Each week, we pick a short fiction piece from our Fairlight Shorts archives to feature as our story of the week. This week, we’ve chosen a story about father-son relationships by Sandeep Kumar Mishra.
Sandeep Kumar Mishra is an outsider artist, a poet and a teacher. He is the poetry editor at the Indian Poetry Review and an Art instructor at the Kishlaya Outsider Art Academy.
Sandeep is the bestselling author of poetry collection One Heart- Many Breaks, published in 2020. He has received the Indian Achievers Award in 2021, the IPR Annual Poetry Award in 2020 and the 2020 Literary Titan Book Award. He was also shortlisted for the 2021 International Book Awards, Indies Today Book of the Year Award 2020, Joy Bale Boone Poetry Prize 2021 and Oprelle Rise up Poetry Prize 2021. Sandeep was also nominated to be The Story Mirror Author of the Year in 2019.
‘A Father’s Son’ follows a man reflecting on his relationship with his father.
The mourners were not plentiful on the day of the funeral. Charvik Sharma had not been a popular man in this life, having dedicated very little time to cultivating and maintaining relationships. Sahil, his eldest, watched the people move about in respectful silence, occasionally stopping with one of his siblings or mother to offer quiet condolences while the chanters continued through their mantras. Some made their way over to him, but he had nothing to say to them in return. Everything was too fresh − Sahil wasn’t sure how he felt about his father’s death yet. He hadn’t even seen his father for at least ten years before now, having gone off to live with his aunt while still a boy.
He looked over at his mother, his brother Ishaan and his sister Shaleena. His mother looked sad, at least, but Ishaan and Shaleena looked about as numb as he doubtless did. He wondered what the past ten years had been like for them. If their father had changed at all since failing Sahil.
He would never forget the first time his father struck him. It was a miserable, humid day, the air so wet that you could almost taste it. Charvik was home, classes having been let out, and was especially short of temper.
Sahil, still a small child at the time, refused to go outside to play. ‘It’s too hot,’ he remembered protesting. ‘I’ll melt!’
His mother had gently but firmly encouraged him to go outside anyway. ‘You won’t melt, I promise. But you really should go outside. The sun is good for you.’
‘I don’t want to!’ His little voice rose in aggravation.
‘Sahil, my darling, please go outside.’ His mother looked around, fear colouring her face. It was the first time Sahil could recall seeing his mother afraid, though it would not be the last.