Prize Winning Entry in British Airways’ ‘Go Further to get Closer’ contest
The view outside her window was magnificent. Snow came down silently, glittering in the light of the streetlamp. Inside, a rich aroma rose from the dinner table and she could hear her husband urgently fidgeting around.
“What are you up to?” she enquired, giggling as he dropped one filled glass after the other, the water pouring out unabashed. “Butter fingers you’ve always had!”
“Don’t rub it in.” His face dropped comically as he mopped the floor and washed his hands. “Let’s dig into my delicious dinner fare. At least I hope it’s delicious.”
She laughed and ruffled his hair. He had always been a good cook, a huge point in his favour when they were still in the lets-persuade-our-parents phase. While her Dad had said ho and hum, secretly very pleased, her Mom had been more vocal and openly proclaimed how a son-in-law who could cook had always been her dream. They had got married one fine winter night, snowless of course, as it always was in Delhi. The stars overhead had nodded in delight, the house she had grown up in decked up in lights bright enough to be stars.
Her husband had grown to like Delhi as well, the big foodie that he was. On weekends, they would dig into the city’s several gastronomic delights: spicy panipuri, aloo ke paranthe and chicken biryani. That aside, her Mom would outdo herself each time they visited. Fresh flowers from the shop across the street, a table full of Bengali delicacies and the furry lions and tigers she had grown up with newly bathed and spring-cleaned.
“Did they shower in the washing machine, Mom?” her husband would remark, his face serious. “Are you sure they managed to condition their hair?”
“Oh, no sweat there. I had arranged for the best bathing accessories in town.” Mom would wink. She would tuck gift wrapped packets in their hands before they left, embellished with bright ribbons. Her packet would have an assortment of books – even titles she had casually slipped in conversation – while the contents of her husband’s packet varied. A beautiful violin in a velvet case continued to be his prized possession, right up there in his list of best birthday gifts.
“I am still not good enough to play that, you know.” He remarked as he caught her gazing at the violin, lost in thought. “But one day I will be. I will then play a tune just for her…maybe right out of her favourite Tagore collection.”
“She will love that. She always was partial towards you anyway.”
When they moved to London, several things changed. The flowers in their little balcony garden were now frost-resistant, the roads their window oversaw always neat. Christmas took on even more gusto than usual while Durga Puja became a splendid opportunity to meet other Indians in the vicinity. However, the more essential things remained much the same. The two of them continued their weekend food extravaganzas, sleeping in late on Sundays cuddled in the morning sunlight. Her Mom continued to send across gifts wrapped in bright ribbons, now by courier. She would share updates on the housecats through Skype and her husband would email violin recordings to her. “I am getting better, ain’t I?” “Of course you are.”
“How did Granny like my painting?” her daughter would demand over breakfast. “She loved it darling. She asked you to send her more.” The child would squeal in delight, claiming it was only Granny who appreciated the true worth of her art. Today, away in Australia with her husband, she continued to paint. Every now and then, her daughter’s work would be a part of art exhibitions, much to her Granny’s delight.
They had aged, she realized with a quick start. Her hair was more brittle than before; her husband had to be coaxed into his glass of milk. She stared at the moon, clouded over by the still falling snow and wondered what Mom would be up to. Possibly, she would be busy arranging the wardrobe and dusting the shelves, organization freak that she was.
She turned to switch off the bed light. On the side table, lay an envelope. Inside were two tickets to Delhi, her address scrawled alongside in pen. She stared open mouthed at her husband.
“I am growing older, I think. And though you don’t look it,” he entwined his hand in hers, “so are you. We could both do with some gifts and ribbons, don’t you think?” He paused as she looked at him in amazement. “Let’s go stay in Mom’s town.”
Entwining her hand in her husband’s, she smiled at Mom’s photo on the mantlepiece, garlanded in seasonal blooms. Much like the snow still glittering outside, her Mom smiled back. The room lit up in colours of splendour and love – never too far, forever close.
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