82-year-old Pappan Nair stared at the ceiling fan weakly. The fan black with dust let out a mechanical screech every now and then. Death lingered by him, he could feel its cold breath in the air. He felt his body tremble underneath the Kashmiri blanket his son-in-law had gifted him last Vishu*. He could faintly hear the buzz of people talking in the veranda. It was as if everybody were waiting him to die. He knew that his relatives weren’t there for his property, he had divided his life’s wealth long ago among his three daughters.
Pappan Nair had been the headmaster of the public school of the village for 33 years; a man dedicated to raising the standards of education in his unprogressive village. A steady stream of people came to see him and to look at him with sympathy. He felt as if he were an object on display, somebody you can point and talk about. His house was filled with people, their presence puzzled him.
“Why are they staying?” he asked himself.
“Amma, some news people have come. It seems they want grandpa to appear on TV!
I didn’t know he was famous”, exclaimed 6-year-old Sanoop to his mother.
“Tell your dad that they have come”, said Rukmini, the eldest daughter of the headmaster.
Rukmini was aware of her husband’s plan, this feature on her father was an excuse to publicize her husband’ s business venture. A way to lure in more people. She smiled to herself, pleased that her husband would always try to get the best out of any situation.
That night she found Sanoop staring gleefully at something on her mobile phone.
“What are you doing with that? Give it to me”, she gestured.
“Amma, look at this. I took a selfie with grandpa when he was sleeping. Now I can show my friends that this is how a dying man looks like.”
Rukmini stared at her son in silent horror.
*Vishu is the Hindu New Year festival celebrated in Kerala, India.