Chapter 3

Written by: Tulika Saha

The day at work had been hectic but Ashok looked forward to that evening with a peculiar kind of nervous anticipation. Images of his childhood flitted in and out of his mind interrupting the flow of work thoughts but not dragging him too far away. It was the time of the year when rain poured down from the sky, cleansing nature and spreading filth over all human spaces. Ashok thought about poor Melvina's little nose - red as a tomato on her white skin which was clammy from feverish sweat.  Ashok knew she would take three days to recover and had to rest a lot. 

He headed home thinking of the trimmed garden and the poolside of their apartment in Mumbai which had been a mute witness to his many childhood escapades. He found himself thinking of his mother once again. The FM station was playing the song 'Meri Ma' (My Mother). The universe was certainly conspiring to help him reach her. Stuck in the Bangalore jam for 10 minutes with no sign of a let up, he pulled out his phone and called her. 

"Hello Ashok! I was just thinking of you."

"Ma, how are you? The weather is really bad." 

"I am fine, beta (son). Is everything all right? I have been thinking about you. You are almost 28 years old now. I should start looking for a suitable girl for you, shouldn't I? Unless........you have someone in mind?"

"Ma.... I will call you back. The traffic is moving again."

Why was it so difficult, Ashok wondered. He would have just spilled the beans. He must visit her.   A long weekend was coming up .........the holiday for Independence day. He would book his ticket at the next signal.

***

Chetna sighed. At least he had called. Why couldn't he talk to her about this girl? She had managed to keep the communication lines open through Ashok's several crushes. This one must be serious she conjectured. She wondered how it truly felt to be in love. She only had Ashok's experiences to go by. And he was a young man. Women behaved differently, she was sure. 

There had been a time in college......but she had just ignored it.  Chetna's mind worked busily while she readied the spare room for her mother's visit. She had spent the evening stocking up on gourds, pulses and cottage cheese - her mother's favourite foods. She kept a spare set of her mother's toiletries in her cupboard especially for these visits. 

She sighed once again, not looking forward to the torrent of advice and stories of her sister's children.  The cell beeped again. 

"Hi di (elder sister- short for didi)! "

"Hey Suju! Are the tickets booked for Ma?"

"Yes......." Sujata's voice was unusually low.

"Suju? What's up?" Chetna asked alarmed.

"Something has come up, Chetna. There is a change in plans."

"What? What kind of change?"

"I think you should just take the next flight out here to Delhi. Ma has been hospitalised."

Comments

Oh this is setting the scene perfectly for family dynamics to get complicated and heated. You introduce a complicating factor in Chetna's mother going to hospital. It is a lovely twist.
I really like the distinctive voice...like 'He would have just spilled the beans' and finding a suitable girl which reflects the culture of arranged marriages...but one that is coming under scrutiny because Chetna has broken the mould and accepts Ashok might already have a suitable girl in mind....but what is a suitable girl? Aaaah that's the question. Very well done. I enjoyed the enrgy and the insights.
Thanks Suraya!