Monday, 5 March 2007


Tangential foray into fictional stuff again

It was the four of them together, their heads low, laughing at something, laughing boisterously, the smoke curling from their cigarettes in unison, like a cloud of mutual admiration and love. She watched from behind the curtain at the door, the curtain waving gently in the breeze, her hands steady on the tray, balancing the four china cups of coffee with determination. Wistfully, she wished she could join them in their laughter, unknowingly she took a step forward, into the wide, open verandah where they sat, and smoked and laughed.

The minute she entered their line of vision and saw their happy smiling mouths, her apprehensions and jealousies vanished, and she turned hostess. Handing over the coffee, steaming, placing the extra sugar deftly on the center table, confident that the coffee would be appreciated with deep aaaaahs. As it was, at the first sip, again as one, the four men closed their eyes and said ‘aaah. Wonderful coffee’ ‘Yes yes’ ‘As always’ ‘but I think you have done even better than usual today.’

It was with a satisfied sadness that they both, shoulder to shoulder, husband and wife, stood at the gate and waved them good bye. The men trooped out, their laughter carrying them forward. They walked to the end of the road and then parted ways, each heading sort of reluctantly towards their respective homes. Still the couple watched them, finally when not even the glistening oiled back of hair of the last person could be seen, they walked back into their home, the air still around them, the house eerily quiet in the immediate aftermath.

She bustled about clearing the tray and cups. He sat down, not even making the effort to help out in the activity. In their years of marriage that was one thing they had figured out, it was better all around when he did not try to help. The first time, a cup had smashed to pieces, the second time the glass, and the third time led to a bit of a fight as he had been careless in the washing. After that they both wordlessly agreed that there were some things that he best leaves alone, like anything to do with the kitchen, the house, the children, in fact, pretty much everything other than the scooter and his office stuff. His wife handled with unending energy and efficiency every other aspect of their lives.

His thoughts flitted back and forth over all these things. His friends, three of them, carried over from his college days. All of them in the same profession of teaching. But teaching different subjects and in different colleges. Between them they covered Chemistry, Mathematics, Physics and English. The lines between the subjects blurred in their discussions, there was a pleasing unity, and a focus on the teaching part of the exercise which is what interested him the most.

She came into the open verandah now, wiping her hands on a towel hung from her waist, and held in by her sari. He briefly toyed with the idea of giving her a brief summary of their most interesting discussion, about the University examinations, which they had merrily dissected and dismissed, but he could not muster the energy and so retreated back to his thoughts.

She thought briefly, joyously, that now, today, he would include her in their midst, and have a discussion with her. Her mind sifted through the clever and intelligent comments about examinations that she would make, her own independent opinions, although she had overheard what they had been saying. A brief smile spread on her lips and eyes, but as she saw his face close up again, she pursed her lips back, and said, ‘the children will be here soon, let me go in and make dinner.’

Stay, stay here a while, lets talk, he wanted to say. But he let it pass a few minutes, and then the silence was a bit too long and it was awkward to say it so he kept quiet and watched her as she stood up, her feet flat and her look determined as she flicked open the door curtain and entered the dark house.

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