So I was quite amazed when I called him from work and his phone wasn't busy. He picked up after the third ring. Silence.
"Bzzzz pssstt khchooo...this is Khandelwal"
"Who are you Khandelwal-ing?"
"Khandelwal to Khokhar, Are you getting this? Come in Khokhar"
"What are you doing? I don't have time for this stupidity"
"This is far from stupidity. This is life or death, Khokhar. Survival on Mars to be exact"
"Are you playing The Martian again? Stop it immediately, I need you to pay attention"
"Uff baby, you are such a spoil sport. What do you want?"
I quickly rattled off instructions to give to Sarina for lunch, which made him impatient, as expected.
I didn't bother calling back since the chaos at home tended to take time to unravel and I needed to get back to work, After wrapping up for the day, I headed home, distracted by various other things on my mind. I had forgotten about my earlier phone conversation with Sid and even if I had thought about it, I didn't think that the Martian phase would still be on several hours later. So I was completely taken aback to find the front door wide open, Mia the scaredy cat hadn't ventured far and was sitting right outside the door preening herself and bounded up happily when she saw me approach. "What are you doing outside baby, get in, come on" I said, while ushering her inside. Wondering why in the world the door was open I walked straight into the living room, which had been shut, and walked on to the most bizarre scene. There was mud strewn around the room, and potatoes strewn around within the dirt. The O'Jay's Love Train was blaring on the speakers and a large plastic sheet that I recognized as the talc sheet from the dining table had been pinned clumsily against a wall. Frolicking amid the potatoes was Molly, or rather Molly with a hair band - one antenna protruding from the right side of the band, while the stump of what must have been its partner, but had now been half chewed stuck out defiantly on the other side. Her green mask had slipped off her face and was hanging around her neck. She didn't look too unhappy about the situation and was amusing herself by pawing violently at a potato and delighting when it flew up in the air. On the sofa, typing furiously, was Sid. He was eating a baked potato with ketchup and barely lifted his head to acknowledge my presence.
"Siddharth, I spoke to you at 12 in the afternoon, it is now 7 in the evening. Please don't tell me you've spent a good part of the day on creating life on Mars! Did you get those papers I needed from the bank"? He nodded towards the corner of the table to a few sheets of official looking papers were stacked and I snatched them up with a look of approval. "Thanks baby"! Nodding again he solemnly declared that "Meticulousness and ticking things off the list is what helped Matt Damon survive so long on Mars". I rolled my eyes and went to the kitchen to get something to eat. So much for meticulousness, I could see no signs of the lauki I had asked for, and went back to ask Sid about it. "I got aloo made baby, that's all that Matt Damon ate on Mars. We got to be true to the movie". As I launched into a little rant about paying attention and knowing when to stop playing and take things seriously, he stopped me in my tracks.
"Can you hear yourself, you're arguing about bloody lauki! Take it easy, there's enough of the mundane nonsense to deal with everyday, a little change from the most boring vegetable in the world is not going to turn your world upside down". And with that rather explosive statement, he went off to the bar. I noticed, while he was poured out some drinks, that he had bits of aluminium foil stuck to his track pants. He came back, handed me a glass, and walked past me. Before I could follow him I got a call on my phone, after speaking for a few minutes I hung up feeling tired. Just another reminder of things I had left to do. This year has just been insane. I've lost a parent and watched the other become seriously ill almost immediately after. I've changed jobs in the midst of this madness, worked with my sister, brother-in-law and Sid to try and deal with the situation as best as we could - dealing with things a day at a time. The pressure has been so overwhelming at times, but the person who (as expected) would help me through this is of course Sid - or rather the child in him.
Whirling around the house with the dogs, or calling me to tell me about a stupid joke he heard on the radio, or playing the Martian - even a few minutes of ridiculous distraction is totally therapeutic. I took a sip and walked back into the living room. Sid was strapping Molly into her harness and pulling her mask back on to her face. He looked up at me and asked if I wanted to play. When I nodded he tossed me some aluminium foil and explained, "I obviously don't have space suits so we will make do with tacky costumes, but it's all in the imagination"! As I pasted bits of foil on to my pants, I asked him what in the world had happened to his Downton Abbey phase where he would wear the most ridiculous wigs and drink tea and make Molly wear a tiara and sip cocktails, while Mia had to be the butler and answer the door (since she refused to budge from the front door usually!). "Oh babe, we're going American. Ever since you stopped working for the British, we're being loyal and now we're only doing American movies and shows. Next time we're playing Quantico. I've been practicing Priyanka Chopra's accent and I've bought the dogs toy guns and FBI badges, it'll be amazing"! I chuckled at the thought of him crying and saying "No, I've been framed! Why would I do this?" while Molly pointed a gun at him. He nodded in approval at my now silver-foiled pants and said, "Ok, so Mia is the Hermes space ship and we are in the rover. We have to hurtle towards her and she will catch us and pull us to safety. Considering Mia can be resistant to orders, let's do a trial run with this Molly. Help me chuck her across the room, and if Mia catches her we'll go next"! As I helped him pick up a unsuspecting Molly, I thought of how I had been sucked into this ridiculous game. But two minutes in and I was totally caught up.Mars had thrown everything it could at me and I had survived, help was on the way!