Thursday, April 30, 2015

Aisha #6

‘Closed until further notice,’ the sign on the inn's door read, and when she went in, she saw Anand sitting in a chair with profound distress in his face, too sad to cry out loud. His tears got dried up. She couldn’t have gone to him at a better time. She put her hand on his shoulder, “Anand, what happened?”

“Aisha, my grandmother died,” he said still with a vacant expression, he continued, “We never realize the value of the people until we lose them. It never occurred to me my granny is the only one who gives me a little history and credibility to my presence. Now I’m an orphan. I’ve no one to claim my own now. No relatives, no parents. I’m an orphan Aisha, an orphan.”

“Why do you say that, Anand? I’m here for you. I’ll always be here for you. We’ll make a history of our own. We’ll have children and grandchildren. Their life partners and their relatives will become our relatives and our people. We’ll make a history for ourselves.”

As she finished saying it, he hugged her, hugged her tight as if she might disappear otherwise. While she patted him on the back of his shoulder, he cried, laying his head in the safety of her neck and shoulders. While she was comforting him, a part of her mind couldn’t help but think about the quote on her last card, which she still didn’t add to her collection yet.

It had been a month since she came to Keylong and she became busy consoling him that she forgot her own despair. What she wanted was not sympathy, but love. And love she got from Anand. Broken though he was, he tried to make her stay as comfortable as possible. He brought food from outside for both of them and bought her clothes as he noticed she didn’t bring many, made changes to the house to suit them. He asked her to sleep in his room while he slept in a newly vacated store room. But as his leave came to an end, she started feeling lonelier. Part of her wanted to tell him of her own pain and loss, but he seemed too fragile, moreover, his wound was fresher than her own, and technically he lost all of his family, unlike her, who still had some relations, although they don’t mean anything to her anymore. She needed some vocation to engage her mind, so she convinced him that they should restart the inn, she assured him she can handle it. She learned to derive pleasure from the happy faces and families in tourists.
Two months after she came to Anand, one night, just before sleep time Anand asked Aisha if she can make some tea. Not the tea from the inn, but homemade tea. It was a weird time for a tea, yet she went to the kitchen, to make some. As she opened the tea box there was a slip in it, which said, ‘Please switch on the tape-recorder’. 

It was funny. Passing notes like kids. She went into the hall and switched on the tape recorder. After some static, there came out a noisy voice which was unmistakably belonged to Anand, “Hi, I wanted to tell you this directly, but as you know I’m a shy person. So Will you marry me? There is an auspicious date next Sunday. If your answer is yes, come into my room. If your answer is no,” there was a long pause, Aisha thought the tape ended, but the static was still there, “go and sleep in your room,” and there was a click, but it didn’t end yet, “Bhai, this tape is working, na?” and then the tape finally ended. She laughed. She put her hand on her mouth to stop laughing noisily. It’s been a while since she laughed.

She entered his room, but his bed was empty, and there was a sound behind her, the sound of an old rusty bolt falling in its place. He hugged her tightly from behind and kissed her hair and stood there breathing into her hair for what seemed like an eternity, and then turned her towards him, and was kissing her ardently. She was gasping for breath. “Wait, let me get the tea.” But he couldn’t wait. He lifted her feet off the ground and took her to the bed, while she giggled, not bothering to keep her sound low this time.


“Always junk food. Too many coffees, too many teas. Stopping every passing vendor,” Anand was scolding Aisha, fiercely, reprimanding her like never before, while covering her ears with his hands while she was vomiting into the sink near the train door. She washed her mouth and quickly left him and sat in front of  another woman, on a side lower seat, talking with her urgently, and nodding her head a lot, like agreeing upon the other woman’s views on character in a TV serial. Just as she finished talking, her eyes lit up, a radiant smile spreading over her face, like the rays of an early morning sun and she stopped the soan papdi vendor, in his railway-vendors uniform, to buy the sweet.

And just as she was stopping the soan papdi vendor, Anand ran to her and scolded in the same angry tone he has been, “Is the junk you’ve had till now not enough? It has already upset your stomach and you’ve been bent over vomiting for almost fifteen minutes, and yet you learn nothing, going for junk food again.”

The vendor looked indignant, and he straightened up to leave, but not heeding to Anand, Aisha gestured the vendor to stop and bought the sweet. She haphazardly tore the sweet packet spilling a large amount of soan papdi on the floor, but she was too excited to give that any notice. She took a handful of it from the pack and offered it to Anand, saying, “Eat it first, the sugar content will help you cool down,” she went on, “this much anger is not a good environment for our daughter to grow up,” and she went on to offer the sweet to the other woman and her husband.

“Me? Angry? You always take it negatively, always. I was just worried about your health. You’re retching like you’ve eaten some furry wool, and we’re in the middle of a train journey, we can’t even go to a doc--” and then suddenly it striked him, “Our daughter, do you mean--”

“Yes,” she replied, turning back to him again. The other woman and her husband came to congratulate them, with the hands full fibers of soan papdi they’ve just eaten. He was literally jumping with joy; he hugged his wife, and in his euphoria he hugged the other woman’s husband, and would have hugged the other woman if she didn’t shrink back in the last minute.

He offered the couple a meek apology, not even properly looking into their eyes and hugged his wife again, and didn’t leave her for a while.  It was silent except for the rhythmic and continuous of the din of train wheels over the rails.

Aisha extracted herself out of the hug to look into his eyes. He had happy tears in his eyes and though was not able to make any sound, his eyes spoke volumes. “Now that’s a girly thing to do. You’re doing what I should have done,” saying which she kissed him.

He finally found his voice, although it was still a little scratchy, “It’s not girlish, happy tears are universal. Now we’ll have a family. And, and, how are you sure it’s a girl?”

“I don’t know, I just feel it. And we will call her Anu.”

“You’ve always wanted a son,” he pointed out.

“I know, but I feel it’s going to be a baby girl.”

“Why the name Anu?” he asked, remembering it was the same name she asked him to write her the letters.

“You see my name and my boyfriend’s name both start with ‘A’ and I want the tradition to continue, you know, family custom,” she smirked.

“Your boyfriend?” he asked naughtily.

“You know, a dimwit called Anand,” and they laughed.

They are bursting with anticipation for the addition of another member of their ultra-tiny family, and their joy knew no limits. Both Anand Aisha used to travel a lot and were always sulking when they have to return back home, but now they just can’t wait to get back. They wanted to tell the good news to only other people who will be happy for them, their friendly neighbors, new couple Yuva and Shruthy, who were more like relatives to them.

As they got off the train in Delhi, they’ve decided to go home by bus, and before leaving, as was her norm, she went on to get that weight card, accompanied by Anand. There was a slight modification to the way it is done, after her marriage with Anand. As she was becoming more conscious of her weight, as soon as the machine spits out the weight card, Anand will grab it, and with the help of a pen or his nail, scratch or scrape the paper that shows weight, and once that layer of paper has been made obscure or obliterated, he then gives it Aisha, who would then read the quote, without having to worry about her weight, although as Anand said there was no need to, often remarking, “I think you’re becoming more ravishing as you become a little chubby, you used to be, um, a bit thinner for my liking.”

The quote that day said, ‘Remember to look at your glass half full and not half empty.’ After a long time she got a card which she didn’t like. Somehow the card seemed sinister, as if portending something bad. She looked at Anand, who was evidently in euphoria and was indulging to plan about how he will make a cozy nest for their daughter. She didn’t have the heart to say what she felt, besides it was just a weird feeling.

But secretly she was preparing to take on any calamity. She felt she can handle anything if only Anand was beside her. 

Anand’s excitement grew along with the size of Aisha’s belly. He even bought a Kodak camera to take a picture of his girl immediately after she comes out into this world.


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