Her husband had died a week ago, heart attack.
She had served him tea in his favourite, “Worlds best Dad” mug that morning. As they sat together discussing the newspaper like they did every morning over tea, she didn’t have the slightest idea that this would be the last discussion that she would have with him. As she was clearing off in the kitchen, she heard a loud ‘thud’ from outside. She rushed out to see him collapse on the dining table. She called out to him, sprinkled water on his face, but he refused to budge. She frantically called the neighbor, a doctor. He checked his pulse and declared that he was dead. While the neighbors picked him up and laid him on the diwan, she sat dazed on the chair at the dining table. Her mind had gone blank. She couldn’t get herself to terms with what had just happened. The man she had spent her entire life with was dead, just like that. She was a very strong woman, but the fact that she was now all on her own left a weird void within her. She felt empty, extremely empty.
In a trance she got up and walked slowly to the bedroom. She picked up the telephone receiver and dialed a number. Her voice was surprisingly steady as she spoke, “Hello, Ami ma bolchi. Baba passed away this morning”. She could hear her sons’ choked voice. She knew this was going to be very hard on him. He had always been very close to his father. Despite numerous arguments about lifestyle, career, marriage, etc. they had always shared a very special bond. Right from the time when he was a little boy he would wake at 5 in the morning to sit on his father’s lap and listen to Rabindra Sangeet. As he grew up it was cricket, books, cars, politics… they always had enjoyed long conversations. As she heard him burst into tears on the other side of the telephone, she spoke to him in an extremely calm voice, “it’s a great loss for you, for us, I know in the current situation it is not going to be easy for you to come down from the US. Don’t bother. Come later, once your project is complete. Na, chinta koro na, ami theek achchi.”
She then telephoned her brother in law and informed him. She asked him to convey the news to the other relatives and friends. She shuddered as she thought about the relatives that would all trickle in to the house in some time now. She was never popular amongst the relatives, who had always maintained a distance from her, due to awe, but they blamed it on her attitude. She wasn’t too fond of them either. Socializing with people who weren’t like-minded had never been her forte. In fact she always felt awkward amidst their loud presence. She didn’t want to see them, not today. But she didn’t have an option.
She then mechanically opened her cupboard and picked up a sari. A beige one. Not that it mattered since the wardrobe consisted mainly of all dull coloured saris, except that one green one which he had gifted her, insisting that she should sometimes wear some cheerful colours. She had never worn it. As she draped herself in the beige sari she looked at herself in the mirror. In spite of her age and wrinkled skin, she still looked quite elegant and she knew it. As she combed her hair and tied them in a bun she could hear the relatives pouring in. She did not like it. She didn’t want to meet them.
She walked back to the living room and placed herself next to her husband’s dead body, she looked at him. The man she had lived with for almost all her life. It had been an arranged marriage but they had been extremely compatible right from the beginning. With similar interests, likings and dislikes, they had never had a boring moment with each other. They had learnt to love each other and respect each other’s space. Conversation had always flown between them. They rarely had fought or argued. She had been a good wife, a good mother. He had been a good husband, a good father. Life had been picture perfect. She suddenly felt the void again within her. She just stared. She had never known to mourn the dead, she had not even cried when her parents had died. She just couldn’t. She missed him but she just couldn’t cry.
She suddenly noticed the amount of noise that was there. It was making her very uncomfortable. She shuffled her feet nervously. She observed them. Some were howling, wailing, some were silently wiping their tears, some came and hugged her and were crying down her neck. Some, she knew, were genuinely upset at her husband’s death. Some were pretending to be upset. Some were upset with her since she was not shedding any tears. Some looked at her with sympathy. Some sniggered. All eyes seemed to be on her. She hated the attention. When they left for the cremation, she refused to go. Sometime in the evening her son telephoned her again. He was still crying. She consoled him again.
The next few days passed real slowly with people constantly coming over to meet her. They were all expecting her to talk about him, to cry. They said it was good for her to cry it out. As if they knew. As if she cared. She was tired, hating the pretense. They all seem to be mocking her. Few of the people stayed back… for a week. All through the week she stayed serene. As much as she hated people fretting over her, she stayed calm. Her only solace was the telephone call with her son. He was the only one she really cared about. He too seemed to have gotten over his grief. He sounded less tearful. He had booked his tickets for the next month for a two week stay. She had something to look forward to.
Today finally the house was empty again. She was alone now. She was going to be alone forever. She knew her son would insist on taking her with him. But she wouldn’t go. This was her home. She walked to the bedroom, changed into another dull sari and looked at her reflection in the mirror. As she did, she moved, that single strand of curl, which was on her cheek, behind her ear. Remembering how he had always loved her curls, she smiled to herself.
She slowly walked up to the kitchen to fetch a glass and the bottle of Glenfiddich. She made her drink and settled herself in the verandah, on the rocking chair. It was twilight, there was a cool breeze blowing. She touched the glass to her lips. As she did that, a single tear trickled down her eye, and mixed itself in the glass of Scotch.