WHAT’S A HOME? – VII

It was a lazy Saturday but Meghana was busy preparing Animesh’s favourite Aloo Parantha with Pudina Chutny as he had agreed to come for breakfast that day. He was leaving India that night so Manu suggested that they invite him for breakfast at least, before he leaves.

It had already been a week since that day when Meghana left the house without paying any heed to her household responsibilities… without even caring for anything… But Animesh’s entry into the scene suddenly allowed her to look at things differently. She knows that she can’t go back to her old self as that will be so impractical because they both have changed, people around them have changed, their situations have changed. But she realised that there’s something that needs to be changed to restore the beauty of their marriage. She kept on pondering about this the whole week, especially Manu’s absolute silence.

Meghana had shared with Manu about Animesh and his plight – all that he had gone through in his life, yet how he had been managing to be happy and cheerful all the time. So Manu was careful while talking to Animesh when he came for an hour and had his favourite food along with them all before bidding goodbye to his best friend and her family.

Manu left for his work after Animesh’s departure and Kabir went along with his Nana ji as Meghana requested him to do so for this weekend. Her parents always loved the presence of their grandson. Kabir too loved to be pampered by them.

Meghana began with her usual household chores one after another. She checked all the pockets of Manu’s shirts and trousers as she wanted to put them in the washing machine for a wash. But a piece of paper caught her attention. It was a receipt for a coffee bought from Blue Moon Cafeteria which startled her. She remembered the owner of that cafeteria… ‘Shikha Ma’am’. She had tried to encourage her when she was so frustrated and bitter that day. She really wasn’t attentive to her at all and came out of the café after sometime without heeding anything that she had told her. But how come Manu was there? Why did he visit that place? Was she missing out something? Is this why he remains so quiet these days?

Questions like these popped up in her mind and disturbed her. Many things came to her mind which she tried to brush off, but could not. She quickened her hands and finished all her work as soon as possible. She took a quick shower, ate her lunch and walked out of the house.

Welcome back my child…” came the words from the owner of that cafeteria as soon as Meghana pushed open the glass door of Blue Moon Cafeteria.

She smiled back and nodded, “Hello Ma’am, thank you… How are you doing?”

“I am absolutely fine… How about you?” Shikha led Meghana to a table in the comfortable corner of the cafeteria and leaned over with her fists resting on the table.

“I am better… than how you saw me last, Ma’am.” Meghana replied with a gentle smile on her face as she sat down pulling a chair looking up at Shikha.

“I am happy… I was thinking about you all this time because I see myself in you.” Shikha responded clasping Meghana’s hand with hers.

Meghana was astonished to hear that. ‘Shikha is such a concerned lady…’ She thought and clasped back her fingers within her both palms. “You are so nice Ma’am… I was so rude that day… I apologise for that. I kind of lost myself that day… and…”

She was interrupted by Shikha when she started speaking, “Now don’t apologise to me for that… I felt it. I saw it in your face that day… I saw a young distressed Shikha in you, that day… Yes, I was like you… very jovial and very cheerful but my inner angst towards my life and towards my husband at a later stage destroyed my marriage… And when I realised it was too late… When I came to him….” She paused and sat down in front of her as tears rolled from her eyes. Meghana was confused seeing Shikha’s condition. “Ma’am…. What happened to him?” She asked.

Shikha continued wiping her tears… “I am sorry… I became bit emotional… He is still with me but lifeless… like a dead man… He met with an accident and severed his nervous system. He is paralysed for life.”

Meghana’s heart started to pound listening to Shikha. Her mind wandered around Animesh’s life story. She felt so blessed to have Manu still with her, safe and sound. She felt relieved as well as troubled thinking all that. She even forgot why she came here to this café when Shikha asked, “So what made you come here again dear?”

Meghana hesitated for a bit thinking what Shikha might think but decided to ask about Manu. She took out a photograph of Manu and showed Shikha asking, “Do you know this man who came and had a coffee here?”

Shikha smiled and said, “Yes, this man who is your husband came to this cafeteria an hour after you left that day. He was with a client. When he flapped open his wallet to pay me on the counter I found your picture in it coincidentally… And asked about it… He smiled and let me know about the female in the picture as his wife. And I thought of letting him know that you came and were very troubled and distressed. I also told him that probably his wife needed him desperately in her life. He went away without saying a word. I am sorry if I had disturbed your life more, dear…” Shikha was in an apologetic posture when she said that.

“No no… Not at all… in fact I thank you for doing that… He came to me immediately that day and I see a bit different Manu after that day.” Meghana gave a delightful glee when she came to know the secret behind Manu’s silence.

As they kept talking to each other more, Shikha let her understand how important her part in a marriage was, being a home maker. She also made her feel that Manu loves her so much and is equally struggling to come back to his old self as she is. She went back home with a new zeal and new enthusiasm to give it a try again after clearly understanding, ‘What’s a home?‘ in real sense though the result was still invisible and not evident to her then.

When Manu came back that evening he found her dressed with a beautiful red saree that he had given her in the initial years of their marriage. He was quietly admiring her beauty in his mind. Meghana smiled and brought tea, snacks etc. for him… She sat beside him with a hope as she wanted to say something but was apprehensive about it.

“Do you want to tell me something?”, Manu asked.

She felt her fingers go cold and mouth go dry. A negative response from him can push her back to her bitterness… But she decided… she will try… She will definitely take chances without caring about his responses… She smiled looking at him sipping his tea.

“Let’s go for a long ride, Manu! Meghana uttered those words more in a requesting tone, with her fingers crossed and expecting a ‘NO’ from him. But to her surprise he agreed immediately without uttering a word. Lo and behold soon they hit the road on his bike instead of their car.

Meghana sitting behind her beloved’s back, wrapping her arms around him, pressing her head on his back, feeling the force of the cool breeze hitting at her literally, blowing all her agony off her life at that particular moment. She knew it very well that nothing had really changed so drastically for her till then but she could surely see a ray of hope shining for her – for both of them. She didn’t think much but just closed her eyes feeling the warmth of love at that very moment instead of getting hyper for the unseen future.

THE END

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WHAT IS A HOME – VI

The next morning came and Meghana expected Manu to put some questions on the table. But he was as cool as cucumber. No reaction at all !!

Does he even care why I went off like that?

Is he even interested in my life?

Before she even realized she started to get a bit upset only because Manu did not ask her any questions about her whereabouts the day before. She knew he came back early from work only for her comfort. But the way he saw her and Animesh together – he could have thought of just anything. And moreover that fight started because she had to go to dentist but that also she had cancelled.

The morning was busy as usual and after a lot of running around, Manu and Kabir left for their destinations. She was left alone again with just her thoughts. She started to think about Animesh. How his life had turned upside down and yet he was this happy-go-lucky guy. How does he manage his emotions? Doesn’t he get angry with his life ever? He still managed to be same energetic and peppy person.

“Make a deal with Manu” – that’s what Animesh had suggested to her. Maybe he was right. Maybe she just had to search for herself, maybe she had to think about being the same Meghana that Manu had fallen in love with. If she does that, maybe this marriage would just be fine.

“Let’s go for a long ride, Manu!” Meghana used to say this quite often in the early years of their marriage. And they would put on their helmets and with music in their ears, they would ride off on his bike. It was so much fun. They used to go to one of beaches nearby. Once they would start talking – it would be endless. They always had so much to share and so much to chat about. Meghana couldn’t help but smile while thinking about what all they used to laugh about and talk about. It would be about their friends and family members, sometimes they would think of a new business idea that they might want to venture into. Other times it would be a light talk just about their future and how they would love to raise their kids.

Thinking about all this, Meghana quickly opened her laptop. She opened gtalk chats because that is what she and Manu used before marriage. She searched for the chats and she found them in no time. She opened one of them.

26th Oct’ 2009

“Manuuuuuu, you did not tell me what should I wear for the party tonight?”

“I love that red dress on you. Why don’t you try that?”

“I could, but you know I might look a bit fat in it”

“Hahaha, you will look fat anyways”

 😡 Grrrrr… How could you say that? I am not talking to you now. Huh!!”

🙂 Ok bye. Have fun dressing up.”

“I am angry, Manu. Won’t you even try to make up for my mood?”

“I will once I meet you. For now be a doll and come over in that red dress. And don’t worry a tad bit about your fat, you look lovely to me”

“Thanks baby, I am coming in sometime”

She opened another one.

6th Jan’ 2010

“Hi Meghana, did you practice the steps we decided yesterday. We only have 3 days left.”

“Yes yessss I did. But I am finding it bit difficult after 5th step. I somehow cannot rotate my waist like that”

“Hmmmm. Ok, we will change that step. All ok other than that?”

“Yups, you really want us to be the best naa”

“We are the best sweetie. There is no better couple than us. You will see how all eyes are going to be on us while we rock the stage.”

“I am quite sure. But don’t be too angry if I miss out something. I am trying my best, you know”

“I will kill you if you make a mistake. Hahaha, just kidding! You are an amazing dancer and all of us make mistakes. Don’t worry. Just practice and we are going to be best ever”

She closed the laptop with tears in her eyes. What happened to those long rides, movie outings, dance performances, flirtatious talks? Why did all that end in 7 years of marriage? It was such a gradual change that she doesn’t even know when their marriage started to rust. Now they hardly spoke to each other except for the things that are needed to run the house and raise a child. Things like “going to the dentist”, “picking up Kabir”, “buying some groceries”, “calling the electrician” etc. Thinking about a red dress and dance performances now was way out of their relationship.

“What should I do now? What would the old Meghana do? Where is she lost? How should I try to get her back?” Meghana closed her eyes with these thoughts.

 

Continue reading the next part HERE

WHAT’S A HOME – V

Meghana and Animesh kept staring at the waves, rising and falling, reaching the shores, breaking against the rocks and filling the air with noise of splash only to retreat and bring upon calmness which is not static either.

The long silence was broken by a notification on Meghana’s phone.

“Oh it’s 2:30 PM, I must go as Kabir would be home in about an hour and a half” she said getting up from her place hurriedly.  A responsible mother she is, she had to rush.

Animesh signalled her to stop and said “wait I will drop you” and got up dusting away sand from his trousers.

“It’s okay, I will manage” said Meghana in a hesitating tone, there was a hint of being formal in her gestures.

“I know you can, but today I insist” said Animesh directed her towards his car dismissing her hesitations.

They got into the car and drove towards home. Throughout the way they spoke about many things. From prime minister’s foreign visits to their interests as kids, everything was spoken about except for the issues in their lives.

Meghana felt good about this accidental meeting. Though she was talking to Animesh but his words about life were still echoing in her mind. She kept pondering over them.

Soon they reached home. She got down thanking him and as soon as she was about to close the door past her Animesh called out her “Megha! Why don’t you work out a deal with Manu?”.

She was taken by surprise “what deal? What are you talking about?” She said in a bit startled voice.

Animesh chuckled and said “give him back his old Meghana and get your old Manu”. A smile escaped her lips and she bid goodbye again and turned towards the door only to be surprised again, in fact shocked.

She saw Manu at the door trying to open it with his keys.

“Manu!” She exclaimed and continued with her volley of questions “how come you are here at this time? Are you okay? You haven’t informed me?” and before she could continue further she was interfered by Manu.

With his trademark straight face “I thought you would be in a miserable state after your appointment with the dentist so thought of dropping home early so that I could take care of Kabir” he was still continuing when Animesh came and greeted him.

“Hey brother how are you?” asked Animesh shaking hands warmly with Manu.

With a broad smile which is rare but pure, Manu replied “I am all good, how are you?  When did you come back to India?  Please come on in”.

Animesh gently declined his offer stating that he has some important appointment and promised that he shall see them coming weekend.  And he parted.

Meanwhile Meghana was searching for answers for Manu’s probable questions for not going to the dentist and accidentally meeting her friend. She had some fears about Manu’s reaction but at deep down her heart she was happy that he came home.

“So how was your appointment?” Manu asked her. To this she could not lie and told that she gave it a miss citing Kabir as a reason.

He was calm and nodded his head just saying “okay” and went on working on his laptop.

Evening passed in anticipation for Meghana. She expected the typical male mentality from Manu. Routines followed in absolute calmness as usual, no sign of fury, no taunts, absolutely nothing.

Even in the night she was expecting a question to pop up regarding her meeting. But nothing happened… Manu was absolutely quiet and reserved within himself.

This incident gave Meghana a reason to smile and look at Manu differently though she was bit worried about his change of behaviour all of a sudden.

‘May be Animesh is right. May be Manu is waiting for his old Meghana to come back to him.  May be I am unable to see him standing at the other side of the bridge. I shall cross it to meet my Manu…’ Her mind was wandering around many things as she sighed and slipped into dreams.

Continue reading the next part HERE

WHAT’S A HOME? – IV

He let her cry. Sometimes crying is the best therapy. He didn’t pester her with more questions and a while later she sobered up, wiping her eyes on the Dupatta on her suit. She looked up sheepishly, embarrassment written on her face. Animesh understood, he might be her friend, but breaking down in front of someone like that was humiliating. He let her recover in silence as the waves crashed on the rocks at the beach, the salty sea air filling his nostrils.

“You know what I missed most when I was abroad?” he asked her inhaling deeply.

She was studying his face closely and her curiosity got the best of her as she asked “What?”

“This!” he said standing and spreading his arms “the smells that I grew up in” saying this he closed his eyes and smiled. Meghana collected her hair back and tied in a loose knot as they were caught in the wind. She was smiling, after a long time, she saw someone enjoying such a simple thing as sea air.

“You remember Animesh, the time we did that play called ‘Stop and Smell the Roses’?” Meghana asked with a faraway look in her eyes and Animesh gave her a nostalgic nod.

He turned to her “I guess that is what life is about, all theory in youth and all practical as time passes.” he said sitting back next to her.

She thought about the time when she had actually smelled a rose. She couldn’t remember, must be on her wedding anniversary when Manu got her a bouquet, but they were not Roses, they were Orchids, prettier to look at but no aroma.

Animesh signalled a peddler who was selling Bhelpuri and asked him to make two plates with lots of tamarind chutney. Meghana chuckled, he was still the same, enthusiast, energetic, lively and vivacious unlike her who had lost her battle to the many responsibilities of life and become dull, boring, lazy and disinterested.

Animesh took the paper plates and handed one to Meghana. She ate it and her mouth oozed with flavours, tangy, sweet, salty, sour and spicy. She smacked her lips and hissed as her eyes watered owing to chilly in the Bhel and Animesh laughed as he too cried happily.

“This Bhel tastes almost like life itself, bringing tears to our eyes amid all the flavours it got to offer,” Animesh said as spoke through a mouthful and Meghana looked at him to check if he was being philosophical. He was not. 

“What’s your life like Ani?” Meghana asked seeking the secret to his sunny disposition.

He gave her a mysterious smile “My life is awesome. A loving wife who is very jealous of any woman she spots with me but never complains” he said pointedly and Meghana chuckled. “An adorable daughter who is absolute Daddy’s Girl and has taken beauty from her mother and a very naughty and prankster son who can’t sit still more than one minute,” he told her with fondness in his eyes and Meghana felt a pang of jealousy comparing to her own family life.

“So where are they all?” she asked taking another bite as she sniffed.

“My wife, she has changed homes last year. Now she lives at a new address called ‘Heaven’ but visits me every night in my dreams. She can’t leave me alone in nights. Zero trust you see.” he told chewing slowly and Meghana froze as she gaped at him shell-shocked.

“My daughter is in girls’ hostel as I can’t feel safe with her living all alone in the home. Times are bad and she’s growing fast you know,” he told sniffing himself and Meghana was finding it hard to grasp his words.

“My son lives with her maternal grandmother as he needs care. He’s small and a handful, I can’t keep an eye on him all day as I need to go to work.”

Meghana had turned to stone as she tried to find the right words to say to him. He saw her dilemma and smiled, but his smile didn’t reach his eyes. “It’s Ohk Megha, you don’t need to say anything. I have enough condolences to last me a lifetime,” he said nodding.

“I am Sorry Animesh,” she said softly and laid a hand on his shoulder.

He laughed but his voice broke “Why? What For? I am not sorry Megha” he said looking into her eyes.

“For your loneliness, for your pain, for the unfortunate turn of events,” Meghana said worrying for Animesh that he has lost the ability to feel pain.

“What are all those things Megha? It wasn’t unfortunate, it was freedom, from seeing her in pain all the time. Now she is free from that pain and that disease.” Animesh said with melancholy.

“I am not lonely. I live with my parents, they are old, they need me but what I get in return is priceless. I get their blessings and their unconditional love and support. I have my wife’s innumerable memories with me to keep me company and most importantly I have a goal towards which I am working. To give my kids the best future.” He told her in a matter-of-fact tone that unsettled her.

“I am not in pain. I plan to buy a permanent home soon in India and want to call back my kids to live with me and be a family again. I learn to cook my kids’ favourite dishes so I can cook for them in vacations. And meanwhile, in between, I stop and smell the roses.” Animesh said with such simplicity that it left Meghana feeling ashamed.

Meghana, life isn’t a bed of roses for any of us, but it isn’t a path laid with thorns either. We just need to see things differently you know. Count blessings often and troubles less, smile more and cry less, give more and expect less, see the ones below us, devoid of the happiness we have and not the ones above us who are living happily ever after.” Meghana understood why Animesh told her all this.

She had one last question “Don’t you miss her presence by your side?” she asked with longing.

“I miss her all the time. Every day, every waking minute. But Love is beyond the senses of touching, seeing, talking and listening. It is present in our soul, in the knowledge that we are loved.” Animesh said with an earnestness that was so rare. “But yes, I do get to smell her sometimes,” Animesh said looking at the waves and inhaling the sea aroma with his eyes closed and Meghana did the same.

Continue reading the next part HERE

WHAT’S A HOME? – III

As Shikha spoke …

Meghana seemed to be lost in her own world, she was hardly listening to Shikha’s voice. Shikha’s voice echoed somewhere deep down her own thoughts. She took a sip of the coffee, pretending to listen to her. Meghana tried to push a smile on her face, yet something was pricking her mind.

As Shikha suddenly rose up from her seat, ” Am sorry, I guess it is not the right time, I shall talk to you sometime later.” She smiled and walked into the corner to welcome another guest. Meghana felt, she was rude to her, but she ignored as she was struggling with her own battle of thoughts.

Again Meghana was lost in her own hurdles of pain.

She rose and walked out of the Coffee shop. Stepping out she stood as if she was lost

Unable to choose which road to take, she stood there overlooking the street in dismay.

The streets were familiar to her, as it reminded her good old days.

The bus stop where she met Manu for the first time, where they exchanged smiles. The streets she always walked hand in hand with Manu, after their engagement. Every memory flashed through her mind.

She quickly turned to the right, walking towards the beach, fighting the breeze that was obstructing her view. Tears pouring from her eyes clouding her vision, yet she kept her head low, not to catch anyone’s attention.

As she paced her way down the street, she felt someone calling from behind.

She stopped, turned around and saw – it was her old friend Animesh.

He had all smiles on his face,  she wiped her eyes and gave a surprised look.

“Hey…..hi, how are you Megha? Where were you all along? You seemed to have vanished …..”

His words never stopped …she could feel his excitement.

It was ever since she heard someone call her Megha … She smiled and said

“I am fine Animesh, how are you?”

He just stood looking at her for a second, “You have changed completely”, he gasped.

Looking at her closely, he noticed there was something disturbing her, but he just ignored as he didn’t want her to be uncomfortable.

Meghana remained silent, still looking on to the road, rather than talking to him.

“Megha… how are Manu and Kabir? I guess Kabir must be a big boy now, long time since I met him…”  asked Animesh.

Megha was again lost in her own world, she hardly seemed to be her self.

“Megha… are you ok?”, asked Animesh

“Ahh… yes Animesh, I am fine”, replied Meghana

“I asked you how is Manu is everything fine, you seemed to be disturbed”

Meghana realized she was panicking Animesh, hence smiled at him trying to hide away the agony in her.

“Would you mind coming for a cup of coffee Megha?” Animesh asked

“Mmm…I just had, would you mind taking a walk with me instead?” Megha doubtfully asked.

To her surprise, Animesh replied, “Yes, of course, dear, come let us move then”.

She looked at him, he seemed to be so happy and delighted in meeting her. Meghana felt happier, yet, she was struggling to be herself with Animesh.

Animesh was glancing in between on her face trying to figure out what she was hiding, yet he never let her know.

“So, how are things with you? How is life?”, Animesh asked

She avoided his question and  asked him “How come you here, I thought you were abroad.”

“Oh,  just returned from a long project work, now I will be here for a while .”

She nodded “Ok, How is everyone at home?”

Animesh was suppresing all his questions in his mind, his mind wandered with his eyes questioningly looking at her, trying to understand what was going on in her mind. He noticed her teary eyes, swollen face and messed up look. He was all upset. He was trying to find his old Megha in her, but it was utter failure.

They walked silently without uttering a word.

As they reached the beachside  Animesh asked “Can we sit here for a while?”

Meghana glanced the space and nodded “MMM…”

Again she remained Silent…..

She was puzzled, as she could not speak a word to her best friend .

What is wrong with me?

Should I tell him? No, He may not understand my plight.

Animesh understood that something was troubling her inside. He looked at her as she was lost in her own deteriorating memories.

He slowly patted on her shoulder trying to bring her back.

To his jolt, she just broke herself into tears. Animesh didn’t know how to react.He had never seen her like that ever.

She wept …..breathlessly….

Continue reading the next part HERE

WHAT’S A HOME? – II

It was a breezy winter morning as Meghana stepped out of her house. She was fighting hard to keep her tears from finding their way down her cheeks. She hailed the first cab that she came across and got into it.

“Where do you want to go, Ma’am?”, asked the cab driver.

So frustrated was Meghana with her predicament that she replied absentmindedly, “Anywhere…to a peaceful place…a place of dignity and love…without mountains of responsibilities.”

The cab driver kept staring at her with a questionable look.

Gathering her thoughts and emotions, she told the driver of her destination and gave him the necessary directions.

It was 10 o’ clock in the morning – two hours since she had sent Manu and Kabir on their day’s schedules. She had deliberately given the cab driver, the address of a beach an hour’s drive away. As the driver made his way through the morning traffic, a flurry of questions fleeted within her.

What is robbing the charm of my marriage?

Am I not beautiful enough?

Am I not taking enough care of all of Manu’s interests?

Is my thought process outdated?

Or am I simply expecting too much?

Is it because I am just a homemaker, that Manu doesn’t think it necessary to respect me?

Do I not toil from dawn to nightfall to make sure that Manu’s and Kabir’s needs as well as their wants are satisfied? Isn’t that enough reason to get me the love and respect I deserve?

Or…or…is there someone else in Manu’s life?

Meghana’s head reeled at the thought. No…she didn’t want to permit such thoughts to enter her mind. She had developed a splitting headache by then. Her Google Map showed Blue Moon Cafeteria just five minutes away.

She asked the cab driver to stop by the cafeteria, paid him and sent him off. The cafeteria was almost empty, except for a young boy – probably in his late teens, engrossed in a novel in one corner.

She chose a seat near the huge glass window facing the street.

“What could I serve you, Ma’am?”, a middle-aged lady in the cafeteria uniform asked her politely with a welcoming smile placing the menu before her.

In no mood to return her smile, Meghana scanned through the menu and asked for a sandwich and a cup of coffee.

“I’ll be back in ten minutes, Ma’am”, said the waitress.

Not wanting to pick up her train of thoughts, Meghana looked out of the cafeteria window hoping to find something interesting…something that would take her away from her fears and worries. She saw an old woman leaning on a pair of crutches walk past, a small boy hopping and jumping happily holding an old man’s hands, a vendor trying his best to sell some articles of daily use at a cheaper price to passers by, a young couple walking hand in hand with the gleam of newly found love largely writ on their faces.

“Here’s your order, Ma’am”, came the chirpy voice of the waitress, startling Meghana.

“Oh!…Thanks”, muttered Meghana without a smile.

The waitress went away. As she uncovered the tray, Meghana noticed that there were food stuffs other than the ones she had ordered. Apart from the sandwich and coffee, there was a chocolate muffin, a cream roll and some star-shaped wafers. Underneath was a neatly folded cloth napkin with the words – “Shine as a light amidst the darkness”, stitched onto it.

Meghana waved at the waitress and summoned her to come.

“Yes Ma’am, how may I help you?”, said the waitress, whose name Meghana noticed was pinned onto her uniform.

“Er…I think there has been some mistake in serving the order. I had only ordered for a sandwich and a cup of coffee. But, there are some additional items in my tray”, said Meghana.

“Could I sit with you for a minute?”, said Shikha, the waitress.

Not prepared for such a question, Meghana forced a nod.

“My sweet Ma’am”, began Shikha, “you are beautiful. Has anyone told you this?” A faint smile formed on the corner of Meghana’s lips for the first time that morning. Her mind raced to the day when she had met Manu for the first time and he had said, “Meghana, you are beautiful – a marvellous creation of the Creator.” Oh! How she had blushed that day! She was about to break into a shy laughter when her surroundings brought her to the present. And gloom filled her face.

“What does that have to do with my order?”, Meghana retorted with irritation clearly evident in her voice.

“From the time you walked in, I noticed sadness in your eyes. I do not know the reason nor would I make you uncomfortable by asking you. But I want to share a slice of my life with you. Before that, just to clarify, these additional items are complimentaries that we at Blue Moon Cafeteria offer to our first three customers each day. And, you are our second customer for today”, said Shikha with a wide smile.

“Now coming to my story, I own this cafeteria”, said Shikha.

Taken aback by this piece of information, Meghana seemed to be visibly unsettled thinking that she ought to have treated Shikha better.

“No, nothing to worry about, my dear. I love to serve my customers along with my employees. So, I dress like them and behave like one of them. You can be at ease. This cafeteria was gifted to me by my father when it about to be shut down once and for all. Decreasing footfall of customers and dwindling coffers drove my father to such ill-health from which he could never recover. He bequeathed this cafeteria in my name”, said Shikha.  

Meghana pretended to be listening to her with interest…

Continue reading the next part HERE

WHAT’S A HOME? – I

The milk had boiled down onto the stove, hissing angrily onto the burner, the revolting stench of burnt milk filling the tiny kitchen. Meghana muttered tame curses under her breath. She began mopping up the spilt milk when the doorbell rang. ‘Manu! Please, get the door.’

Three seconds later, the doorbell rang again.

Manu?!’ No response.

She rushed to open the door for the milkman, paid him, slammed the door shut and ran to her son’s bedroom to wake him up. For the fifth time.

‘Kabir, beta, get up. It’s seven already, you have to be out by eight. Hurry!’ She threw his quilt back and picked up her eight-year-old in a bid to break his slumber. ‘Come on, wake up,’ she prodded him, ‘If you get late and miss the bus, I’ll have to drop you by the Metro. You don’t like the Metro, do you?’ He moaned a sleepy no. ‘Then go brush your teeth, bathe and come out and eat your breakfast.’ Off she went to the kitchen again, where she found her husband lazily reading the newspaper. ‘Manu, I called for you so many times. Where were you?’ That was more of a complaint than an actual question.

Arey baba, I was in the balcony reading the newspaper. Didn’t hear you.’ He replied, without so much as a hint of compunction.

Wah! You keep reading the newspaper, and I run around here barely managing to accomplish everything.’ She muttered.

Uff oh, stop nagging in the morning! Where’s my breakfast?’

‘Here,’ she handed him two plates of food and added, ‘Make sure Kabir finishes everything.’

She busied herself with their lunches. By the time she was done, it was nearly eight. She ran to the dining room with their lunches and found Kabir still picking at his food. ‘Kabir! Why haven’t you eaten anything? And Manu why didn’t you urge him to eat?’

No response again. She sighed and sat down on the table to help Kabir. After a few seconds she cleared her throat and said, ‘Manu, I have my dentist’s appointment in the afternoon.’

Manu humphed.

‘So, could you pick me up after the procedure is finished?’

His head jerked up, ‘What procedure?’

‘Extraction. My wisdom tooth. No rickshaws or cabs go there because it’s far. I won’t be able to talk much either. It will get difficult to come back by myself. Can you do it? Please…’

‘Tsk, Meghana. You know I hate this! I’m not going to be your chauffeur.’ He said dismissively.

‘Manu its only for today. I’ll be groggy with anaesthesia…’

‘No! Not today. Just write the address down on a piece of paper and show it to the rickshaw or cab walla.’

She stared at him, stunned. Then asked, ‘And what if he’s illiterate; because most of them are?’

‘Then don’t go. I can’t come with you today. I’m busy. Take another appointment.’ He got up and went to the bedroom to get his things.

She just sat there in silence, digesting his outright refusal and callousness. After twelve years of marriage, it shouldn’t have come as a surprise to her but it did. And every time that happened she would go on a guilt trip – He’s busy. He’s got too much work. But of late she had noticed that he just didn’t want any responsibility beyond working and paying off the bills. She managed everything, right from Kabir’s PTA’s to the household chores and grocery shopping all by herself. And it was okay, really. It’s just that, sometimes, she thought, it would be nice if he could help, or just say – I’m there for you.

Manu and Kabir left, calling out byes to her that she didn’t hear because her head was muddled up. Maybe she was over-reacting. Maybe she was expecting too much. But today, she told herself, I don’t care. Anger surged over her.

I want to get away, she thought.

Forget the dentist. Forget everyone.

For just one day.

Within the hour, she was bathed, dressed, and without paying any heed to her household responsibilities, she was out of the house; she didn’t know where to, but she didn’t care…

Continue reading the next part HERE