Two men were sitting at the diner and having dinner.
A woman seated in a parked car watched them through the window for a while. She was furious with one of the diners, how dare he sit here leaving his mother alone? She waited a while before she got off the car and walked up to the men.
The restaurant was a quiet place the first of the chain of Carasid cafe’s, something of a cross between the Victorian teashops, and writers coffee clubs, there would be random housewives waiting for their kids to finish their various tuitions classes, some teenagers who bunked classes, a bachelor here and there for whom Carasid had opened up the diner. The diner was started for the perinea bachelors who would like to home like food without having to bother with a kitchen, or be relegated to the status of the old Nalwadi Dabba’s with their “doon poli, bhaaji, baat ani amti” in an aluminium “tiffin carrier.”
Dinner or lunch could was take away microwaveable there were some customers who ate there or at the cake shop in its open garden.
“hi, bhaiyya sorry was at a meeting when you called,”
“That’s okay, that’s why the message.”
“We’ll have dinner right here go down to the cake shop have some dessert go home.”
“Try the Rajma chawal, it’s just great.”
Subhadra picked up the Rajma chawal and gave it to the pretty girl at the counter who took it for warming
“can you give it us at the table?”
Subhadra joined the two men
“Oh! Wow, she refused to get it for me”
“I’m regular here bhaiyya, so she obliges me.”
Krish smiled at Subhadra, it had always been an issue with them that their parents named the four of them after the great Yadava’s of Mahabharata, Baladev, Krishnadev, satyadev and subhadra. Subhadra was like the surprise nature gave their family, a daughter
“whoa, you are the get one free, with a son” satyadev always teased her, they were twins. In the family it was Balu, krish and twins, they were never given the status of individuals, she remembered the day after her 12th results were out, it was assumed that both of them would go for medicine like the older brothers, but hell had broken loose when satya insisted that he wanted to do Pharmacy,
“Pharmacy when you can go for medicines” but he had stuck to his guns, pharmacy it was. The entire tension had scared subhadra so much that she didn’t want to broach the subject of choice. It was Krish with is quiet logic that convinced their parents that she should go for journalism if that was what excited her. Her parents had never really understood her stand or her choice it was a rocky truce.
Satya on the other had detached himself despite of his Phd and being part of the greatest ongoing research for cancer. Somewhere grudgingly their parents gave him a formal polite acceptance.
Now it was her marriage.
“What happened to your elderly woman?” Krish asked subhadra,
“Which elderly woman” Bhasker asked, Bhasker Krish’s dinner companion was their cousin, he was Baldev’s age but great friends with Krish. They were buddies through college and joined the family business where their parents were partners in addition to Bhasker’s mother being their aunt.
“The elderly woman at the end of my street. She is so alone and every time the postman goes by she is waiting for a letter, her phone never rings.”
“What about her family?”
“Well, husband left for another woman, her only son stays away, and daughter is married and very busy with her family. She drops in on ugadi and deepavali. She sits at the window and looks out, everytime the auto stops there is a look of anticipation then she looks disappointed. What my neighbour told me is she is waiting for the daughter.”
“what can you do about it?”
“I don’t know maybe send her a gift”
“hmm, what gift”
“A sari, a silk sari. With gold brocade.”
“Why a sari?”
“It could be sent either by a son or a husband. ,,”
“Why not the daughter?”Asked Bhasker. Subhadra was kind of pleased that Bhasker actually did make a conversation with her. Coming to think of it he did but she was tongue tied. In between there was a family rumour hinting a possible relationship between Krish and Bhasker, Subhadra was too young to understand the implication of the gossip. But when she did, it was anger against Bhasker, for stealing in on her brother.
“naaw, no daughter will gift a sari to an elderly mother, she will send her something more practical or give her a sari with a stitched blouse, and petticoat. ”\
By then dinner had come and the evening went one. It had now become a Saturday ritual for subhadra, Krish and Bhasker to meet up. Subhadra and Krish had adjacent flats in the same building once where the house they grew up in was. Baladev had given his flat on rent, so had satyadev. Their parents occupied one flat and two others were bought by other relatives. At the end of the day, entering the building was like entering a wado.
When Subhadra had decided to occupy her flat instead of renting it and staying with her parents till she got married everyone was scandalized. The fact that subhadra had booked the first flat had annoyed her parents no end, Krish had stood by her saying she was entitled to make an investment. That’s when the parents decided that each of kids would own a flat there. Krish had dropped the idea of buying a flat in the other end of the town. So had sathya and Baldev.
This time, Subhadra had reached the diner earlier, she brought in the black forest cake and French fries
Bhasker came in first, “whats the occasion?”
“Yes, for the French fries”
“Well, cousin, blood may be thicker than water, but it’s certainly not as thick as ketchup. Nor does it go as well with French fries.”
“Yes but why French fries?”
“Why not French fries?”
“Yeah, tell me why not French fries?” teased subhadra, she could not believe that she was actually teasing Bhasker the great.” The French, a people who have used their sophisticated culture and beautiful language to bequeath to the world the sliced potato. The panacea of illness.”
“That little potato” said Bhasker pointing at the plate of French fries, “symbolizes the reckless, consumerism that plagues America. To quote Francine Pascal from straight up”
“Okay so who is being reckless “asked Krish joining them, “French fries, what are we celebrating.”
“Haa you see Bhasker, my little sister here celebrates her joys and sorrows with French fries.”
“Okay I sent the sari. And this is what the maid reported.”
She accepted the parcel from the courier boy, opened it, with frown there was no name, of the sender on wrapper. She gazed at the sari and smiled.
She called her daughter up, to thank her for the gift, but the daughter said “I’m glad someone sent you a gift, but it was not me.”
She was a little surprised, and asked Maya the maid ”makka koun patal daadta? Who would send the sari to me?”She felt it, with a small smile, she picked up her husband’s photograph. The Photograph of her husband,
“makka dista saibaan daadley, my husband knew I like this peach colour and The Parsi brocade had always fascinated me even when we were in Bombay.” She sighed.
“early days of marriage, whenever he had to say sorry he would get me a gift, and usually it was a peach or a wood apple coloured sari.”
A little while later she wore the sari, it was peach Mysore silk with brocade on it. This time she picked up her son’s photograph. “When my son got his first salary he got me, a clear blue sari, he had told me that it was his favourite colour, for his favourite woman, maybe he is making time for me. Now that his wife has left him.” The next entire week she went about in anticipation of either her son or her husband visiting her.
“sigh no more, ladies, sigh no more, men were deceivers ever- one foot in sea and one on shore, to one thing constant never thus spoke swami, Shakespeare” declared Krish.
“You have created a false hope in her.”
“naa, sweetie, maybe you reopened an old wound, a disappointment a loneliness with she has made peace, your act to bring forward some major anger, resentment or heartache that she was trying to cope up with or overcome”
“Its okay sweetie, hey Bhasker will it be coffee, or tea?”
After coffee, as Krish and Subhadra left, Bhasker drove up the road behind them, passed them to the lonely lady’s house and knocked the door.
“Is that actually you or am I dreaming again?” the old woman asked her son.