The aroma of the south Indian coffee reached Murli’s olfactory sense. He took a deep breath and waited in anticipation for Bala to come. “ Anna, today we have to visit Meenakshi’s Amma. She will be leaving in two days”, Bala said as she brought in the cup of hot coffee.” Yes, I will be leaving office a little early today”, Murli smiled as he looked at his wife.
Murli entered their home to sound of the bell and fragrance of incense sticks. Bala dressed in a Madisar, with jasmine flowers adorning her lustrous black hair was performing the evening pooja. Murli quickly freshened up and had steaming hot idlis with coffee. Bala’s culinary skills made every meal a celebration for Murli.
Murli had got married to Bala, his Mama’s daughter, soon after he started his job at the Revenue department. Bala’s lustrous long hair and loving demeanour had added happiness to his mundane life. Bala’s caring and obliging nature had made her popular in the neighbourhood.
Bala and Murli were the envy of all around. However, as days passed, Bala was almost pestered by relatives, some even questioning her fertility. In spite of a close bonding, two years beyond their marriage, they were deprived of the joy that every couple looks forward to. Bala maintained a happy facade but felt emptiness deep inside.
Murli’s colleague suggested visiting a fertility specialist. The couple fixed an appointment with Dr. Pandya, a well known gynaecologist. Soon the treatment bore fruit. The birth of their son restored the bliss and joyfulness of their home. Venkat, their son grew up to be an accomplished young man. He soon left Indian shores for greener pastures.
Solitude embraced the once lively home. But Bala breathed life and swept away the loneliness created by Venkat’s absence. She formed a music group of the families in the neighbourhood. The group nurtured talent and fostered cultural values. The group performed at celebrations in the vicinity, thus building strong bonds among the people.
Murli’s retirement was celebrated and silver innings inaugurated with much fanfare. Bala played the warm, loving hostess serving her delicacies to all.
But one day, the sun dimmed its lights and dark clouds gloomed over the entire neighbourhood. Bala succumbed to cardiac arrest. Venkat rushed to perform the last rites but had to get back to work soon enough. Murli spent his days looking around the home that Bala had nurtured for so many years.
The music group was silent for a long time. Murli felt overcome with guilt that the group which was Bala’s creation had become inactive.
As he sat in his armchair listening to Bala’s favourite singer his eyes moved around the living room- the curtains moved silently in slow motion, just then….
Murli’s saw a smiling Bala waving at him as if she said, “Hello, is it me you’re looking for….
Mama: Maternal Uncle
Madisar: A traditional south Indian nine yard sari
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