With Prachi’s call, I was filled with a new found hope and energy. I walked down to the front-desk and asked the concierge about the area that my parents had lived in almost thirty years ago.
“Thirty years ago..” The concierge said thoughtfully. “That area was a well off area quite a few years ago. Then the richer people started abandoning the town to go settle in bigger cities and all the good areas in the town deteriorated. But thirty years ago, that’s a long time ago.. I’m sorry, I can’t really be sure.”
I turned away disappointed, when the concierge called me back, “Maybe you can talk to Raaghav, our doorman, he’s been around for as long as anyone can remember.” He pointed at an elderly gentleman manning the door.
Funny, I had never paid any attention to him as I had walked in. Now as I walked towards him, I noticed the way his shoulders slumped, the way his back slouched, the look of exhaustion on his face. I felt sorry for him. Was my birth father standing somewhere like this? Exhausted to the core? Working to make ends meet?
I shuddered and put the thought out of my head. After a quick word with the concierge, I took Raaghav on a break. Somewhere, inside, I hoped that my good deed would be passed on to my parents, if they were in a such a position.
Raaghav felt too conscious to enter the coffee shop in the hotel, so we decided to go to a nearby chai shop.
“So, thank you for talking with me.” I waited till the tea was on the table.
Raaghav, clearly not much of a talker, simply nodded.
“I wanted to know about some residential areas in the city. I mean, what kind of people stayed there, around thirty years back. Can you help me?” I hurried to finish my sentence as Raaghav gulped down his tea.
“One more?” I asked. He nodded and gestured to the waiter.
Silence surrounded the table.
“So will you help me?” I asked. I could hear the desperation in my voice.
After some thought, Raaghav said, “Can I have something to eat too?”
“Sure, order whatever you like.” I passed on the menu to him. Turns out, he didn’t need it. He was a regular here. I waited patiently till he finished eating.
As he started getting up, I realized he had taken me for a ride.
“I am sorry Madam, I don’t know this are you wanted to know about.”
I nodded a little and grimaced at my naiveté. Why had I assumed he would be the answer to all my problems. The bill came as he walked out. Feeling somewhat like a fool who’s been had, I took out my clutch.
“Maybe you should talk to my brother.” I looked up, Raaghav had returned. Did he expect me to feed his brother too?
“No, thank you.” I said curtly. How stupid did he think I was.
“He works for the Post Office.” He had said the only thing, that could have stopped me from walking out.
“And you..” I asked hesitantly, “think he’ll be able to help me?”
He smiled kindly at me, “I don’t know who you are looking for in that area, but if anyone can help you, its him. I will call him to meet you tomorrow.”
Suddenly, he had made my day. I had a plan now. A direction. I felt some weight slide off my shoulders.
As I walked back to the hotel with Raaghav, I realized that in my search, I would have to depend on a lot of people. And I couldn’t treat any of them with suspicion, nor could I doubt their motives. I would have to trust them and their inputs. I would have to jump without a safety net. No, that was not true. Prachi would be my safety net.
“Thank you for the break madam.” Raaghav said politely as he held the door open for me.
“No Raaghav..” I stopped him. “Thank you.” As corny as it was, it was true. He had helped me out in more than one ways.