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“But what if the whole structure comes off?” “For once do away with your fear and be guided by your will. You will know how much force is required.”
Mira was intently gazing at her 5-year-old as she tried fixing the 3D puzzle pieces to form a house.
“Mamma, the roof just doesn’t fit!” After several failed attempts, Sia shrieked in irritation.
Mira bent over and picked up the fallen piece. ‘This is what I’ve been trying to do for the last 7 years.’ She mumbled before handing it over to her daughter.
“Be gentle sweetheart! Lest the house should fall,” she quipped and let her daughter gently squeeze it in between the cracks. “See mamma, it’s fallen again,” Sia said attempting once again. Just then the clock chimed. Mira hastily pushed her feet into the slippers.
Her mom-in-law appeared out of nowhere and gesturing to the clock, hollered, “Its 2 already and here you are, playing with toys. Can’t you even serve us food in time!”
Mira took to her feet and sped to the kitchen seething with rage.
“Could she not know that children can be very fussy at times. The child wouldn’t let me get up from her side. Despite that, I was coming.” She swallowed her thoughts.
Then with nimble deftness went about stewing vegetables, steaming rice, kneading dough, making salad. She was long done offering clarifications and justifications to her MIL, who would accept nothing but a bowed head for an answer.
These were the times when she missed her husband terribly. Merchant Navy was no easy job especially as it allowed him a visit back home only once a year. And every time he visited, she ensured no time was wasted in arguments. But at times when things got the better of her, he did act as her sounding board.
She was arranging the washed crockery on the kitchen counter when a scream jolted her. With dripping wet hands, she rushed straight to the room to check on her girl.
“You have absolutely no aesthetic sense.” The old lady shouted. “This new flower-vase is such a misfit in the dim-lit corner. Pick it up and put it on the adjoining shelf.” She said pointing in the shelf’s direction. Mira dutifully did as instructed.
“But granny, mamma likes it there.” Sia rebelled holding her granny’s arm.
Ignoring the girl’s remark, she turned around and went back to chanting the beads.
Mira kissed her daughter’s forehead and said, “It is okay sweetie. Mamma likes it here too. Oh! And we forgot its time to feed Snowy. Come, let us go.” She held Sia’s arm with one hand and with the other went about filling the pot with dog food.
No sooner had they stepped out when another task was thrown their way, “Clear all her toys from the floor before leaving.”
Mira retracted and one by one put them all in a basket before heading towards the main door.
“I am sorry to keep you waiting, darling,” she said caressing Sia’s curls. Unbeknownst Sia giggled as Snowy licked her feet.
But their moment of joy was short-lived. Someone hurled a stone at Snowy and he began to bark and chase the man.
But in no time he made his way back in Mira’s arms.
“We are both so similar,” Mira said stroking the dog’s fur. “Resilient to stones, choosing peace over dissonance.”
Snowy bid them both goodbye wagging his tail, as the children started to show up at her gate at their usual hour. For the past few days, she had taken to teaching the kids of maids working in the vicinity. And this was ‘one of the best hours of her day.’
Once a student asked her, “Ma’am, what shall we pay you for the class?”
“Nothing! You have found me a lost jewel already.” She said with a confident, dignified smile of a woman who had found her lost self.
Mira was about to begin her class when, the lady barged in with another demand, “My cousin just called to inform me that she and her husband will have dinner with us tonight. So go make the preparations. They will be here in two hours. Give these children a day off. They aren’t going to excel with one day’s extra work.” She announced before slouching back to her chair.
For a while, Mira sat still looking at the ticking clock, then shifted her glance to the gleeful faces of her students. Before finally resting her gaze on Sia who was about to raze her structure in frustration over an unstable piece.
With steady steps, Mira walked up to the door and bolted it. For the next hour, she was in the company of her students with no one around to disturb.
The class was let off at its usual time. She knew the storm that would be waiting for her outside. The old lady was standing tall, arms crossed against her chest, eyes glaring red and fists tightly clenched.
She wasn’t going to take this disobedience lightly. The guests were her priority. This was her chance of showcasing to the world the proficiencies of her daughter-in-law- the girl she had mentored.
“So you have lost all sense and shame. Now you have come to disobeying me?” She asked, her voice fierce.
“I will still make it on time. Don’t worry.” Mira said as a matter of fact before turning towards the kitchen.
“I will never approve of the rushed tasks because I want nothing less than the best- both the meals and the etiquettes. You think you can manage it in half-an-hour>” The old lady asked, her eyes popping out of her flushed face.
Mira knew very well that her responses would only infuriate her MIL further.
But unlike every other time, she chose to respond, “Just like you, your sister too is important to me, but my students are equally important. Aunty and uncle are mature people. They will understand. For once a fewer dishes on the table, will not be a problem. Anyway, let us not waste time. I will look into the chores.”
The hours went by. Mira knew her mother-in-law wasn’t going to take it easily. She was so used to getting things done her way. Any signs of rebel had always been dealt with a strict hand.
For two days, the lady kept sulking and murmuring to herself. On the third day, Mira received a phone call from her husband, “Please apologize, Mira.”
“Am I the only one at fault, if at all I am?” She asked. “I will not.”
On the fourth day, Mira woke up a little late. A headache hadn’t let her sleep well the night before. Surprisingly, the old lady hadn’t banged on her door though it was way past her bed-time.
Mira went to check on her in the room. She wasn’t on her bed, not even on the couch where she would sit and chant. “Have I been too hard?” The shreds of doubt started to cloud her mind. Suddenly she saw smoke emitting from the kitchen. In a state of panic, she rushed to the kitchen.
There she was! Preparing her breakfast, for the very first time in seven years of Mira’s marriage. A victorious smile played on her lips as she headed to the other room.
At night, Sia started with her puzzle again. While Mira was humming a melody in bed.
“Mamma, I think this house will never be complete.” Sia said in all finality and started to walk away.
Mira held her hand and looked deep into her eyes as if eliciting a desired response, and asked, “Do you really want to do it?”
“Then push a little harder this time,” Mira said.
“But mamma, I fear, the whole structure will come off.”
“For once do away with your fear and be guided by your will. Instinctively, you will know how much force is required.”
A while later, Sia was squealing and dancing. Mira went back to humming and snuggling in the duvet. The roof did creak when pushed hard, but eventually, it adjusted well in its place.
Picture credits: Still from Hindi TV series Yeh Hai Mohabbatein
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