The grandfather clock…or grandmother clock as Meena insisted on calling…struck 3. Seena came out of the kitchen and checked the dial of that beautiful clock that stood in the corner of an elegantly decorated drawing room (Meena’s labelling of course)!
The doorbell rang and Seena wiped her hands on the towel thrown across her shoulders. “I hope you are not going to answer the door with that thing on your shoulder” she queried.
“It is a clean towel and it sends a signal that I was working in the kitchen” she answered bitingly and moved across the entrance lobby to open the door. “Not something that we did in our times” Meena murmured…”We had standards….etiquette….deportment drilled into our heads….and it is not many generations ago”!
Seena could be heard saying, “Come in! You are punctual….the old lady will be impressed”!
Footsteps approached the drawing room and Seena walked in saying, “She’s here and on time!”
Meena looked up and examined the fashionably dressed lady standing in front of her. “Good evening! I am sorry if I do not get up” she said and pointed to the wheelchair parked next to her wing-backed armchair.
“Please, please do not worry…good evening…I am Reena Raman” she said.
“Do sit down” Meena pointed to the triple seater sofa in front of her.
Seena announced, “I am Seena and I will leave you two together while I make the tea. I hope you like tea for that is what we drink in the afternoon” she told Reena making sure that no other beverage was demanded.
“Please do not trouble yourself…I’m good” she said.
Meena looked at her and said, “That’s something I have to make sure that you are!”
Reena looked bewildered, “I’m sorry…I do have references and a letter from my bank to assure you that I am solvent”!
“No, no…I am talking about your statement that you are ‘good’…right?” Meena commented.
“Oh dear…that is my Americana coming out. I did spend the better part of 8 years in the States. So my language is peppered with phrases that I used in my communication back there,” Reena said. “I’m good…it means its okay by me! Anything is fine.”
Seena went out of the room. Meena looked keenly at Reena for a few minutes. Reena had a quick sweeping look around the room and its décor. It was luxurious but of a more chintzy, Victoriana kind of way!
“First things first…no men in this house…not even your father, brother, uncle, nephew….whoever. I would prefer that they stay downstairs in the lobby. This whole floor belongs to me and only workmen are allowed to come. My doctor is a lady, my driver is a young girl who goes to evening college and drives me to my chores in the morning hours. I am paying my house help’s daughter to be trained as a handyman so that I can avoid electricians, plumbers etc. Seena is very good with a drill and can handle simple carpentry which is all I need occasionally! I like three’s…1, 2 3…anything more is not viable. Look at our pantheon..we have Tridev’s, Tridevi’s and all others are semi-Gods and Goddesses!! So in this home it will be three, only!”
Reena’s mouth was agape as she listened to Meena describing her all women establishment. “This seems to be a throwback to the Amazon civilisation” she murmured. “Of couse, Amazon has a different significance altogether today”!
“My experiences and encounters with men has not been very memorable” Meena commented. “So I actively avoid them…as far as possible”.
“Very interesting! My own relationships with men in recent years has been very painful, disappointing and traumatic” Reena added. She then handed over a plastic folder to Meena and said, “Here are all the relevant documents to guarantee you about my ability to meet my financial obligations and my interpersonal skills”!
Seena walked in pushing a wooden trolley groaning with crockery and cutlery. She sat in the 2 seater love seat arranged under the French windows and served tea in delicate china. Cucumber sandwiches and sponge cake were eaten up with relish…conversation was on hold.
“I work as a HR executive. I have been living in Mumbai for the past couple of weeks in my company guest house. I do not want to live alone and am not going to be bothered running a home. So I was interested in your ad about renting a bedsit room and bath with breakfast. I work very hard from 8 to 7pm and sometimes more in the evening. Some days, I work from home to avoid being constantly interrupted in the office. I like what I see here…I’m happy with a no men rule…and I can move in immediately”! Reena supplied all her information in one salvo!
Meena asked, “Do you want to know anything about us? Seena is my housekeeper/companion…we are not related. Our private lives are our own. She takes Wednesdays off after breakfast. She has been with me for ten years…a few years after my accident that left me in this wheelchair. I have a paramedic who comes to help me with my personal needs in the morning and evening. The bedsit that I am offering you was occupied my mother who passed away a year ago. We thought it would be nice to have another person live with us….to maintain the three balance. Please go and see the suite before we finalise things.”
All the necessary details done, Reena was ready to move in that weekend. The little adjustments, the exchange of ideas, interests, opinions and ephemeral anecdotes about past lives were exchanged over the next month or so. Soon, the three arranged their lives like the couch and sofas in the drawing room…cosy, comfortable and yet separate.
The weekend was quiet. Reena did not surface for breakfast on Saturday and Seena let her sleep in. Sunday dawned and the door to Reena’s suite stayed stubbornly closed. By lunchtime both Meena and Seena were concerned and they sent her a message on her mobile..”All well? Anything we can do?”
Around teatime, Reena opened the door, held on to the jamb looking bedraggled and definitely ill. “I’m sorry…I’ve been sick….” And then she blurted out “I think I’m pregnant…and by Goddess….I pray and hope it’s not a boy!”
Her announcement was met with bewildered silence…then Seena blurted out, “Butttttt…where is your husband?”
“No men Seenaji! No men…I do not need a husband to be pregnant…all you need is a manipulative b**tard who can take you for a ride…literally and figuratively”!
“Hunhhhhhh” gasped Seena. “My God! You modern girls…..what is the world coming to!”
Meena rolled her wheelchair forward. “Are you keeping it?”
“Yes…I think so…I don’t know how….but….my family will disown me. The scandal will finish them off,” whispered Reena.
“That baby…and it will be a girl….is ours. You have our total support,” claimed Meena.
Seena was taken aback. Reena blearily looked at Meena as if she could not believe it.
“Are you sure”” asked Reena.
“What if……?” cried out Seena.
“No! No! It will be a girl…I know!” Meena rushed in affirmatively!
“Are you not going to question her about her….you know…” burst out Seena, “standards….etiquette….deportment…all that was drilled into you?”.
“That was another time…and this is a human being…not crockery and cutlery” chuckled Meena.
Reena was not convinced. “This is a big step and you are jumping into this impulsively. What if things don’t work out between us….what if….”! Seena nodded her head vigorously, “Yes, yes…true…what if….”!
“Reena…from today…your meals will be with us…Seena will make healthy food that will help you and the child in the womb. One of us will go with you to all your prenatal doctor visits and other scans etc. we will be there when you give birth…it is promise….all the way! Oh yes! We will have to start thinking about space for a nursery! Much as I hate the idea of workmen in this house, we will partially enclose that balcony in your room and our Rajakumari will have her own space!”
Reena burst into tears, knelt down at the wheelchair, put her head on Meena’s lap and said, “I was worried about 1…2..3 being enforced….but you have opened your arms to 4….you are a gracious, gorgeous lady and you’re GOOD”!
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