Saturday, July 30, 2016

Just Another Day

"Ma," 13-year-old Smita called out from inside the bathroom. "Can you please get me my uniform?"

Her mother Ganga was sitting in the dining room and kneading the dough. She looked up at the clock and shouted back, "Wrap a towel around you and pick it up yourself."

Jay mumbled without taking his eyes off the newspaper he was reading, "Poor kid, why don't you get her the dress?"

"You are most welcome to," Ganga said shooting a glare in his direction. Jay just continued reading as if he had not opened his mouth. Ganga felt a pang of guilt but didn't budge - she couldn't. She had a meeting at 10, and if she got delayed, then she would be held up in traffic and be late to work.

Smita came out grumbling. "It would have taken you a second."

"Right, and if you had taken it with you in the first place, it wouldn't even need that second," Ganga said and returned to the kitchen with the kneaded dough.

Smita made a face as she dressed up and tied her hair. She filled up the water bottle, packed her snack and sat down for breakfast. Ganga served her hot chapatis with paneer butter masala. "Yummy! Keep extra for lunch," Smita said.

Ganga smiled, "Already packed 5. Is that enough?"

Smita nodded with her mouth full and then hugged her mother from the side.

The house was empty by 9 as each went his or her way. Smita returned first in the evening, at 4.30. She was tired and looked at the dining table expectantly. She felt like having hot dosas, but all she could find were bun and jam. She sighed and ate the snack. She called her mother, "Can you make dosa at night for dinner?"

Ganga was silent for a minute. "Not tonight. I have a dinner meeting. Tomorrow breakfast, I promise."

Disappointed, Smita was about to put the phone down when Ganga said, "I will ask daddy to order something... or the two of you can go out. But..." she paused to let Smita scream joyfully. "You have to finish your homework before that. Do you have any classes?"

"Only maths tuition."

Jay, however, was also tied up at work. Ganga wondered what to do. "Why don't you order something?"

"Come on, Ganga. It maybe 8 by the time I reach home and it will be too late for her. Why don't you go home, make something before leaving for dinner?"

"Won't have time," she replied thoughtfully. "Will order pizza."

"No! I hate pizza."

"Then tell me what should I do? I know the pizza guy will deliver in 30 minutes, but not anyone else. She will be alone at home. I don't want her to open the door for delivery boys..."

"But what if he does not come before you leave?"

"Jay," she said sternly, "If you can give me solutions, do. Don't just tell me about the problems."

"Skip the dinner," he said suavely.

"Return home early," she snapped back and cut the call before it erupted into a fight. She sat back with her eyes closed. She felt she was snapping all the time. She called Jay again. "I will pick up something on the way," she said.

"No, it's okay. I just  rescheduled my meeting to tomorrow. Don't plug in something then..." he warned her, but she smiled feeling the warm rush of love.

"Don't be hard on her," she said softly. "She likes to keep the door closed, just let her be."

She called Smita to inform her. "Yaay!" her daughter exclaimed. She knew it would be a night of indulgence, but, well, why not. "Just make sure you complete your work and don't aggravate father," she cautioned her daughter.

When she returned after the dinner, she felt tired. Jay was awake but Smita was asleep. "How was the dinner?"

She nodded, but rushed to the bathroom and threw up. "I told you to miss it," Jay said and ducked under her baleful look. He got her some cumin seeds and made buttermilk, and though it calmed her churning stomach somewhat, she had a restless sleep.

Next morning, when Smita woke up, she was startled to see her father pottering about in the kitchen and her mother in bed. "Sandwich for breakfast?" she asked with a weak smile.

Jay smiled, "Yes! How did you know?"

Smita rolled her eyes. "Guess..."

He chuckled. "Oh come, half the world lives on it."

"I belong to the other half," she said over her shoulder as she went about her morning chores. "What's happened to mom?"

"Stomach bug. So please help around if you can," he told her.

Ganga opened her eyes and panicked, seeing it was already 8! She rushed to the kitchen to see Jay clearing up and Smita packing her lunch - curd rice with pickle.

"Go to the doc today," father and daughter said in unison. "We can't have you packing up like this," Smita added and hugged her mother. Jay's and Ganga's eyes met over their daughter's head and they smiled.
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