Shiv prepared the coffee, poured it in a mug, set it on a tray and went to the bedroom to wake up his wife of 30 years. It was the first time in their married life that he was doing it and he felt very very proud.
‘Mekhala, Mekhala, wake up, see I have made coffee for you’, he called his wife. The mention of coffee and she woke up with a start. ‘Ramesh(the cook), is on leave today, so who made this ?’
‘Me’, Shiv said proudly.
Mekhala looked at his face, then picked up a mug and took a sip. Shiv meanwhile had already taken some sips and was marveling at the fact that he had not lost his touch. In his bachelor days, his friends used to say that no one made coffee like Shiv. Mekhala meanwhile was having trouble gulping the sip that she had taken.
‘Why Mekha, isn’t it good?’, he asked.
‘It is..but Shiv. ….I have had an aversion for coffee since I had been pregnant with Priya and have had not had it since.’
‘Really?’, Shiv said in amazement.
Mekhala looked on in guilt and then said,’ Shiv I am glad that you made this coffee but I really cannot have it’, and then watched Shiv walk away crestfallen.
Mekhala looked on. For 29 years of their marriage, Shiv had been too busy with his career. And though the management had wanted him to continue, had decided to retire at the age of 60 saying that he had worked enough. It had only been 2 days since he retired and Mekhala shuddered at what would happen next.
For 29 years he had concentrated on ‘his’ bank. Well that is what she and her children had called it-his bank. Though he had been at home in the late nights and weekends. He had been rarely with them mentally. Always busy with some report or the other, she had managed the home scene herself. Companionship, sharing, joint decisions…those had been only words for her, she had never experienced it herself. The kids had been her kids, never theirs. Even his sisters were closer to her than him. So after such a long time, how do I welcome this stranger back to my life, she thought.
Days went on. Shiv tried to be participative. He helped around the house until the houseboy came and told Mikhila that if he was not allowed to do things his way, he would gladly find employment someplace else. Somehow she pacified him. Shiv suddenly found that he was interested in gardening and started advising the gardener. Mikhila saw that he and the gardener were having an argument and came into the picture and saved the situation. And so on..
Priya their daughter married and settled in another city called up one day and asked, ‘How are you tolerating Dad. He is irritating me by calling at odd hours’
Matters went to a high when Arvind, their son was getting ready to go to a concert and his father asked what how could he go when it was audit session. Arvind, a CA got irritated and said, ‘Because Dad I am not like you. I believe in having a life and not being a slave of my job’
Mikhila shuddered. What Arvind had said was true. But she knew that it must have hurt Shiv a lot and worried how badly he would take it.
Some hours later after searching everywhere, she found Shiv in a nook in the garden. It was dark and damp and she worried that he may catch a cold.
She went and sat beside him. ‘Nobody needs me, isn’t it?’, he asked. She had always like him for the fact that he came pat on the subject without meandering here and there.
‘It is not that. But Shiv you have been so busy with yourself and your career that we are used to not having you around. Now suddenly you start getting interested and start interfering. Naturally anyone will be irritated’.
‘Including you’, he said and continued, ‘I had hoped to be a companion to you, to the kids but I suppose I was wrong. It would have been better if I had taken an extension’.
They spent some time in silence and then Mikhila said, ‘Why don’t we try to be friends. Unlearn what we know about each other and learn what we have become. Once that is done, you can try to be friends to the children.’
‘So you will not abandon me, will you?’, Shiv said with a smile.
‘Never. Remember the vows we took on Saptapadi. I know you are the same great person I married, it is only the outer layers that I have to explore’, she said with a twinkle in her eye and they got up holding hands hoping that better times would follow.