I took out one hand from under the quilt and checked the time on my mobile; *8oo hours it read. I jumped out and ran out but by then Avi had left. And then call it loneliness or my hormones acting up; I held the cushion and cried. Maybe it was middle age advancing upon me or something else; I was feeling very lonely nowadays.
I, Meera Mohanty am a photo journalist. Forever on the move with my camera for the last 10 years. I had met Avinash a marketing professional in new Delhi AIrport, fell in love and had got married seven years back. For those seven years we had lived together for maybe only two. Rest of the time we met via video calls and otherwise. Sometimes I felt I was wedded to Skype.
My work satisfied me both financially as well as my creativity. But something was missing. I looked at our home and tried to see through what was wrong. The room was big, airy, the furniture posh. Big windows that invited sunshine, everything was perfect, then what was wrong?
By ten I had manged to control my emotions and started on my work. Recently back from an assignment, I had lots of editing to do. The telephone rang just then.
‘Hi M.M its me Neha. Listen my father had a fall and I am going with him in the ambulance to the hospital. Chikku will be back from his nursery at about 11.15, can you please pick him up and look after him till I return. Please don’t say no. I don’t have any other option, his regular baby sitter is down with flu. Please…..’, and the line was disconnected.
I sat down in shock. Am I equipped enough for a child in the house? Chikku is not the bratty types but will I be able to handle it? And then I ran to look if I had any biscuits/chips in the house. By the time I shopped and got what all I thought was necessary it was time for Chikku to arrive.
The bus attendant did not know me and was not ready to leave Chikku in my care. A hurried call to Neha resolved the matter and then we proceeded home. I gave him some juice and chips switched on the TV, put some cartoon and got busy with my work.
‘Yes, do you want more chips?’
‘No. Will nana die like papa?’
My heart melted when I heard this question. Chikkus father had died about a year back.
I went and sat near him and said, ‘No dear he has had a fall and now the Doctors are trying to put the bones of his leg right.’ I did not know how to explain in a better way to a four-year old.
‘Then he will play with me like he used to?’
I hoped that he would at least he would for Chikku’s sake and I nodded a yes.
After some time, he was feeling sleepy but he said,’M.M. don’t you eat in the afternoon, I am hungry’
‘But you just had chips…’
‘But that is not khana’
I was in a quandary. I either ordered a deli or just had a sandwich.’Shall I order a pizza’, I thought that he would jump at this suggestion.
‘Mamma says that it is junk food.’
‘So what do you want to eat?’
‘mmm, Some parathas with aloo sabji’.
I managed to make some aloo sabji and parathas. But when I served him, he said,’M.M, you don’t know to cook,do you?’
‘I know to cook but why do you ask?’
‘None of the parathas are same….One is square, one is alien….’
I looked at the one he called alien and alien it was. It could not be classified into square or circle or any other shape.
‘I will have the alien, you have the square’, I said in exasperation.
And when he wanted to take a nap, he wanted to hold my hand and sleep. Maybe he was insecure but I liked it. Somehow it made me feel secure too. And memories of younger days came flooding by. Of a close-knit family, of siblings, of cherished moments and my eyes filled over. And I picked my mobile and spoke to my sis. It was an emotional call, some five years back we had stopped talking over some misunderstanding but today we wiped away those distances.
I abandoned all thoughts of finishing my work and just spent time with Chikku. evening we went to play in the park and then to homework and story time. He taught me to cook, I taught him to Paint on the comp. It was late when Neha arrived and Chikku had already slept.
‘It is ok, Neha, let him sleep here today’
‘But your work?’, she asked with surprise in her voice and eyes.
‘It is ok, let him be with me’
Neha explained that her brother would arrive the next morning and after that she would be free.
‘Its alright take as much time as you want’
Two days of learning, two days of self discovery.
And when Neha took Chikku away she did not know whom to console, him or me.
I had not wanted a baby, the nine months of carrying a baby in the womb, caring for the baby, the responsibility, all were not worth it, I had thought. Was I ready for it, I did not know, yet.
But yes I knew what I wanted. I wanted to make this house a home. Avi would be returning next morning. We had to be a family and not just living in the same house. It was love, caring and sharing that was missing in this house and it had taken a four-year old to teach me that. Silly me, indeed.