Arvind arrived to a cacophony of kids and things strewn all around the floor and his first reaction was that Veena was unwell. Usually his entry would be to Veen screaming at the kids but atleast the house would be neat. And so he went to the kitchen to find her stirring something but he could make out that mentally she was far far away. Hmmmm; something must have happened in the school today, he thought and proceeded tp brighten her up.
‘So how was Mrs. Reddy’s visit today’ The Reddy were building a factory and a colony in their small town. Mrs.Reddy was supposed to visit the school in which Veena taught.
‘Oh, you came, I didn’t notice. Yes, she came.’
‘So could you speak to her’
‘Yes, in fact she spotted me and spoke to me’
‘Really thats great.’
‘Nothing great, we were classmates in school’
‘Really, oh so you are on a nostalgia trip’, remarked Arvind.
Nostalgia. my foot, she thought. How can I make this man understand that once we were equals and now she is a socialite, an industrialists wife and me a teacher in primary school; a professor’s wife; not having decent clothes and neither a house to call of my own.
Arvind was a professor in the University and although pay was good now but the idealist that he was, he sponsored some deserving students who could not afford their tuition fees. Also there was always this cousin who had to be married of or the child who wanted some books. What about us? she thought will they support us if we are in need, she always asked. But he always said that he could not have peace of mind if he did not help those who needed it. And so we remain ‘paupers’ she thought.
‘Hey ‘ Arvind snapped his fingers, ‘where are you, you haven’t been listening to what I have been saying’
‘Uhh, she that is Aditi Reddy will be visiting us this Saturday’.
‘Is it? But I have to take special classes that day. But its ok, You have a nice time. If you want send the kids to Didi’s place, then you can relax and have a nice chat.’
‘No its Ok, Didi has to attend some function that day, it’s really alright I will manage.’
‘Are you sure?’
Their two kids- a boy and a girl could be real monsters on Saturdays. It would be as if they were freed from a cage. Sundays they would be subdued as they had to finish their homework.
And so with three days left, Veena cleaned and shined and droned about bein neat and clean and having good manners to the kids.
And so on Saturday Aditi arrived in a shiny big car with a big bouquet and a box of chocolates. Veenas lectures had borne fruit and the kids were nice and charming, they drooled over the chocolates but did not attack it. For once their nails were clean and their dresses spotless.
They reminisced on past memories while the kids noiselessly played ‘Monopoly’. Then Aditi remarked’, Veena you were used to living in big houses, don’t you find this house claustrophobic.’
‘This house is small but very convenient and compact. Both my school and the university are in walking distance. Thus we save on time and money’, she said and bit her tongue, come let’s have some tea. She made some tea and served it with some pastries and some fritters.
‘Oh I will just have some tea Veena, pastries and fritters are sooo high calorie food, she remarked. It takes me 2 hours in the gym later on to burn those calories.’
Try doing some chores at home and see the calories burn she wanted to say but kept mum.
Her son meanwhile was giving charming smiles and was trying to impress the ‘lady’. And Veena could hear alarm bells. He loved pastries but it would mean the sofa, his dress and his face all covered up icing.
‘Sonny see I have made some gobi parathas, go and have them.’
Sonny could sense that his mother did not want him to eat the cake and so he quietly went to the kitchen.
‘Gobi parathas, O I absolutely love them, can I have one,’ said Aditi
She left after some time praising her parathas and how she was tasting such authentic stuff after so long, as her cook did not cook so well. She also asked whether she should train her cook at which Veena politely declined.
The car had just turned the corner when the kids attacked the pastries and the chocolates and her handwork of 3 days was put to dust.
At night she tossed and turned and tried to sleep but could not. What fate, she thought, It was she who used to tutor Aditi in school so that she could just pass and look today, she was rolling in millions. She did not have to worry about budgets or training kids or worry about rising costs. Years before she had decided to marry Arvind because of his high values and even though he belonged to a different community, her parents had agreed because of his qualities. So had she done a mistake? she thought.
She woke to a silent home and a note by her side.
‘Veena you were tossing and turning till very late so I did not wake you up. I have made breakfast, fed and bathed the kids. And now am taking them to the Zoo. You relax and then join us for lunch at he college canteen. It seems there is a feast there today’.
Tears welled up her eyes, what was important anyways – a life of materialistic gains or a loving family. Some people may have both but she was happy with the latter.