, We were each other’s world. I can just imagine him doing many things at many spots inside the house. Oh no! This is making me mad. I miss him. I want to erase this bad name that he had earned, which even he doesn’t know that he had got. I want him back with me. I just don’t know what to do now.
I looked around the house. There were his photos everywhere. That increased the sadness inside me more and more. Just at that one moment, when I was looking through the photographs on the wall, suddenly I remembered my old college friend, who once said to me that he had a time machine hidden inside his home. I used to bully him about that. But what if it was true. What if I can really go back in time. What if I can stop all of this from happening. What if I can bring my John back into life. I ran towards the shelf where my college days diary was. There I searched for his name in the diary. Got it, got him on the 17 th page. His name is Nambi Narayanan. It’s been like nearly 35 years since I have met him. I don’t even know if he is still living in the same address. But I have no other go. I have to give this one last shot. I am doing this no matter what. I took that diary with me and ran towards the Tirunelveli bus stand.
I took the bus towards Thiruvananthapuram. It is going to take me another 4 and half hours. I still remember the day John left for Chennai, the first time, leaving me alone here. That was the first day I felt he had really grown up. He said to me, “Don’t worry Dad, I am not going anywhere, I am still here in your heart. I am just at a distance of a Phone call. You can call me anytime if you miss me and I will also call you whenever I do. Simply, It means each minute of the day. And he hugged me and cried. I will miss you Dad, he said”. Those words were ringing continuously in my ears. And slowly Tears started flowing down my eyes. I said to myself, “Yes son, you are still here with me in my heart. But I want to bring you back to our home. I want you to live till at least I am here. I will give my life son, for you to live long. Jesus is watching us, this is just a test he gave us, I will bring you back anyway. Just hold on.”. And I slept.
I heard someone shouting, “Thiruvananthapuram! Thiruvananthapuram!”. I woke up. I saw the bus entering the Thiruvananthapuram bus stand. I got up to leave. Suddenly I remembered something, I turned around and looked in my seat. The diary I had in my hand was missing. That was the only diary which has Nambi’s address and if I don’t find that, everything will go in vain. I looked around. The bus was actually sparse because of the announcement on TV about being self isolated. Also I heard people saying that the honorable prime minister has announced a section144 janta curfew for tomorrow alone. I saw in the back seat, I saw in the front seat but the diary was not there. I asked the boy who was sitting in the back. Kid! Have you seen a diary here. The kid looked under the seats and there it was, under the seat where I was sitting. I thanked the kid and walked out of the bus towards the tea stall to ask about the address.
Nambi’s house was at Oottukuzhy, Thiruvananthapuram. I asked for a Single tea from the Tea master and I stood there. When he brought it to me, I asked him about the address. He said in a sweet malayalam tone, “it is just 10 mins from where we are standing, Sir.”. He told me to take an auto since the buses are stopped as per PM’s announcement from morning. I said I came on a bus from Tirunelveli to here. He said maybe it was the last bus from Tamil Nadu to Kerala. He told me to be careful since in Kerala, the virus has been spreading actively for 2 days. He said to me, you are an aged person, so be more careful. Hey no, I am just 50,I am not that old, I said. He asked me, “Where are you going Sir?”. I said to my friends home. He asked me to stay safe. I left from there and reached the address by auto. The spot where I got down, I saw a very old house. It looked like my grandma’s house where I would go for holidays during the 70’s. It was a classic brahmin’s house with two gates both at front and back surrounded by a compound. It had old wooden doors with a no ceiling in the center portion of the house. It also had a terrace. All this I observed by standing on the gate looking at the open door of the house. I shouted, “Nambi! Nambi Narayanan!”. A young man the same age as John came out and he asked me, “Who are you Sir?”. I asked him, “This is Nambi’s house right? Is he there?”. He told me that he is sleeping. I said, “I am his old college friend, I came to see him for one important matter. He said, “Oh! Sorry Uncle, Come inside, Sorry for speaking to you by making you standing outside. Come in.”. I went in, he ran inside calling out, “Dad! Dad!”. Your college friend has come to see you. Come out soon. I entered the house. His son asked me to sit on the sofa and asked me if I wanted Coffee or Tea. I said, I just drank tea and came, water is enough.
An Old man with an Old woman following him came from the inside of the house. He asked me, “Yes! May I know who this is?”. Hey Nambi! It’s me Robert Mathews. You forgot me? How will I forget you Robert. How are you doing now? And this is my Wife Parvathi and He is my son, Madhavan, Nambi said.
I said, Hi Parvathi, Hi Madhavan. They replied back with a Hi. Then with a stammering voice I said, I am not so fine Nambi. My life has become a disaster in just one day. I have come here to ask for help from you. Will you help me?
Yes of course Robert, Why are you hesitating I will do anything I can for you. Tell me. I said, “Can we talk in private”. His son said, Okay dad, I am going to meet my friend now. I will come back soon. And then he said to me, “ Uncle, Have food and stay with us for a day or two and then leave. And then he left. His wife said, Let me know if you want anything Robert and she left for the bedroom. Then I told Nambi all that had happened in my life after the college days. He said I am sorry for your loss Robert. I asked him, “You said to me, you had a time machine that was hidden in your home right. I have bullied you those times. I am sorry. But is that really true that you have it? I want to bring my son back, Nambi. Please help me. I will give anything you ask for. Please help me Nambi. I promise to be your servant for lifetime if you can help me with this. Is the time machine true? Do you really have it?
Nambi after laughing hard for like 5 minutes said, see Robert this is life. When I said, I have a time machine in my home like 25 years ago. No one believed me. And now here you are begging me to use it. Do you really believe now I will have one. What if I had pranked you 25 years ago to laugh at you now.
I felt very bad. I said, “Please Nambi, You are the only hope I have”. Please tell me If it’s true. He replied, “Don’t worry, It is true. I have it here in my home in basement cabin. But no one in my house knows about it. So shush!. I don’t want them to know until the last day of my life”. That is what my father did and got a promise from me. You are the only other person who knows about this because you were the one and only best friend I had in college times and yet you never believed me and bullied me those times.
Okay come with me, I will show you the Time machine. But remember, No one can change the time. You can change the sequence of events, but the end result of the past will always be the same, meaning whatever happened has happened. You cannot change it, Nature will not allow you to do that. This is what my father said to me. I have not used this time machine till now because there was no need in my life to use this. I am successful with my Ghee business today. I am a respectable person in this Oottukuzhy. Nambi’s Oottukuzhy Ghee is a famous product now. It was all through my hard work. I also never had any incidents which would induce me to use it. So you are the first person who is going to use it. Be very careful. I am not coming with you. I have my son and wife to take care of. Anyways, I can’t even time travel together with you, even if I want to also. Because only one person can travel at a time with this machine.
I said, “Yeah it’s okay Nambi. I know. But I wanted to give this one last shot to bring my son back or at least to remove the bad name he got. He is a very good honest Kid you know. I just don’t want him to have this bad name after he left me. At least for that I have to do something. I will try to change the time even by giving my life as bait. And that i have promised to myself.
We walked outside through the back gate of the house, there near the backside compound, there was a well. We walked towards it. He lifted the bucket with the rope that was hanging from the center of the well. He opened the cap of a 20 Cm diameter pipe and poured the water from the bucket into that pipe which was near the well. He said he needs 9 more buckets of water. I helped him with it and when we poured the last bucket of water, a small packet of plastic rose-up from the pipe. He took it and asked me to follow him. I followed him. He took the key that was inside it and walked towards the very old room that was there in his house. I guess It was a store room. It had many old objects. He took a small wooden box that was lying in the top shelf that was in the room. It looked like it had a puzzle. He pulled outward some of the small pieces of the wood in the wooden box up and some of it he pushed inward. I was just confused about what he was doing. The box then opened and it had a very old key with a lot of cut in its teeth end. He took it and asked me to follow him. We went towards the God’s room or what they call Pooja room in Hindu’s houses. He asked me to come in. It was a small room with a bero like thing in the corner and covered with framed photographs of gods and some statues too. There were Oil Lamps and many other things too. He went near that bero. He asked me to help him to move it. Behind that bero was a wooden wall which had a key shaped hole. He inserted the key into it and he pushed the wooden wall towards right. It opened into a staircase towards the underground. I was just standing there watching him doing everything. He asked me to wait until he comes back and also asked me to give a sound if his wife or son comes there. He entered inside and after some 5 minutes he came back with yet another wooden box. He closed that wooden wall and asked me to help, to place the bero back in its position.
We then went outside and to the terrace of his house. There he took the wooden box and opened it with the same small key which he took from the pipe near the well and this one did not have any puzzle on it. He opened the box, and there was only a small analog watch in it. He said this is the time machine. And there was a small paper folded into 4 that was there in it. He told me to read it before proceeding. I took that watch from him. It had the three metal indicators (Hands) that circle around the dial like any other analog watch. The dial’s concentric circles had 24 numbers instead of 12. There were three circles one for the hour, other for the minutes and other for the second like the three hands it had. It also had a small box-like feature at some distance right to the center of the dial where the date, month and the year was mentioned. It showed today’s time. And also it had provisions on the right end of the watch for adjusting the time and other things which they call “crowns” like in any other watch. There were 2 crowns in it. Both were there on the right side of the watch. I read through the paper. It was mentioned that I should wear the watch in my wrists and then pull the top crown slightly outward to adjust the date and a bit more for a month and totally till the end for adjusting the year. Then the bottom one to adjust the time. And I should push that bottom crown inward to begin the time travel. It was also mentioned that if someone from the past or future got to know that I have time travelled or received knowledge about something which has happened in the past or future, then the time travel watch will self destroy itself. But it was not mentioned what will happen to me if the watch destroys itself. After reading the paper I kept it in my pocket. I took the watch and wore it in my left hand. I thought about the Date, time and the place I have to travel. The first thing that came to my mind was the date March 9, when John landed in Chennai International Airport. But now how to fix the location I am going to travel in this watch. I asked about that to Nambi. Nambi said to me, this is not a teleporter Robert, it is only a time travel device. You can go back in time only to a point in time where you have travelled. So if you are going to adjust a date. It should be within your lifetime. Not before you were born. It will not work if you give a date before that. Just check that too, my father said it will automatically identify your birth date when you wear it and also you cannot set a date behind that. Also he said, you will land in a place where you have been, just 10 minutes before the time you are about to set in the watch. I checked it and indeed the date was starting from June 1, 1970.
I thought that March 8 was my destination now. I was in Kodaikanal that day. I pulled the top crown, I adjusted the Date-month-year as 08-03-2020. I then pulled the bottom crown and adjusted the time to 5 PM (17.00 hrs) in the evening since I remember his flight landed in chennai at 5.15 AM on 09-03-2020. I was still not sure if this would work or not. I looked Nambi in the eyes. He signalled me to proceed. I had no other choice than to proceed. This is my only shot. I pushed the crowns inward one after the other. And when I pushed the bottom crown inward, suddenly a flash occurred in my eyes. I closed my eyes.
*To be Continued*