“21 days,” counted Indu. “21 days until he returns.”
And yet she knew it wouldn’t feel like that much. It would stretch on, like a rubber band, and turn to feel like an eternity. It was the relativity of time.
“What are you doing, ma?” a little girl of seven with two long braids down her back appeared at the door. Her oiled hair was shining and her olive brown face looked at her mother bit anxiously.
Indu turned around from the calendar she was staring at and adjusted her sari. “Nothing, Kamini. Let’s get to school now.” The little girl could have sworn she saw her mother wipe a tear from her eyes.
When they arrived at the school, Indu dropped her daughter off at her class and strode towards the staff room. She hoped no teacher would manage to spot her before she kept her stuff and sneaked off to her own class.
“How are you, Indu?” another teacher tapped her back.
Indu plastered a smile on her face. Authentic smiles didn’t come easily anymore. “Doing well, thank you.”
“Any news about Prakash?”
There it was. the dreaded question. She heard it many times a day, but every time someone dropped the bombshell she could feel her heart thudding to a stop. “He’ll be returning soon.”
Prakash. Her loyal husband and the love of her life. Two years ago he had left for his trading business to Afghanistan. What was supposed to be a two month trip stretched to six, and soon to over one year. She hadn’t heard much from him, he had gotten caught up in the turmoil of the war-ridden country. Yet she had kept her vigil as a faithful wife, waiting, and praying that he remained safe. And then there was the letter this morning. He had finally gotten a visa, and had managed to find a flight three weeks hence. Indu couldn’t wait to see him again, the man who hadn’t seen his wife or daughter for two years. But there were still 21 more days of patient vigil.
“Your father will be returning in three weeks’ time, Kamini,” Indu had a light in her eyes that Kamini hadn’t seen for two years.
“Yay! Papa is coming back!” the overjoyed little girl skipped out of the room.
Indu wasn’t as sure as her daughter, and neither as jubilant. Somewhere deep inside her, she could feel that something was going to go wrong. There was an uneasiness in her soul that Indu ignore.
“There’s a telegram, ma,” Kamini said after responding to the door.
From the window Indu saw the mailman leaving, who turned back just at the corner and gave her a sympathetic smile. her heart sank and her breath got stuck at her throat as she finally opened the envelope and read the telegram.
Prakash Verma has been killed by the Taliban in Afghanistan.
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