Mrs Kumar was unsure of everything as she entered the market. The hustle and bustle of the market felt removed from her as if she had been left behind from it. She realized that each of the thousand times she had entered the market she had always had a to-do list or a list of ingredients to collect for a recipe. And here she was at this late hour of the evening, without a list of ingredients for her life or a recipe for how to cook it.
Mrs Kumar decided that she had wandered into the market because it was familiar. She hoped that the tired alleyways and the small shops of the market remembered enough of the items of her life that she may be able to pick up a decision about it in the next shop around the corner.
The smell of the fresh flowers wafting from the flower vendor reminded her of her husband. She had never really liked Jasmine, but he liked them so much that she had grown to like them too. The memory of a thousand intimate moments made her blush in the fading sunlight. She could always go back to him, her husband. The fight they had was just a fight, everyone fought. She could just go back to him and it would all be back to normal. She looked at her phone, it had been two days and he hadn’t called even once. Mrs Kumar covered her nose and moved on.
The toy shop down the road reminded her of her son. She would save up money each month for his birthday so she could buy him his favourite toy. And it was always worth it to see his tiny face light up. She could always go to him, he was a dutiful son and would always take her in, but she could never fail to notice how her presence dimmed his eyes just a little nowadays. There was no toy she could buy to fix that.
The bangles on the bangles vendors cart twinkled like her daughter’s laughter. Could she go to her daughter? No, it was too early to even consider that.
And then she saw it, in the window of a fancy shop, a Thanjavur bobblehead doll. Mrs Kumar froze in place, as she watched the doll nod her head and sway her hips. She had had the exact same doll when she was a little girl. It had been her most prized possession. When her father would play songs on the radio, Mrs Kumar would run to the table where the doll stood and nudge her gently, and she would join the doll in her dance always in tune with the songs. Read more
Mrs.Mani stared at the last two rows of white dots on the ground. She set the bowl of white rangoli down and stood up holding both her knees. She winced as her back cracked like an old twig. It looked like the vermilion on her forehead was seeping into the violent shades of the morning sky. The sun was not yet seen on the horizon, and judging by the cold sunlight that had just reached the wide metal gates of the house, it was well before six in the morning.
Mrs.Mani wiped her forehead as she looked down at the rangoli she had been drawing for a while now. It looked like a chariot, well an artist’s rendering of a chariot. And the last two rows that formed the wheels of this chariot were the only ones left to be connected. It looked simple now, the chariot design with all its dots joined the right way, but Mrs Mani knew how joining even two dots the wrong way would spoil the whole design. She stared at the road that led to the gate, they must have landed at the airport by now. Her son and his new wife, a woman she had never met. They would be home in another hour. Mrs.Mani sighed and knelt down again. She picked up a pinch of the rangoli and could feel it instantly slip out of her grip. She hesitated, which dot should be connected to which one next. More of the rangoli slipped out of her fingers. She rushed her fingers and joined the last two rows. Read more
“No, no, no…” Kavita screamed as she opened her eyes and planted her legs on the floor with force. He feet were glad to touch the threadbare living room carpet. She could feel her fingernails digging into the varnish of the sofa. She looked at the balcony, not that she wanted to. Her neck just seemed to turn on its own. The balcony was empty. An angry orange sun was setting below the railing of the balcony. She forced herself to look away. To look at her son.
Her five-year-old son was staring at her with wide eyes. His lips were puckered up, his chin ready to quiver. He was leaning against the coffee table to support himself.
Kavita’s hand trembled as it rose towards him, “I am just afraid for him…” she told herself. She pulled Ravi into an embrace. “Did I scare you? I am sorry…” she whispered as she kissed his forehead, “Don’t be afraid.” She was not sure to whom she said that.
“The police inspector is at the door…” Ravi said in a small voice. Read more
“Ma, I am fine…There is no need for this…” Ajay said in a forced whisper as if someone could hear him. But there wasn’t anyone around in the old building or in the grounds around the building. Ajay couldn’t make out what the building had been earlier…perhaps an old government office. He thought he saw the remains of an old filing cabinet in one of the rooms. An owl hooted loudly in the building somewhere. Ajay searched around for it.
“This is really not needed…I am fine…Let’s go…” he whispered harder to his mother.
“You call this fine…” his mother hit him on the ass with her umbrella.”
“Ow, you can’t do that…I am a grown man…”
“Then behave like one…All you do is mope around all day…And look how long your beard has grown… there could be sparrows nesting in there for all we know…”
“Beard’s are in right now, ma…” Ajay drawled.
His mother shot him a look that threatened to mow down his beard then and there, “And is lying in your bed for 20 hours a day also ‘in’ right now…”
Ajay stopped walking and let his mother walk ahead. He was surprised by the change in his otherwise docile loving mother. Suddenly, she was an assertive person who knew what needed to be done. Her heart was in the right place, he just wished her brain was in the right one too.
“Ok, fine…but what are we doing here? What is this place anyway?” Ajay braced himself as a big fat rat ran past them.
“This is an Ashram…” his mom said charging ahead despite the rat. Read more
Norman stood outside his mother’s room. He sighed and balanced the tray in his hand, he had made all her favorites, pancakes, sunny-side up eggs, and freshly squeezed orange juice. He knocked on the door.
“Come in” his mother’s hoarse voice shouted.
Norman entered the room and placed the tray on his mother’s bed, across her lap.
“About damn time. What is this breakfast or brunch?” Mother hissed at him, “ I thought you had forgotten about me.”
“Sorry mother, I had to go out to get the oranges, we ran out of them.”
“This is why I tried all my life to teach you discipline. God knows I tried. You used to be better when I could get out of bed and whoop your sorry ass.” Mother took a sip of the orange juice, “ and you still cannot choose ripe oranges. What am I going to do with you?”
Norman stared at his feet. He had to hold both his hands to keep them from shivering. His mouth was dry. He tried to lick his lips but there was no moisture in his mouth. Breakfast was the best time to tell mother. She would only grow grumpier through the day. And he had been wanting to say this for a while now.
“Mother…” he whispered. She did not hear him and continued eating the pancakes.
“Mother, I have decided to leave,” he said as if testing her hearing. Read more
“I told you this was going to happen!” Vijay wiped the sweat off his brow, “But did you listen to me? No! Now look what has happened.” He stuck the spade into the soft soil in their backyard.
“Yes…yes I know you told me. And I never listen to you” Shilpa agreed eagerly, as the torchlight she held in her hand shook, its beam making wild circles on the ground at Vijay’s feet.
She kept staring at the soft bundle that was lying a few feet away , swaddled in cloth. In the darkness, she could convince herself that it was still breathing. She shook her head, such wishful thinking was of no use. They had a job to finish. Read more