The Proposal - Part I
It was a cold night, and she had lowered the glass on the passenger side of the brand new Honda City. The chill wind was blowing across her face, bringing a new bout of freshness and in the process, bringing the stray strands of hair to the forefront. She did not make an effort to pull back her hair, but instead sought to adjust the power windows by closing it completely, except for a very narrow beam of space, narrow enough to allow a sheet of paper to be sliced through it. That was sufficient enough to chill the interiors of the car.
The atmosphere was very quiet. There was no ensuing conversation between us. "Sahana, that's almost the nth time that you are adjusting the windows. You preoccupied with something?"
"Obviously, dad, and you know it, too! I also know that you are preoccupied with the exact same thing. Otherwise, it is very uncharacteristic of you to keep quiet on a long journey."
"OK, let me ask you frankly. Do you like him?"
"I am not sure. He seems to be a good guy. I was pretty comfortable with him. He has a good sense of humor. By the way, how long did you know mom before you were married?"
"Ha ha, those were different times. Arranged marriages were the norm those days. Again, it was better than our parents' days. I fell in love with your mom at the first instant. That reminds me, can you call up and tell her that we will be home in the next couple of hours?"
She spoke in monosyllables for the next few minutes, and finally, she hung up the phone.
"What did she say?" I asked.
She asked if we would be stopping anywhere for dinner, or whether she should cook something. I told her that we just had dinner.
"Nope, nothing particularly important."
I couldn't suppress a smile. Knowing my wife, I was not surprised at the way Sahana was brought up. I have always admired their relationship. Both of them, unlike me, knew how well they could control their emotions. My wife knew exactly what to ask and what not to! Both were comfortable with the setup.
"Anyway, what do you think of Arun, dad?"
"I am sure he is a nice person. He is well educated and I like the way he speaks. He does not seem to have any airs. I think that is very important."
That was a sign that she was not sure.
"Anyway, forget about all this for some time. I have booked tickets for the cricket match this weekend. I was hoping you still wanted to catch some live action."
"Ha ha! I'll join you. As such I was planning to take a week off from work. I seriously need to relax after doing late nights on the previous project. I am famished. How come you have been working in this field for the last twenty five years?"
"You'll get used to it. After a point, you are just following the routine. It is not something praiseworthy."
"Dad, by the way, do you realize we are just two minutes away from the start of a new year grinding the same old stuff?"
"Yes, my seventy year old girl!"
"One minute to go....45.....25.......5..4..3..2..!"
"Happy New Year!"
The phone flashed for an instant, and as she took it close to her eyes to read the message, sensing the glint in her eye, it was easy to guess that it could be from only one person.
The lonely planet - Part II
It was not the best of times to be in the best of spirits. The economy was at an all time low and the jobs were decreasing rapidly. Arundhati was cursing her luck after losing quite heavily in the stock market. In the larger context, losing money in the stock market was just a subset of her worries. It was nine years since Aneesh had lost contact with her. The heavenly abode welcomed him with open arms. It was by a sheer quirk of fate that she had escaped the clutches of the God of death. A chill shriver ran through her body as she thought about those circumstances. She had no one to reach out to, when little Arjun had shot out a wave of hope to her. He was a one year old at that time, and as if to show his solidarity, his two hands clutched her little finger tightly. He was the only beacon of hope.
"Time to do your Math, Arjun." Arundhati called out to her son following her daily ritual.
"Five minutes, Ma. I am just finishing the last level of the game. I should be out any minute now." He was maneuvering his Xbox joystick like an expert.
"If the cost of one mango is 1$, what is the cost of three mangoes?", a question that has troubled kids from years galore. Arundhati knew that she was going to have a tough time explaining the Math concepts. She, being an English teacher, did not know the Math tricks. Not that his teacher was not explaining to him the right way, but the extra effort was always required at home. She had to guide him through the process as he reeled out completely unrelated answers before finally getting the point that he had to use the concept of multiplication to find the right amount. She found it challenging to teach him, as this was the age to ask questions, most of which used to leave her dumbfounded.
"Ma, why is it dark during the night and not during the day? Why can't it be the other way around?"
"Why are those stars glittering in the sky?"
"Why does it hurt if I touch something hot?"
Arundhati had to keep herself on her toes to answer everything patiently. She never once flinched to all his questions. She always made it a point to look for the right answers. She never second guessed.
Arjun was waiting for the Christmas holidays. The festive atmosphere delighted him. His mother usually prepared several lip smacking delicacies. He was fond of ginger bread and sugar candies. Even though his intake was regulated, he made it a point to enjoy them thoroughly.
Arundhati, if not for Arjun, did not have too many things to look forward to in her life. Every step of Arjun's progress was a big step for her. She found great delight in all the little things that her little one did.
"Ma, I want to see the crystal drop in Times Square today on TV."
"No, Arjun. It's late in the night. I will have the show recorded. You can watch it tomorrow."
Arjun knew that it was pointless to have any argument and followed her instruction to get to bed. He sulked and wished her a happy new year and went to his room.
Arundhati was reading a book in the living room. Her mind was wavering. She was not able to keep pace with the story. She closed the book, and her eyes. She took a deep breath and lay still on her chair. She had a great memory, which was a gift and a curse. She had masked all her sorrows, and was putting up a brave front. It was as though the events had occurred only a day before. At least she had moved on, that's what she liked to think. She closed her eyes, and after what felt like eternity, she got up. The clock had ticked twelve. It was the beginning of a new year. She didn't know what to wish.
As was the norm every year, she moved quietly into Arjun's room. Arjun had the same expression as his dad when asleep. She tucked a small gift wrapped package by his bedside, planted a kiss on his forehead and went back to her room. As she got ready to switch off her bedside lamp, she noticed a small envelope. Inside the envelope was a card cut in uneven fashion, and inside the card, there was a hand made sketch of a ship weathering a storm. On the right hand side, a colorful message was spread across the page - Happy new year Ma! Loads of Love, L'll Arjun!
Arundhati couldn't check her tears.