Shubhadra had always found the summers strange. It seemed to change everyone around her. Her father left for his office before his usual fixed time, and her mother together with her grandmother finished their morning chores by 9 A.M. and that gave them all the more time to monitor her actions and point out all that was wrong with the way she did things and how she would have troubles when she’d be married.
The sun arrived at work before time, was always hot, and stayed up till late. She abhorred the loo, a Hindi word for the gusts of hot wind that blew throughout the days, that prevented her from going out of the house during the vacations. Summer transformed everything — melted things down and forced them to take a new form. Her mother’s face cream, her grandmother’s coconut oil, and her patience.
She liked the winters better when the sun acted as a balm to people’s maladies, so soothing it was to find a sun tucked up in the sky in the winters, its rays touching her swarthy hands, and when no one was around, she, held her top by the collar and made way for the lights to enter her and touch her undeveloped breasts, as if she was trying to breastfeed the rays.
But the summers meant that the desert coolers in the house would have to be cleaned afresh. All through the day, the Desert cooler mounted just outside the window of the hall room hummed, producing more sound than air, but she liked its smell. She would go in front of the desert cooler and speak into it, and a modulated voice came back to her, like an unrecognizable person talking from the cooler’s within. Coolers were everywhere, a short walk across the lane would reveal a series of desert coolers in front of each house, like an orchestra — some sounding like a choked throat while some bustling with energy. They all hummed in harmony and whenever there was a power cut, everything around her turned silent, just the way her class went silent when their principal suddenly entered their class.
A slit in the window gathered the sunlight from outside and focused it at Shubhadra’s feet. Discomforted, she curled up her legs, her knees now reaching her breasts. ‘Damn’, she cursed the heat and slumbered again.
Her phone rang. It must be Manohar.
She scanned the bed as if swimming with one hand, and located her mobile.
“Still sleeping Shubhu?”
“Good morning” she replied and then brought her phone to her face.
She knew what was about to follow. Is there anything sadder than the relationships becoming routines?
“How will you ever help our children to school when you can’t get up early, Shubhu?”
“I am in no mood for children Manohar. Especially not this early” she said jerking her head frantically as if by doing so, he’d understand. But have men, other than when they wanted something, ever understood women? After those jerks, she sat on the bed, her hair scattered all across her face, making her look like an old wall with cracks on its surface, like thin branches emanating out of an inverted tree. “Would running away from him help me?” she was constantly thinking about leaving him. But isn’t a tree fated to satiate and stay rooted in the same place?
Lately, their mornings began with the same conversation. He’d allude about having a baby in different ways, sometimes by asking her about if it was the right time for them to start a family, at others by telling her that it feels too lonely these days as if something important is missing from his life. It is always easy in the beginning, she thinks, when she would, by a few gestures, goad him into sex, and they used to have sex, till he was tired. And by the time he came, he used to forget all about the children. But lately, he seemed to have sensed her trick. At the end of such conversations, he always kissed her on her temple, asked her to brush her teeth, sniffed her t-shirt, passed it on to her, and made his way to the kitchen to get her the breakfast.
He always sniffed her T-Shirt.
“Who sniffs clothes like that?” she had begun to rebuke him for all the things that once, under the trance of love and sex had seemed acceptable.
“Why, I love the way your clothes smell in the mornings”. The same reply, the same tone, the same conversation. Is this why some people resort to other people at some point in their relationships?
Manohar returned with the breakfast and found her standing in front of a mirror. She was holding her breasts through her t-shirt, lifting the left one up and then the right as if measuring if both were being pulled down by the equal amount of gravitational pull.
“I love them. They are perfect.” she heard him speaking from behind, but she didn’t smile. He was carrying the tray with bread, jam, and milk. She liked bread with butter, and preferred tea over milk in the mornings, but then the breakfast was just as much a compromise between them as were their discussions around having a child. In a sense, the breakfast was Manohar’s way of telling her that she couldn’t have everything her way, and her acceptance of that was just the same.
She is in their house. She scans the house, each thing in it placed just as she had wished them to be. Even the play-station, which Manohar had wanted to be in the hall room, was shelved somewhere in the spare room. She though how he had always relented to everything and settled down with her ways.
Daily, after he leaves for the office, she brews herself some tea, turns the desert cooler on, and begins to read a book. Today, she pauses between the pages and stares at the wall.
A picture of Manohar.
Her favorite picture of him, clicked when he was driving, taking her to one of the many places that they had traveled together. It seemed so distant an event in the past when the two of them had taken a break for themselves. She keeps the book aside and detaches the picture from the wall. She cleans the dust off it by the hem of her Kurta. She hangs the picture back and resumes with her reading.
She reads for a couple of hours. Tired, she makes her way to the kitchen and thinks to treat Manohar by cooking his favorite Daal.
The picture linked with the story has been downloaded from here…