I disliked and liked Mrs. Gupta at the same time. Disliked because she was such an interfering pest, she always knew what was happening at the neighbours. On the other hand she was such an angel too, would love to share her special dishes with us
At that moment I was fixing up her TV channels. As usual Mrs. Gupta had fiddled with her TV remote and had upset the settings. Children being in India for their studies and Hubby busy at work, she did the next best alternative; called me to help her out.
‘Whenever I feel like’, I replied a bit sharply, ‘I like freshly washed and ironed linen.’
My tone must have been too sharp and so she kept quiet for sometime, rubbing her knees, her arthritic knees pained her and she kept on rubbing them always.
‘Would you like some coffee and some chocolate cake, baked one today for Harsha’s birthday’, she asked. Harsha was another of our neighbours.
I nodded a yes. Whatever faults Mrs. Gupta had, fact was that she was an excellent cook. Be it someones birthday or if someone was sick it was Mrs. Gupta who came to the rescue with her yummy preparations.
She got up holding a hand to her knee and hobbled towards the kitchen.
The climate here did not suit her, the winter cold or the summer A/C air, it always was disagreeable to her.
Her husband always mentioned how he had asked her to stay with the kids in Pune but she had refused saying that she had married him and would stay with him till her last breathe. He often recounted this in pride and I always wanted to retort with what happens if you die first but My husbands raised eyebrows and killer expressions always shut me up.
She returned with the coffee and the cake, I noticed she held the cup which she always used to keep in the books cabinet and I nudged towards it but then, ‘No, no, take the other one, that’s mine’, she said. I was surprised. ‘You see that cup is a gift and I do not allow anyone to drink from that cup’, she explained.
She leaned back with the cup and let out a sigh and then said, ‘Want to know who gave the cup?’.
‘I nodded a yes and leaned towards her’, the writer in me is always looking out for stories.
‘After my 10th my father wanted me to study further, I would have gladly stayed at home and cooked but he said no, at least you have to be a graduate. And so I was packed out to the nearby town and hostel to further my education. I had studied in a Hindi medium school and to follow teachings in English was a big problem. And then Vivek came to the rescue.’
‘Vivek?’ I asked
‘Yes Vivek, our neighbour and my childhood companion’.
Ahh I thought ‘a childhood romance’. I loved romantic stories and settled down on the couch with my feet curled below me.
‘Vivek took permission from my hostel warden and would come to teach me English as well as the other subjects. He was doing his engineering those days and we would sit in the common room. I was comfortable being taught by him. His only demand was that I served him omelettes and tea.
‘Omelette? How could you make an omelet in a hostel room?’, I asked.
“We had kept a hot plate in our room, to make a occasional tea/ coffee/ omelet, stir fry; as such the hostel food was so bland…. And so I would make omelettes for him. Sometimes plain, sometimes stuffed.
I noticed that she had stopped rubbing her knees, her tone was animated, her eyes shone, yeah nostalgia had such an effect on everybody.
‘Stuffed’, I asked.
‘Yes, I would save some vegetable or meat from the curry they served for the meals and with that I would make an omelette for him. Sometimes a hostelmate would bring mushrooms from her farm and I would make an omelet with that. He would finish it off in a jiffy, and would ask-bas itna hi…(that’s all?). It was a pleasure watching him eat. He ate with his hands, cut a piece with three of his fingers and then put it in his mouth, close his eyes and chew.’
My stomach growled, it was a different matter that I had finished my lunch about 30 minutes back and just had coffee.
‘Then?’, I persisted.
After two years of college my father understood that it was futile to educate me further,’ she giggled, ‘and so he fixed up my marriage’.
I made a face at her,’I was hoping that he would woo you and your parents would refuse and so on’.
She smiled and said, ‘When my father started looking out for matches, Vivek came to meet me, he had just got his first pay check and so he came with the cup, gave it to me and proposed.’
‘Then…….’ I asked.
‘I knew him and his family too well. What fun if there is nothing new in your relationship, I knew his likes, his dislikes, his moods. There would be no fun. Whereas with Guptaji, each day is a discovery’
‘Guptaji knows about Vivek’, I asked.
‘No he doesn’t.
‘Then how did you explain about the cup.’
‘I told him it was a gift from a friend. He just assumed it was a female friend,’ she guffawed.
I never had a Mrs.Gupta as my neighbour. This is justa fictional story for Chalks and Chopsticks an even conceptualized by Aqua and hosted this month by Bongmom. This time there is a photo prompt and this story is woven around the photo of the cup.