I looked around for a little bit of home and there was nothing that would look even similar to it. There were some faces that did not smile and some that just stared clueless about where life had got them. You know sometimes it’s not about the life you lived, but about the place where life lead you to. The beautiful saree doesn’t really matter when you don’t have your spouse staring at you with a smile. The money you earned doesn’t fill the void in your heart when you no longer have your parents to pat your back for your little victories. And, even the most expensive and delicious delicacies will fail to satiate your hunger when you don’t have your mother, serving you all the love she has in her heart. I walked and walked to see my wife weaving a sweater in the swing that was placed in the balcony. I sat beside her. I held her hand and tried to break the silence with a question. “Where have you been? I’ve been looking for you. You got me worried.”, I said. She looked at me blankly. And, believe me, the numbness on her face broke my heart into several pieces. I could go days without talking to her, but I couldn’t live with that strangeness she had in her eyes for me. But she’d made me a strong man, and I had to make this work.
She pulled her hand from mine and moved a little away from me. This was the first time that she didn’t hold my hand while sitting on a swing. She said, “Could you please check if the sweater is knit properly? I hope it fits my son well.” I took the sweater from her and checked it to find it perfectly fine. It was later that I remembered my son. Oh! I could call him and tell him to take us back home. He would give his mother the best treatment and figure out what was wrong with her. I immediately reached to the telephone, picked up the receiver, and started dialing the number. “Wait! What is my son’s number?”, I thought. I removed a small telephone diary from my pocket and started looking for the number. “What is my son’s name? Sidd…? Ugh!”
And just when I was trying to remember the name and number, a hand came and held mine. The hand felt soft and loving. It wasn’t hers. Oh! It was a pretty and charming girl, wearing a white dress with a blue dupatta. She took me to the dining hall and told me to have lunch. “But I was calling my son! Why did you stop me from doing it? Who are you? And, where is my wife? And Why are we here?”, annoyed of all the newness around, I screamed at her. I was scared, but I couldn’t be weak. I was worried, but I had to act like a strong gentleman. The girl replied, “Since you’re here with us, it’s our duty to help you with the places here. It’s lunch time right now and missing a meal wouldn’t be good for your health, sir.” “Your wife is being looked after and she’ll get the best treatment available.” Her polite way of hospitality wowed me. She fed me some food and walked with me to meet my wife.
It was beautiful. The weather was serene, the people were friendly, and then there was my lady beside me. But, this wasn’t home. It was just like a home. “When is my son going to come? When are we leaving from here?”, I asked the girl. She smiled and said, “He’ll be here in an hour, sir.” I smiled back at how she chose not to answer my second question. “Could you leave us alone for a while, miss? I wish to get a little friendly with my wife”, I told her, and she left with a sweet grin from ear-to-ear.
“Do we know each other? It feels like we’ve spent a lifetime together, but there are no memories. You smell like happiness. You feel like home. Your presence is weird, but your absence pricks. Who are you?”, she spoke with utter unawareness of all the years we spent together. I said, “Let me sit close to you, maybe then you’ll remember who I am. Let me be with you for a while, maybe then you’ll start loving the weirdness. Let me hold your hand while you enjoy the swing, maybe then you’ll not want to move away from me.” She smiled, and I felt like I had won the battle. We sat there all afternoon holding each other’s hands without uttering a single word.
The blue dupatta girl walked towards us with a man, flaunting a dapper look. His face looked familiar and his smile reminded me of my young days. His nose was as shiny as his mom’s and his eyes – they had a million memories of us. He sat with us and said, “How are you, pa? How is your leg, ma?” I waited for her to respond. She looked away as she genuinely didn’t remember who he was. And, I looked away, too, as I did not wish to remember who he was. He said he had come to take us home. He said he’d missed us in the past 6 months and that the house feels heartless without us. He wanted to take us back because his son needs his grandparents and, apparently, it wasn’t good for us to be away from our family. I said nothing and simply heard him say all that wanted to. I wanted to see how he made efforts to convince us. He had done a good job but all I had learnt while growing my hair gray was that love never comes so easy. It often takes a lifetime to bloom into a beautiful flower.
All I could say was, “Son, before you didn’t have place for us in the house. Think about it! How will you make place for us now? We also have about 20 sweaters with us, and a baggage of anger and disappointment. You won’t be able to afford us anymore. And, moreover, we just found a home within each other. This old age home looks perfect for someone of an age as old as ours.”
I didn’t look back to see if he still stood there or no. I had a home to look after now. I was a winner of that smile of hers. I couldn’t let that down by handing her back in the hands that were not strong enough to hold the grip. I looked around for a little bit of home, and then I found her back.