Till death do us part, we promised each other in our honeymoon at Conoor, in South India.
Twenty-five years! What am I still doing in office! I should be there with her now. I am well equipped; a diamond ring, a diamond necklace, earrings and a bright yellow kanjivaram*, its dark green borders promising the evergreen forest in the most predictable sunshine; I remembered my honeymoon, post Conoor, lost in the wilderness of Periyaar*; what must she be cooking? We decided to spend the night at home; the place we begun our journey. I am driving along, but why am I feeling so uncomfortable, as though in a crowd I wondered.
With me behind the wheels, things we did together flashed. Raising our child, taking care of the bank balance, looking after our parents, travelling twice a year; into the jungles of Kenya in August to watch the migration of animals from Tanzania to Kenya, to the snow-clad Himalayas to the most romantic involvement – that of preparing good food together at home. Picture perfect, our friends would say. She had been a housewife throughout, took up a job just three years ago when we sent our child to a nearby city for further studies. I changed my gear listening to Frank Sanatra in my travelling mind, thinking of the tender moments when we promised to be with each other till death and beyond, and of course how we’d grow old together. We drenched in the rains, dried in the sun, spent hours on the beach, on the bench of some obscure parks, in the mountains; regularly visiting places, hitting the cinema halls with popcorn and coke; on the whole a fulfilling journey. Not to forget our long conversations that went on for hours over anything under the sun.
Since I had to travel frequently for my job chasing for a better career, more visibility, there were times when we’d be in different cities for months; she was taking care of the home and me trying to earn more of what was better than sunshine. She knew how much I hated staying alone, months of opening the doors with my keys, entering a strange place to rest at night and leaving the next day to work, leading a life of a married bachelor, a very modern trend, just postponing staying in the warm company of the family set up with care and concern.
For me ringing the doorbell was a fascination… I remember everyone’s worried face when I had rung only once… they thought something was seriously wrong, either I lost my job or I was seriously ill…for in the normal circumstances, I would go ding dong ding dong ding dong; my angry child would say, ‘uff Baba, coming…stop it… you are quite grownup now, she’d then open the door to follow with the warmest huge hug where her mother would invariably join; Shadow, our pet would also struggle and surely find a place somewhere in between, with a woof woof; and in that hug I would smell her apron, replete with food smell, flowers, incense sticks; all together would make her the queen of the family; in that hug I would discover my world again and again.
I am already in my neighborhood, just five minutes drive and I will be home… but why is the seat not so comfortable, I thought for a moment; I could already sense what she was cooking; could smell her along with the food. I will dress her first, ‘no one could do the pleats like you’, she would say. I would bend down on my knees and ask her how many pleats she wanted; I remember for silk sarees there would be more pleats than the ones in cotton or the tangail* she’d say with pride! I would fold it patiently and very gently as though I would pleat the years that went by.
Coming from office, when I honked, the first thing I’d hear was a woof woof and then a warm screech meant for my child…open the door baby…Baba has come!
Yes I have reached my new home where I now stay with my memories. I parked my car long ago; silently opened the door with my keys. Imagination of good food, gifts, warmth of the hug and the woof, job; all ended one after the other; the phase of my splendid honeymoon was over last year. I have just returned from a long directionless journey on the bus to celebrate the first anniversary of separation today.
Kanjivaram – silk saree from South India
Periyaar – A forest reserve in Kerala, India
Tangail – cotton saree from Bengal, India