Burger / Kartik Sharma

“One chicken tikka burger and a coke please”

After dictating the order at the counter, Divyansh bore himself up to one of the tables and sank into the chair. He took a deep breath and buried his head in his hands. The guilt was gnawing at his mind. Why had he blurted out so rudely in front of his father?

He had just gone with a simple request to his father. “Papa, I may be going out to the mall with Rajnish and others for the movie.” His dad, looking up from the newspaper, took a deep sigh. “Son, you shouldn’t be going out too often. And you also know that Rajnish isn’t keeping a good company these days.” Divyansh groaned a bit and shot back at his dad. “Dad, why do you always do this? I am old enough to go out frequently.” He immediately bit his lip and regretted his words. His words had clearly hurt his dad. He looked at him with tearful eyes and rose up and left the room.

As he sat waiting for his burger, Divyansh’s mind was clouded by a concoction of conflicting emotions. Had he really done anything egregiously wrong that he should feel ashamed of? His dad had always been accustomed to keeping a check over his activities. It was a norm for him to keep his dad in the loop regarding where he went to, and who he went out with, among other things. Many a time he used to feel sheepish at this hawkish oversight of his dad. His friends also tended to take a jibe at him on certain occasions. He used to turn white on listening to their barbs and jokes and would smile faintly as a response. He had never expressly said anything regards this to his dad, but the burden persisted in his heart.

“Order no. 141 ready!” Divyansh rose up from the table and took his food from the counter. He trod back to his table and sat there with the tray in front of him. He peered at the items intensely. There was the massive, mouth-watering chicken tikka burger and his all-time favorite, coke. After a few moments of rumination, he decided to start with a few swigs of coke. He lifted the glass and took a big gulp of it. The fizzy drink hit the insides of his throat and a wave of shiver and ecstasy channelled through his body. He clenched his teeth and let out a sigh of relief.

“Let’s have a bet right? Whoever ends the coke first, wins 100 rupees.” I knew I will be able to beat my dear dad in this. I looked into his eyes and gave a smirk. My dad grinned back and it seemed he had something in his mind. My brother counted to 3, and we started.

I lost!!! Damn! My dad turned out to be a pro and he gulped down a full 250 ml in 14 seconds. He gave me a mischievous wink and I handed over a hundred rupees note to him. “ Baap Baap hi hota hai ( “Dad will be Dad”) , right Divyansh?”

A faint smile creased his face as the memories of that bet came flying back. He shook his head and picked up the burger. How sumptuous it looked! He braced himself and opened his mouth wide to take in a huge bite of the burger. As he did so, the first thing he tasted was a piece of cucumber and he absolutely despised that vegetable. His face contorted as he chewed it uneasily. Their equation had for the most time been really pleasant. But it was moments like the one that day that brought a bit of strain between them.  He remembered how once his dad had chided him for being lethargic and not exercising despite repeated reminders.  ‘Ah damn it!’ He bit his lip and brought his focus back on his burger. The next bite was sheer heaven. The mozzarella cheese laced with schezuan sauce melted in his mouth as he let out a delightful groan.  It felt good. He looked around the restaurant to take in the ambience. Soft music was humming in the background as people chatted away their joys and sorrows. Just in front of him, he noticed a seven-eight-year-old boy sitting with his father.  The boy was clapping joyfully as his father was unwrapping the burger for him. The man took a small part of the burger, gave it a small peck and placed it tenderly in his son’s hands. It was such a sweet and poignant moment. Divyansh smiled a bit and glanced at the chair on his side which was empty. In that very moment, he had realized his mistake and the love and concern his dad had for him.

He was eating the last bits of his burger when he heard a familiar voice. The order counter was to his back at the other end of the restaurant and thus he had to turn around to see. Yes, he was right. It was his Dad. He was dictating the order to the guy. Almost as if pulled up, Divyansh rose from the table and made his way towards the counter. As he neared his dad, whose back was towards him, he heard something that made his eyes brim up. “Keep it a bit spicy, my son likes it.” Divyansh placed his hand on his dad’s shoulder and whispered in his ears, “Should we sit here and eat?”

Kartik Sharma is currently pursuing BA LLB (Hons.) at NLSIU, Bengaluru. The world of imaginary tales is a respite for this 19-year old from the  many-a-times humdrum of Law.

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