"Why? Why don't you tell me what's bothering you?" he pleaded with her.
She looked at him confused. "No, nothing is," she said, feeling as if he were assaulting her with that tone of his voice - an urgent demand, a persistent plea that wanted to grab her heart and open it violently. She felt her heart trembling and shrinking. "Don't imagine things," she said and turned away to continue pretending that everything was as should be.
"Hi honey." The voice seemed so real that Priya jumped. Though she looked up instantly, she went back to reading the instruction for the pregnancy test. "I thought you would have outgrown this behaviour now that you are older. Still behaving like a teenager!" the voice of her mother continued in that particular exasperating tone of amusement. Priya had to look up and was startled to see her mother actually there. "I am seeing things," she told herself loudly and went back to reading.
"Do we really need this brassplate?" Suhas asked frustrated.
"It is ornamental and will look good in our dining room. And look at the price! It's a steal!" his wife Archana exclaimed. Suhas raised his eyebrows and rolled his eyes, knowing any argument against that logic was a waste of time.
Daya stared at the television and felt tears stab her eyes. The collective sigh of disappointment in the room revealed how much everybody was affected by the space mission's failure. She could hear her mother-in-law chanting, no doubt, hoping for some miracle to save it. Her husband Nitin loudly slapped the sofa as the headlines repeated the disappointing end - or hopefully, interlude - to this much awaited event. Her father-in-law shook his head and got up, clearly having expected some such fate.
But Daya herself felt as if it were a personal loss, a loss that had its roots fifteen years ago, when she gave up her pursuit of education to pursue Nitin and eloped to get married to him. Shalini, a friend she had reconnected with recently, told her, "I had expected you would be somewhere in NASA, working on some space mission! Never expected you to give it all up for marriage!"
It was a simple affair, exactly as Rishi had desired. Only the
closest family and friends in his favourite Krishna temple to witness his
wedding to the lovely Sharmila were invited. His parents had arranged the match
and he had met Sharmila informally in a cafe. He had communicated his
willingness the same evening, but Sharmila's family had taken some time to
respond, citing her professional commitments and travel as reasons for being
unable to decide quickly. After the informal 'fixing' of the wedding too, her
parents had preferred to conduct the wedding right away instead of delaying the
actual event with a 'meaningless engagement'. "Can we have a simple
wedding but a grand reception as we are going at breakneck speed," her
father had asked politely, much to Rishi's mother's dissatisfaction. "We
didn't ask for the wedding to be rushed! He is an only son, so we would like to
call our relatives..." she had insisted.
We decided we needed to make space in our house and optimise the use of existing shelves. It began with segregating clothes, into:
1. What we will definitely wear
2. What we wear every other day but should not because - yes, the cloth is soft and it was beautiful when we got it, but now it is beyond recognition and must absolutely be thrown
3. Grand, but sorry, too itchy, dazzling and not the kind we would wear ever though it looks brand new.
It was the March of 2050. He felt as good as new. "Medical technology is amazing," he told his friends. "You must try it. In fact, there is an app that tells you the condition of your organs, whom to contact, and even fixes an appointment with specific doctors who have the right equipment. They scan you, find you a match, grow new organs and replace old ones. That's it! That part is good to run for another fifty years!" he said.
Sona got up from the bed but had to flop back because of the way her head reeled. She called out for her husband Nilesh weakly and then shut up, her discomfiture aggravated by the pain that shot through her heart. There was no Nilesh to respond to her. She should have got used to it, given the way he had been travelling because of work. But he had still been just a phone call away.
When had the distance grown. When had they drifted so apart that she couldn't even call him anymore? How had she missed the signals? Or had he camouflaged them so well?
Shraddha looked at the message from her brother Shankar with a frown. "Paapu is unwell, it seems. Mom told me today. Please visit, if you can."
She was puzzled that her mom had told Shankar this but not her. Was it because it had slipped her mother's mind that she also knew Paapu; was it because her mother didn't think the news would matter to her; or did her mother think that she couldn't be bothered with it? Why tell Shankar the news? What could he do, either? He had simply passed the buck to her, after all.
Ragini put the book down, a certain melancholy settling in her heart. Memories chased each other, leading to that moment of nothingness - the anti-climax when truth came calling, when reality proved to be far simpler and much farther than her imagination. Staring at the emptiness ahead, she had wondered at the power of her own mind in projecting a future that had no basis on the present.