Sunday, 1:00 p.m. Rajan residence
“What’s for lunch today, Sudha?” asked Ramesh as he walked into the kitchen. “Vishnu special today,” said Sudha beaming. “Oh, vengaya (small onion) sambhar and aloo fry is it?’ Ramesh said. “Appalam also,” Sudha said, as she carried the plates into the dining room. Sudha and Ramesh sat down to enjoy their Sunday meal. “Taste is first class, Sudha. This sambhar will be even better at night with all the spices soaked in nicely. make some nice idlis for dinner, maybe,” Ramesh said. “What is this, you have not even washed your hands after lunch and you are already thinking about what you want for dinner,” said Sudha mockingly.
“This is the benefit of being a retired man,” he said smiling. It had been 7 months since Ramesh had retired from his 42 years of service at the Bank and he was now thoroughly enjoying this phase of being at home with his wife. He missed his son but that was a different thing. “So, will you make the idlis?” he asked while drying his hands. “ Now my hands are dry, see,” he said holding up his hands for Sudha to see.
Sunday 7.30 p.m. Rajan residence
Tring Tring Tring Tring Tring Tring
“Can you please answer the phone, my hands are full of mauv (batter),”Sudha called out from the kitchen. Tring Tring Tring Tring Tring Tring “Ramesh, where are you? Please can you answer the phone,” Sudha shouted a little louder this time. She didn’t hear Ramesh coming so went out to the hall to pick up the phone. It stopped by the time she got to it, and just as she turned around she saw Ramesh coming down the stairs. “Where were you? The phone was ringing and I was calling out to you,” she said. “Oh, I didn’t hear you. I was in Vishnu’s room,” he said. “What were you doing there?” Sudha asked. “Oh, nothing. I was just looking for some book to read,” Ramesh said. “Who called?” he asked and sat down in the hall. “Where is the book?” Sudha asked, noticing that there was no book in Ramesh’s hand. “Hmm, I didn’t find anything. Who called?” he asked again. “I don’t know. By the time I got here, the phone stopped,” she said and walked back into the kitchen.
Sudha knew Ramesh wasn’t in Vishnu’s room looking for any book, he was there looking at the pictures on the wall. Since his retirement he had started missing Vishnu a great deal more.His absence was more starkly felt by Ramesh and he often found it difficult to cope with it.
Ramesh enjoyed his dinner. The idlis were soft and the sambhar had soaked in all the flavour and was just right. “Vishnu would have thoroughly enjoyed this meal, Sudha. You should make it exactly like this when he is here in June,” he said. “Ofcourse I will,” Sudha said and smiled at Ramesh.
Monday 9.00 a.m. I.O.G Bank
Since his retirement, visiting this bank on Monday morning had become a habit for Ramesh. He would be there promptly at 9.00 to withdraw some cash, get his passbook updated, have a cup of tea with the bank manager, and buy some elaneer (coconut water) for Sudha and himself on his way back.
“How are you,Ramesh sir? Last week the Rangarajan made that rate cut and our life here became too miserable sir. All these people sitting in Delhi making these decisions, no concern or touch with reality only,” the bank manager rambled on. “Yes yes Seshan, I have been following that news. It must have been a bad week for you,” said Ramesh indulging Seshan in conversation. Two cups of tea and 40 minutes later, Ramesh got up to leave his room.
“How is our boy,Vishnu?” Seshan asked, knowing how happy it made Ramesh to talk about him. “Oh, all well, Seshan. All well. He will be here in June. Looking forward to that now. Infact Sudha has started a countdown, 37 days to his arrival,” he said as he walked towards the teller. “wonderful, wonderful. I will come home for a meal when Vishnu is here,” Seshan said as he picked up some files to look at.
Monday 5:45 p.m. Rajan residence
“We need to get the ac fixed in Vishnu’s room. Also, the plumbing needs some work, Ramesh. Will you be home tomorrow morning? Can I ask the workers to come?” Sudha asked as she handed Ramesh his kaapi. “I am home, ask them to come in the first half only. Then why don’t we go out for lunch? We can ask Sharma’s if they would like to join us too,” said Ramesh as he dunked his Digestive biscuit into the kappi. Sharma’s were the neighbours and one of the closest friends that the couple had for over two decades now.
Tuesday 6:45 a.m. Rajan residence
“Amma, how many days for chinna aiyah (chote saab) to come? I will come and do the aarathi myself when he comes, you must tell me beforehand,” said Sarasa, the milk lady. “Soon soon, I will call you only Sarasa. You must come and welcome him back home,” said Sudha cheerily. The entire colony was looking forward to Vishnu’s homecoming. He had been gone for far too long, and his thesis and paper submissions would finally be over soon.
Vishnu, Sudha and Ramesh’s son, was completing his Masters in Aerodynamics from a University in Germany and had been away from home for almost 4 years. He could have come home last summer but he had managed to get a summer job which he didn’t want to forgo then. “None of the other students have managed a job, amma. If I let go of this the I don’t know when something like this will come my way again,” he had said when he was speaking to Sudha. With a heavy heart they had understood and told him to make the most of this wonderful opportunity that was coming his way.
Wednesday 3:30 p.m. Rajan residence
Sudha and Ramesh were home watching a movie when Ramesh said, “We should go on a holiday when Vishnu comes home. Maybe, we can all go to Shimla or Darjeeling. What do you think?” “Lovely idea Ramesh,” Sudha said. “It’s been so long since we went on a holiday, we should plan a holiday,” saying this, she got up and walked towards the dining area to get her diary. “Vishnu gets here on 7th, he will need a week or ten days to settle down into some sort of routine and that jet lag to wear off. So maybe we can plan something for around the 20th?” Sudha asked Ramesh.
They spent the afternoon and a blissful evening planning their holiday in the hills. They were looking forward to going away with Vishnu and spending time as a family, something that they sorely missed. Ramesh while in service hadn’t been able to spend much time with Vishnu and now that he had the time, Vishnu was busy making his career. Such was the irony of life.
Thursday 8:00 p.m. Sharma residence
The Sharma’s had invited the Rajan’s over for dinner. Sudha and Mrs. Sharma were busy discussing problems of a new house-help and the men were mulling over which scotch to open up for the evening. “We are planning to go to Shimla or Darjeeling once Vishnu gets here. We will talk to him about it when he calls us tomorrow,” Ramesh said to Sharma. Vishnu called home every Friday at 8:00 p.m. Whether there was much to say or not that call was made every Friday without fail. Sudha and Ramesh eagerly looked forward to it. They would wrap up all their work early on Friday’s and wait by the phone.
“Badhiya, hum bhi chalte hai,” said Sharma. Mrs. Sharma who knew how important this holiday was to the Rajan’s quickly nudged her husband and reminded him of the ‘commitment’ they already had for that period. Having been married for far too long, Mr. Sharma knew that nudge only too well. “Oh yes yes. Hum tho uss time busy hai. Koi nai.” Dinner as always was a sumptuous affair, three kinds of seasonal vegetables, a dal, hot phulkas, chutneys and pickles, raita, and always something sweet to finish off the meal. The Rajans returned home completely satiated, like they always did from the Sharma’s residence.
Friday 9.00 a.m. Rajan residence
“Sudha, Sudha. Where are you? Can you come here,” Ramesh was shouting away. Sudha rushed out of the bath in complete panic. “What happened? Are you okay?” she asked. Without looking up from what he was writing he said, “ what all do we have to tell Vishnu?” In order to ensure that they did not miss anything important Ramesh and Sudha made a list of all the things that had to tell Vishnu. When he called they would use that list to remember everything. “Is that why you were screaming like you were dying?” Sudha asked anger.
“Oh oh, you are angry,” Ramesh said, looking at her. “Ofcourse I am. Look at me, I ran out of my bath with a towel wrapped around myself and you ask me what we have to tell Vishnu when he calls,” she said. “I didn’t realise Sudha. I did not want us to forget anything,” Ramesh said. “Do we ever, Ramesh?” Sudha said, still angry.
One good thing with Sudha’s anger was, it subsided as fast as it went up. She was fine soon after her outburst but Ramesh kept apologising for being insensitive towards her. By lunch time the Rajan’s were fine again and back to the list of what all Vishnu had to be told.
- Property tax for property in Belur to be paid
- E-mail greeting to be sent for Kumar mama’s 60th birthday
- Street dog Rambo vanished
- Bank Clerk Muthu’s son cleared 10th
All work done, Sudha and Ramesh settle down by the phone, waiting. 8:00 p.m. the phone rings. “Hi Amma, Hi Appa. How are both of you?” drawled Vishnu. “We are fine, Vishnu. How are you? Did you just wake up?”asked Sudha, concern laced in every syllable. “No, no, I have been up for a while now,” he continued in the same way. Ramesh took the receiver from Sudha and started telling Vishnu about everything he had jotted down. Vishnu must have been nodding from the other end because it was Ramesh who was doing all the talking for a while. When the last item on the list came up for discussion, Ramesh handed the receiver to Sudha.
“Vishnu,” Sudha began. “Yes, amma,” Vishnu said. “What is it?” “ Appa and me were thinking that we could all go on a holiday when you come here in June. It has been so long since we all went anywhere and it will be be the best time to go to the hills. Infact appa’s bank friend Rishi uncle has a tea plantation in Darjeeling, so we thought that we could go spend some time there,” Sudha said excitedly. There was silence for a few seconds. “Hello, Vishnu, are you there?” Sudha asked. “Yes, amma. I am. “What do you think? We can book the tickets once you give us your dates,” she continued.
“Amma,” Vishnu began. “That’s the thing.” “What’s the thing, Vishnu,” Sudha asked. “ I won’t be able to make it this summer, amma,” he said. Ramesh saw Sudha’s face fall and knew exactly what her son had said to her. “My professor here has offered me this absolutely stellar offer that I cannot refuse amma. It is a once in a lifetime opportunity amma. If I manage to clinch this, then I’m set,” he continued, not realising how he’d just crushed his parents dreams, yet another summer.
Ramesh quietly moved towards Sudha, sat beside her, took her hands in his and just held it. “We have each other, he mouthed to Sudha. “We will always have each other.”