The Smallest of Hope




It was one of those busiest mornings at her household. After an uninterrupted sound sleep of six hours, Madhu was buzzing with refurbished energy in the morning. The golden rays from the solitary morning star flooded through the windows of her living room leaving long and crisp reflections on her freshly mopped floor. The place was getting warmer with every passing minute. Beads of sweat drenched her forehead as she set the room in order after a round of cleaning. The large cartons of toys of every possible variety descended from their pedestal, the couch, to their allotted positions on the floor in an effort to have them neatly arranged. Being an annoyingly organised person, it was her way of finding a method in the madness. She knew only too well that the boxes were going to be emptied on the same couch very soon. “The toys own the couch and rent it out to us humans only if they like to,” mumbled Madhu as she dusted them meticulously. The usual chores of the morning waited to be attended to. The daily newspapers arrived. She made a hot cup of coffee for herself and picked the newspapers up at the doorstep. The headlines caught her attention. She focused on reading the entire article for the next few minutes, with sips of coffee in between. “Blissful morning indulgence?” Vivek called out as he plonked himself into a chair beside her at the dining table. She narrowed her eyes at her husband. “A dash of caffeine and a dose of news. Do you call that indulgence, Mister?” Madhu snapped at him. Vivek laughed. “Happy birthday to you, my dear!” he wished her out of the blue. “Huh? It’s a week later. Your wishes have come early,” she smirked. “What? Isn’t today the 19th?” He added with mock surprise. Madhu raised her eyebrows menacingly and that was all that was needed to close the discussion. “So, what do you want for your birthday?” He persisted. “Now, that’s my favourite part.” Her face lit up at the question as though she was waiting to be asked about it. “How about a Kindle?” She proposed. “Kindle? Aren’t you someone who feels and breathes in the pages before you begin to read a book? Well, I don’t think a Kindle comes with an attached software for fragrance,” he guffawed. “Bad joke. But, I’d still want a Kindle as I’m missing out on a lot of amazing e-books since I don’t have one. And, the mobile app is not really healthy for the eyes, you see,” she concluded her argument befittingly. “Well, I’m not much a bookworm. So, whatever you say...” His voice trailed off at the trill of the doorbell. He walked up to the door to attend to it and came back with a parcel. “Addressed to you, Madam. Let me guess... Is that a book?” He remarked as he tilted and observed the delivery from the courier service. “Yes it is,” she replied and grabbed it from him. “The latest diamond in my collection.” She tore open the parcel and took in the fragrance of the book.  “A correction. A new addition to your never-ending-unread collection,” he offered. “We, bibliophiles, have a technical term for it, you know. T-B-R, which expands to ‘To be read’. Anyway, a time will come when they will fall under the category of read-and-enjoyed, Mister. And, I hope it comes sooner.” “Well, one can hope. Let me also be hopeful of your hope,” he winked and sauntered off to log in to his laptop and begin his day at work. A shrill squeal resounded through their living room punctuating Vivek’s comment. It was from the third member of the family who had just woken up from his slumber. The squeal was to call his mother. Madhu ran to check on her 2-year-old.

***

“Well ... well ... this kid doesn’t even let her relish her mug of coffee in peace,” droned the blue coffee mug left by Madhu on the dining table. “Oh hello Blue Mug, happy to see you here again,” said the Thermos* in a pleasant tone. A thick paperback book on the table yawned. “Is it morning already? What’s this chattering all about early in the morning?” Mr. LOTR* asked, flipping his pages merrily until he landed on the one that was dog-eared. “Dog-eared?! Is she reading you, Mr. LOTR? I thought she was going to read me. I’m new to the table here. Just came in yesterday,” remarked Mr. HP*, another paperback book that adorned the dining table since the previous day. “She’d have had an urge to read yet another fantasy book, Mr. HP and that’s why you’re here too. Welcome to the club. I’ve been part of this glossy black table since last month. I needed some company of my type, you know. Glad you’re here,” smiled Mr. LOTR pensively. “Look who is talking about good company. He has been invading our space for a month now and talks as if he owns it. Duh!” The Thermos gushed in indignantly. “For a month? But, Mr. LOTR, hasn’t she already read you in and out? I have seen you accompany her before,” mentioned the Blue Mug. “Oh yes, Mr. HP and I are in her TBRR category, buddies. We are special ones and she wants to read us again,” stated Mr. LOTR haughtily. “T-B-R-R? What language are you talking?” asked the ball-point pen lying beside the Thermos. “Hola Pennie, happy to see you here. The acronym is from Madhu’s dictionary, dear. That’s how she’s classified us as. It expands as ‘To be re-read’.” “How enlightening!” drawled the Blue Mug. “Why does she have to delve into TBRR when she has a lot to be read afresh? Strange!!” “What do you know of books, Mr. Blue Mug? Even if it is read already, one would love to re-read her favourite books at some point in life. The plot remains the same but the reader’s perspective changes. So, it is still equivalent to a fresh read.” “A pat on your back, Mr. LOTR. You are a true classic, I say.” Mr. HP flipped his pages breezily denoting his joy. “Absolutely second that,” chipped in Pennie, the ball-point pen, scribbling happily. “Well, whatever,” commented the Blue Mug. “Gosh, these things and their banter! Does anyone respect others’ peace and privacy here?” huffed the Thermos restlessly. “I love your profound words, Mr. LOTR. But, how long do you think TBR books like me should wait to be read by her? One needs to read a book soon as one gets it and review it too. That’s how you respect the book, don’t you?” The newbie on the table intervened all of a sudden.  Mr. HP doubled across his spine to get a better look. “Ah, hello Mr. Ikigai*. That’s such an interesting name you’ve got there. I’ve heard of you. You house loads of information on life as such and how should one look at it. How impressive!” Mr. HP was generous in his compliments to the new paperback book that arrived that morning. “You do have a point, Mr. Ikigai. Madhu may want to read you now that a newbie has arrived. But, at the end of the day, it’s always a reader’s preference on what are the kind of books she wants to read, isn’t it? Reading a book is pure ecstasy and a reader always has the freedom to choose.” Mr. LOTR proved himself to be the wisest of all. “Hmmm... you’re right,” Mr. Ikigai replied dreamily. “And, above all, it’s also about the time she gets for herself to read a book. With the kid running around, she hardly gets time to sit and relax. Not unless the kid is asleep.” “That’s so true. Poor Madhu! You’ll see for yourself soon, Mr. Ikigai,” Mr. HP added. “Let’s hope she gets the time to read us all soon, both TBR and TBRR,” Mr. LOTR declared. “Awww... hope! Isn’t it such a beautiful thing?” observed Pennie. “True. Let me hope she reads me soon,” remarked Mr. Ikigai.

***

“Vishwaaaaa...” Madhu’s voice echoed through the house as her child opened the refrigerator and toppled the box containing peas on the floor. She came running from the kitchen to see him chortling heartily. He ran to his boxes of toys to create more ruckuses. He upended one of them, picked his favourite ones, and started lining it up on the couch. She threw him a look of exasperation and set about gathering the peas and filling up the container with them.  The child appeared to be keenly busy with his toys around as she kept checking on him once in a while. Apparently, he was up to no mischief for some time. So, she took a little time off and sat down at the table looking longingly at the bunch of books lying on it. She picked up the new arrival and began browsing through its pages. As she breezed through the book, her eyes fell on the term, wabi-sabi*. It caught her attention that very instant and she started reading more about it. Look at the beauty in imperfections. Imperfect. Incomplete. Ephemeral.  She got carried away by the simple and pragmatic detailing of the concept and smiled to herself.  Even this very moment may be imperfect. But, it is fleeting. Revel in it. Appreciate it. Imperfections are indeed the way of nature. Learn to acknowledge its flawed beauty. “And, move on with hope,” she supplemented her thoughts. As she got immersed in the book, she didn’t realise her son running up to her. The next moment, she found him climbing on to her lap and then in one leap, onto the table. He fiddled with the pen lying beside him for a second and with one tug, he wrenched the book out of his mother’s hand and scribbled on the page she was reading. The concept of wabi-sabi should not even be displayed perfectly. It seemingly required its share of imperfections to make it complete. “Vishwaaaa...” She bellowed. Look at the beauty in imperfections. Her weary mind offered in an attempt to pacify her.

***

“Oh my, the kid is one little monster,” Mr. Ikigai vented out to his companions. “Look at me,” he sniffed. “This is just the tip of the iceberg; tee-hee,” sniggered Pennie. “Welcome to our world,” announced Mr. HP.

***

As the morning sun made its elegant ascent to its peak in the skies, their household turned a little silent with the youngest member of the family happily fed and tucked into the bed for his afternoon siesta. Madhu pecked on his cheek and sat admiring the tenderness of her sleeping child for a few minutes. He looked so serene in sleep. The calm before the storm. Her mind knew the knack of giving her words of wisdom in twisted ways possible. She chuckled at the thought. She dozed off for about half an hour and woke up with a start. She had been looking forward to reading the new book and the kid’s afternoon naps usually gave her that uninterrupted stretch of time for reading or writing. Writing. Her laptop stared at her from a corner of the room.  Reading or writing? Thus began the endless battle to choose between an extraordinary pair of choices.

***

Her laptop sat perched on her table and with a watchful eye on the kid, she was furiously typing away. The creative part of her was thankfully kind enough to bless her with a stream of thoughts that she was trying to tap on. The blog was in fact getting written on its own when a sudden urge to read the new book overcame her. She wanted to finish the piece she was writing and get started with reading the book, at least a bit, before the child woke up.  The never-ending dilemma and the desire to get the best of both worlds! Uff! As though the current predicament was not enough to dwell on, she also had her headphones plugged in to her ears listening to a show. She was trying to multitask. Apparently, while she had been scrolling through one of her social media profiles, she had stumbled upon an interesting show, which she had saved to visit later.  Her parched throat suddenly screamed for attention. She hurried out of the room to treat herself to a glass of water. In the meantime: “Hola, Mr. Dell*, good to see you,” chimed in Madhu’s headphones from her bedside table. “Oh hello, Mr. Skullcandy*, such a pleasure to see you after a long time,” said Mr. Dell, Madhu’s personal laptop. “Is Madhu on a writing spree today?” “Apparently so.” “That’s good. Although my heady instinct told me that she would be reading a book today afternoon,” stated Mr. Skullcandy. “Well, she likes writing more than reading, doesn’t she?” remarked Mr. Dell sharply. “Both go hand in hand, Sir. Read more to write well. Write more to experiment and learn from what you read.” “Hmmm...” Mr. Dell was quite stumped by his thought-provoking revelation but acted unfazed by it. No wonder he was christened with such a unique name. He was indeed intelligent. “So, what are you doing here amidst such a perplexing dilemma, dear Mr. Skullcandy?” “Oh well, she was using me to watch a show on Facebook that she’d kept saved for a long time now.” “Gosh, such multitasking. Has she gone crazy?” “Oh no, not at all, she is just a mother who is trying to juggle everything to the best of her abilities!” declared Mr. Skullcandy.

***

Madhu had taken her little one out for a walk in the evening after he had gotten up from his refreshing nap. He was one ball of energy who channelized it out of his system through every possible playful mischief; just that his parents were unable to match their 2-year-old’s ever-replenishing energy levels. Once they were home, it was the turn of the daddy to look after the kid for some time when she prepared dinner for the family. But, Vivek’s official meetings for the day hadn’t gotten over yet.  While she busied herself making a hot cuppa for herself and some snacks for the child, a thudding noise hit her eardrums. Her motherly instinct told her that the child was safe but not what he handled at that moment. “Vishwaaaa...” As she ran to one of the rooms to check on him, she shrieked at the sight. The child was calling out to her from the middle of a pile of books. Her neatly arranged books from one of her cupboards - a makeshift library that she had made for herself - were strewn on the floor.  “Vivek, you’d better take care of this little troublemaker for some time. I want my books placed back in my rack,” she addressed the husband and left the room muttering inaudibly about the two ‘men’ in her life. “The kid has done it again. Her mini library has gone for a toss,” whispered Mr. HP to his friend. “God, now she has to have her TBR and TBRR classified, yet again. Poor woman!” mumbled Mr. LOTR. “Well, as long as we stay at the dining table, we’re safe I suppose,” replied Mr. HP. Madhu crossed the dining table on her way to the kitchen and stopped in her tracks. Her eyebrows furrowed as she peered at the books on the table intently. “Can she hear us?” hissed Mr. Ikigai. Madhu shook her head drearily and ambled into the kitchen. “I hope not,” replied Mr. HP.

***

The clock struck eleven. The child was put to sleep. The house got doused in the nightly silence. Madhu tiptoed out of the room to pick the new book, Mr. Ikigai from the table. As she stretched her tired legs on the bed and stacked a couple of pillows on her lap with the book on top of it, she vowed to read at least a chapter from it before she fell asleep. She yawned. Yet, hoped to achieve her target that night.

***

A week later: “Happy birthday, my dear,” Vivek wished her on the morning of her birthday. “And, the man remembers! It calls for a celebration. Thank you,” she replied with a mocking smile. “I hereby grant your wish. You asked and here it is.” He handed her a gift. “A Kindle?” Her face glowed with the happiness of a child holding her favourite toy.  “See for yourself,” he gestured. Madhu unwrapped the gift delicately to uncover a Kindle shining in all its glory. “Wow! It’s sleek and awesome.” She turned it over delicately and ran her fingers gingerly on its screen. “Hope you like it.” “Like it? I love it,” she said and hugged him tight. “By the way, when do you plan to start using it?” “As soon as I get some e-books.” “And, when is that?” “As soon as possible.” “And, when are you planning to read them?” “As soon as I can.” “Give me your definition of ‘soon’, Madhu. I’d like to hear from you. Sounds very indeterminate to me,” Vivek cocked an eyebrow at her indefinite answers. “Not indeterminate! It is a word depicting hope. The present’s hope from the future. A hope that I’d be able to read them all at the earliest possible.” A mommy can hope, can’t she? After all, life is indeed worth living, looking forward to those small beautiful things that we hope for. And, only those smallest of things sum up to the biggest of happiness in life, don’t they? Glossary:- The following are famous books referred by their acronyms in the story.
  1. LOTR – Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
  2. HP – Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling
  3. Ikigai – The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life by Francesc Miralles and Hector Garcia
Others:
  1. Thermos – a flask
  2. Wabi-sabi – a Japanese aesthetic concept that finds beauty and serenity in objects that are simple, imperfect, and impermanent
  3. Dell – a laptop brand
  4. Skullcandy – a headphones brand

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