Just another morning, the same humdrum, slowly waking up a city engulfed in the mystical charm of gods and goddesses in every being. Tintinnabulation of bells from numerous small, big, roadside, riverside temples, bhajans blaring on the loudspeakers, and calls of jaikara by passers-by seeped into her cottage. The cool breeze from the Ganges, chirruping birds and sweet fragrances of incense sticks burning under a grove of peepal trees outside her home refreshed her. No, it wasn’t an ordinary day for her. 

Ratna stepped out of her small cosy room into the veranda. It was 6:30 am, yet quite bright outside. She tied her loose hair into a bun, took a deep breath and looked at the mossy, dilapidated nine feet high walls that stood as a barrier between the free-flowing river, the ghats and her unquenched spirit. The peepal tree was trying to trespass where no living entity entered without permission. Its tiny wicked soldiers were already setting foot at various openings to grow into a formidable army as if challenging, “How long can you stop us?” 

She glanced at the multitudes of tiny white petals with saffron stems lying on the grass. The fragrance of Harsingar invigorated her sensuous soul. The sudden burst of exhilaration soon turned into nauseating memories, “Dear Parijat, for whom do you bloom, smell sweet every night? What makes you wither and drop on earth when the Sun shines?”

Looking at the rows of blooming flowers in his sprawling lawn, she wondered, “How could he admire the vibrant colours of life sans feelings?”

The emanating sounds of conch shells broke her trance.

She quickly cut the red roses, yellow marigolds and jasmine. 

“Happy anniversary!” She offered the flowers.

 “If not anything, say thank you!” She retorted.

“Are you angry that I plucked your precious flowers?”

“Darling! Inhale the sweet fragrance, feel the soft touch, ignite passion, cherish beauty!” 

“Love me…!” 

“Hell! You cared?” 

” Forget it! You’ll never understand!”

“Anyway, I’m making ladoos today.” 

“Yeah! I’ll remember to fine powder the dry fruits, gum and seeds lest they get stuck in teeth.”

 ‘Har Har Shambhu…’ Singing and dancing to the latest Bhajan, Ratna entered the kitchen. The clap and roll step reminded her of his aversion to pop culture. She chuckled and said, “Hey, Shambhu!” She swayed in ecstasy.

The rising aroma of flour roasting in ghee evoked the long-lost glorious memories of her beauty, her admirers. The warm mushy feeling of love and lust crackled with the seeds once. All blended and crushed into marriage! Her fingers deftly moulded the mixture into perfect rounds. 

She placed a ladoo in front of her husband’s photograph. A cynical thought brought a devilish smile. “Happy first death anniversary, dear! Your favourite ladoo! Specially in your loving memory!”

“Mm! Delicious!”

“Don’t worry, this time I’ve not powdered the killer apple seeds in it.”

Ratna laughed. The cracks in the wall widen. Her laughter reverberated across the river blending with the ringing bells and the evening Ganga aarti.

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Bhavna Kaushik
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