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But Shekhar had accepted his new life with unimaginable ease. I sometimes feel that I grieve longer over broken chinaware than he did over his ailment.
The Muse of the Month is a monthly writing contest organised by Women’s Web, bringing you original fiction inspired by women.
Shilpa Kendre is one of the winners of the December 2020 Muse of the Month.
“Puris today for lunch?” asked Shekhar fixing a steady gaze on an invisible point on the floor, his head bent as if in shame. A smile had crossed the lips of his otherwise expressionless face as the aroma of freshly fried puris wafted into his brightly lit room that usually only carried the dull smell of medicines or the strong musk fragrance of his after-shave.
“Yes,” I replied back with a hint of excitement as if uttering it with a smile. In reality, I did not even look at him or look up from the newspaper article I was reading. I didn’t have to. Not any longer. I had mastered the art of effortlessly sounding cheerful even when I was not. Or even if I was, I no longer felt the need to express it in any visual form. Shekhar had lost his eyesight to a severe illness three years back. We had been married for forty years now.
I often wonder what makes him so cheerful despite his inability to see. Most times he only sees blurred monochrome outlines of people moving around in the house. His ability to tell the day from the night has progressively reduced. His room is always lit despite the bright sun outside so that he has a sense of time. But Shekhar had accepted his new life with unimaginable ease. I sometimes feel that I grieve longer over broken chinaware than he did over his ailment.
Shekhar had always appreciated beauty in the most unexpected things. Quite unlike me. But maybe as I get older with Shekhar now, I have begun to see beauty where I least expected it before. In incompleteness, in imperfection and disorderliness and perhaps also in uninterrupted bouts of solitude that I now experience despite his presence.
I yearn for our daughters Riya and Ritu to visit us. That is when the house bubbles with laughter and smells of sweet buttery fragrance of our grandchildren who are all of two years. That’s when we binge on mashed potatoes and lentils instead of Puris, have our tea made from whole milk instead of skimmed one, and savor kheer made of Raagi sprinkled with dry-fruit powder. Bedsheets with the minty naphthalene fragrance and warm blankets are taken out from the deepest corners of the cupboards where they wait patiently through the seasons for their rightful visitors.
My otherwise dainty living room in subdued tones bears a vibrant look with bright colored plastic toys strewn on the floor. The house is made safety proof with glass décor tucked away and the smallest of the sharp edges taped up with unevenly cut soft foam, its soft corners jutting out like little wings. The house is noisy, filled with tunes of battery operated toys that sometimes ring all at once, with hunger wails and sleepy wails, and the two new mothers disappointedly always mistaking one for the other, laundry baskets brimming with nappies and tiny clothes, clothesline always occupied.
The house is then unkempt yet a home. Something that Shekhar always tried to remind me when I spent a lifetime everyday keeping it tidy and making it look beautiful.
The gerberas in my balcony keep wilting now, the curtains have lost their color and bear a dull archaic look, the cutlery has lost its shine, the knives their sharpness. The cane chairs in the verandah have uneven gaps between the weaves, the cotton in the cushions has sagged to one side, the bedsheets are changed less frequently, and the carpets are brushed less regularly. Yet everything seems fine in its place and firmly claims a space in the house as if it carries a soul of its own. A soul that was lent to the house and the beauty that was spent adorning every corner of it.
It is even more beautiful now. Shekhar’s childlike attentiveness as I read him the newspaper every morning, his tantrums as he sips a soup he much dislikes, and his sense of humour that he preserved through the illness and pickled it making it even more desirable.
As I look back, I wish I had learnt to appreciate beauty in its various dimensions. While I always liked to see it, Shekhar always found a way to experience it. And today, even as he continues to experience it I wish I could show him, that I do too.
Editor’s note: “Ideas are kind of magical. Sometimes I get them from reading or listening to people, but at other times, they just appear mysteriously,” says Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, bestselling and award winning author published in over 50 magazines, in over 50 anthologies, and having written several award winning books.
Her characters, as she says in this interview, “go through their difficulties and come out often stronger, wiser and more compassionate. I think they give hope to readers who are going through their own griefs. Perhaps that is why people – men and women – relate to my books. The characters’ sufferings make them feel that they are not alone.
The cue is this quote by her: “But maybe as I get older, I begin to see beauty where I least expected it before.“
Shilpa Kendre wins a Rs 500 Amazon voucher from Women’s Web. Congratulations!
Image source: pixabay
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Shilpa Kendre is a banker by profession, a mother of a six year old and
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