Faint whispers echoed in my ears. I reached for a pillow that was positioned between my legs and pressed it against my ears. But the whispers didn’t seem to cease. I fidgeted with the cozy blanket and tossed it on the bed. Slowly, the murmur transformed into a fairly familiar buzz. The buzz stirred a typhoon of anxiety in my heart. With my eyes closed, I ran my hands on the other side of the bed. She was missing. I opened my groggy eyes and looked at the clock placed on the bedside table. It was half past five. I dragged my feet to the washroom and saw that it was unoccupied. She usually enjoyed those extra minutes of sleep on a Sunday. She termed it a ‘luxury’. I knew that I was either in for a surprise or a catastrophe was about to hit me. Was she at war with me? Nipping that vile thought in the bud lest it fuelled a whirlwind of unrest within me, I walked to the living room.
A silhouette pacing up and down the room caught my attention. With every step I took, the scene became clearer. What I heard weren’t eerie whispers. It was her mumblings. My wife, Sukanya’s deep laments. Those long, silky tresses that cascaded down her waist swayed on their accord. She cracked her knuckles so hard that I was afraid they would break. And, the first thought that crossed my mind was that it was difficult to track a doctor on a Sunday. I walked towards her like a defenseless soldier wanting to surrender at the feet of her highness before she attacked me. I tried to remember the mistakes I had made in the recent past and mentally practised a heartfelt apology hoping that my words would melt her like butter on a hot cauldron.
“Good morning, honey. Why did you wake up so early? Don’t you want to enjoy your beauty sleep?” I tried to sound as calm as possible.
She turned. Her bloodshot eyes threatened to burn me alive.
“Oh, I just wanted to explore every nook of the living room,” the sarcasm in her tone didn’t go unnoticed.
I rolled my eyes, took a deep breath, and asked, “Is everything okay?” Crossing my fingers, I waited for her response.
“There is no power, mister. You know that I cannot sleep without a fan swirling over my head,” she huffed.
“You could have opened the windows,” I almost slapped myself.
She rushed to the dining room and opened the windows. Tiny beads of rain tapped against the window pane rhythmically. The leaves danced in harmony with the breeze. It was a pleasant sight to behold. I was lost in the nature’s magic when I remembered that she doesn’t like the sound of rain against the window.
“It doesn’t let me sleep,” she had mentioned, on multiple occasions.
I wanted to cheer her up. Despite being aware of the danger looming around me, I hugged her and played with those locks that rested on her cheek.
“Now that both of us are awake, why don’t we make the most of the situation?” I asked.
I reached for the candles in the cabinet and arranged them on the dining table.
“I will prepare tea. Maybe we can share some sweet nothings and enjoy the serenity while it lasts,” I said.
The kids were asleep. I pictured the future upheaval and an empty sensation rose in my stomach. But I chose to live in the moment.
She nodded absent-mindedly. I entered the kitchen. A few minutes later, we sat at the table and sipped the tea. I stared at the picturesque scene and I felt a rush of calmness surge through me. ‘We live for moments like these,’ I thought and gently squeezed her hand.
She smiled. Taking the cue, I leaned forwards and my lips were about to meet hers when the kids came running.
‘I could never get lucky,’ a curse escaped my lips.
“Maa, she hit me with a pillow,” Kiran complained while rubbing his eyes.
“He pulled my hair,” said Rupa in her defense.
And, the mayhem began.
“Let’s watch something on my phone,” I said.
I wasn’t in favor of screen time for them but I had no choice. Sukanya was unusually silent. Her expression turned grim. Was another comet going to hit me?
“My phone is switched off,” she said, disrupting my chain of thoughts.
“We can watch in mine,” I said and stood up.
“Yours is switched off too. I checked an hour back,” she sulked.
“Let’s play a game. Maybe ludo,” I was quick.
“But how can we play without phone and internet,” Rupa made a face.
‘Kids these days,’ I thought ruefully.
“We will play the conventional board game,” I said and walked to the room.
The board was arranged on the table. Sukanya boiled milk for the kids. We gathered at the table. I saw that Sukanya showered her pent-up frustration on the utensils. They were her easy targets. After me, of course. I always topped the list.
“Sukanya, join us,” my lips quivered.
An eerie silence filled the air. I chanted every prayer I knew. A few minutes later, I entered the kitchen and saw that she stood near the sink with her face buried in her palms. Muffled sounds made by her tears didn’t go unnoticed.
“What happened?” I asked, careful not to trigger the wrong button.
She wiped the tears with the back of her hand and spoke, “Look at the kitchen. Stained utensils are waiting for my attention. The maid is enjoying her casual leave. The countertop needs a spa treatment. And, the pulses I had soaked the previous night are waiting for a tete-a-tete with the grinder. The clothes are engulfed by rain just like my mind is submerged in anxiety. Kiran and Rupa haven’t finished their homework.”
She gasped for breath and shoved a glass of water down her throat. Her fingers impatiently tapped against her hips. I threw my arms around her. I pulled her closer and landed a kiss on her cheeks. Instead of putting off the flames, my act of endearment acted like fuel on the fire and she pushed me away.
“I couldn’t sleep a wink. I’m drenched in sweat, a truckload of chores demand my attention, and all you can think of is romance,” it felt like she was a dragon exuding fire.
I lowered my gaze and muttered, “I thought it will make you feel better.”
She stared at me like an angry goddess and I pictured my head in her hand.
‘You can do it,’ I reassured myself.
“I’ll help the kids with their homework once the power is restored. Also, we can finish the chores together. I’m with you, honey,” my words seemed to placate her.
Her lips were on the verge of curving upwards when we heard a series of shrieks. I ran to the dining room and she followed suit. I could hear my heart thump in the confines of its haven. The milk was strewn on the floor and the kids were engaged in a wrestling championship. The next thirty minutes passed in acting as a referee.
I felt like I was trapped in a vortex. With every passing second, I sunk deeper. My otherwise super-fast mind that came with ingenious plans at work appeared to be in hibernation mode. Sukanya leaped towards them like a hungry tigress and reprimanded them. The kids retreated to a corner like scared rabbits. They waited till she transformed from Kali to Parvati. And, then apologized.
The first few hours of the morning were eventful and I didn’t want any more adventure for the rest of the day.
“Let’s have bread and jam for breakfast. We shall go to the nearby mall later,” I announced.
The children beamed with happiness. It felt like I was a ray of sunshine amid the harsh winters. The next hour passed in silence. Maneuvering the potholes and ever-increasing traffic was painstaking but it was better than being locked up in the house with each other and without much to do. The glass door opened and a cool breeze embraced us. A whiff of freshness surged through every inch of me and I felt at ease. The kids began to run and we chased them like tom chasing jerry. Sukanya giggled as she caught Kiran and twirled him in the air. Just like a leaf that rejoiced at the touch of the raindrops, I enjoyed watching her smile. A tinge of pride took seed in my mind. A visit to the mall was my idea after all.
“Dad, ice cream,” said Kiran and pointed to the board with the words “Baskin Robins’ printed on it.
His sight was sharp like an eagle. The timetable for his examination printed in bold went unnoticed on numerous occasions but he hit the bull’s eye when he wanted. I had chosen a different path in an attempt to avoid the ice cream parlor but the stars were against me.
“Let’s go, dad,” Rupa held my hand and dragged me.
The kids who were at loggerheads two hours back seemed to embrace their camaraderie.
‘Friends by convenience,’ I thought.
They began to walk with quick, long steps and I followed them.
“Is it okay for them to have ice cream? It’s raining and I hope it doesn’t affect their health,” I expressed my concern.
“Oh, that’s okay. I’ll give them turmeric milk at night,” said Sukanya.
Her nonchalant attitude instilled confidence in me and obliterated the doubts that shrouded my mind. We savored every bit of the heavenly panacea. Sukanya wanted to treat herself to a spa treatment.
“You want to enjoy an hour at the spa before pampering the countertop,” I flashed a canine-to-canine smile.
She nudged me with her elbow and said, “Don’t remind me about the chores.”
She feigned annoyance but I noticed that a playful smile danced on her lips.
“I’ll be back soon,” she said and entered the spa.
I took the kids to the play area. While they mounted on the stationary horse, I sat in a corner and looked around. Those few moments spent in the fortress of solitude made me feel better.
Everything beautiful came with an expiry date. So did my tryst with solitude. The kids who usually got tired after spending an hour with books frolicked in the play area oblivious to the ticking clock. Engulfed by boredom, my nerve cells began to act waywardly. I looked around and my eyes fell on a couple who were seated a few feet away from me. He held the woman’s hand as though she was the post that would prevent him from drowning. My mind traversed in the alleys of the pre-kids era. Those were the days when Sukanya and I were lost in each other’s arms. We used to spend hours dwelling in the sea of love forgetting the world around us. How I wish we remained young and carefree forever. Our kids made our world beautiful. But our days of yore would be etched in the crevices of my mind till eternity.
A smile crept up my lips as I imagined Sukanya standing with her hands on her hips.
“The memories must be etched in our hearts and not minds,” I pictured her displaying mock anger. She had a knack for getting her way each time and it was one of the qualities I admired.
“Emphasis on ‘one of the'” I spoke aloud, only to invite some random glares.
I averted my gaze and fixated it on the marble flooring.
“Dheeraj,” I heard Sukanya’s voice and turned.
I stood up and said, “Come one, kids. Let’s go.”
“How am I looking?” asked Sukanya, while displaying her hair and hands.
“You look the same,” I said and bit my tongue.
“How can you even say that? I got my hair done. Pedicure, manicure, all my efforts have gone down the drain,” her voice trailed off.
‘The money too,’ I resisted the urge to voice my opinion.
“You always look beautiful to me,” I said.
My words managed to douse the flames. Before we could elaborate, our kids joined us. And I was thankful to them for the first time.
The next few hours were spent in shopping. We ate at the food court. Our hearts and stomachs let out a content sigh while my pocket weighed lighter than usual. I heard it groan and a part of me winced. Sukanya appeared to be happier than she was in the morning. Thus mission accomplished, I grinned. We made our way to the parking area. The cars adjacent to mine were parked haphazardly. I made a fist and wanted to smash the window. But like a middle-class, family man, I chose to let out a deep sigh laced with frustration instead. I carefully retrieved my car without incurring any damage and began to drive.
The remaining journey was uneventful. We entered our home and caught a glimpse of the pirouetting fan. We rushed to charge our phones. We had managed to spend more than half a day without our appendages and it was an accomplishment that I was proud of. Rupa rushed to the television and switched it on while Kiran sprang towards her and snatched the remote from her hands. A big fight ensued and everything was back to normal.
Ignoring their tussle, I walked to the room. There was some official work I had to attend to. I sat typing away on the laptop. A few minutes later, I felt a glare piercing my neck. I turned and saw that Sukanya stood holding a ladle in her hand. I covered my face with my hands and tried to crouch beneath the bed. The last thing I wanted was a broken nose.
“You promised to help the kids with their homework,” she said after subjecting me to a few minutes of an excruciating silent treatment.
“But there’s some office work that needs my attention,” I tried to explain.
She threw her arms in the air.
“You need to learn to multitask, mister,” she said and walked away without waiting for my response.
An order was passed by her highness and it had to be followed.
“Rupa and Kiran, start doing the homework. Your dad will help you,” I heard her holler.
The kids did as said and I tried to juggle between algebra, parts of a digestive system, and coding. Two hours later, I was summoned to wash the utensils. I excelled at it and the result was a shining kitchen.
After dinner, she started stacking the newly purchased clothes in the cupboard and that reminded me to take a look at the bill. I shoved my hands into the pocket and reached for the papers I had folded meticulously. I looked at the number and rubbed my eyes fervently. My heart stopped beating for a second. My head began to throb at the sight of a four-digit number. Happiness is free, they said. But it came at a cost. I felt the urge to write a letter to the electricity department explaining the unnecessary expenses that I had to incur because of a random power cut.
That thought was surpassed by a feeling of cool air on my skin.
‘We have become a slave to the worldly comforts,’ I remembered my father’s words.
Sukanya was talking over the phone with my parents. And a tide of contentment rose in my heart. ‘Anything for my caring and understanding wife,’ I thought.
I lay on the bed and looked at her for a few minutes, before dosing off. It always felt good to end a day on a loving note.
“You need to wake up early tomorrow,” her words interrupted that thought and I nodded grumpily.
And, this family man lived happily ever after.
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