‘Papa, where are you going in this rain? It is late in the day, and the rain is falling ever so lightly. The path leading to the main road is slippery.’ Words tumbled out of her like hopscotch as she pulled her red scarf around her neck. That scarf was given to her on her 21st birthday by her mother.
Papa’s eyes clouded over. His grey eyes became ash. For a second, Rini averted her eyes. His few tufts of white hair on a fast-balding head, stood out as if in a protest at her words. His shrivelled hand, with its deep purple veins, clutched the handle of the main door. With a deftness of touch, which she had forgotten that he possessed, he let go of the handle and was outside.
Rini could see his back. He was wearing a grey overcoat, which was a gift from her mother. It was his favourite piece of clothing. Thankfully, he was wearing his blue gloves and was carrying his cream-coloured muffler. Winter had arrived early this year. She did not need to read newspapers or watch Television to remind her of this. Ever since her mother died, she felt as if a gale of winds surrounded her. Thoughts came to her unbidden, her mother’s lifeless body, her body covered with a white shroud. That white shroud now covered her heart with its deep, sucking tentacles. She was a late child born to her parents when both were in their forties. She was a gift and a prayer for her parents. “Aankhon ki thandak” they used to call her though she preferred the more mundane ‘Apple of my eyes’ phrase.
‘Papa!’ she opened the door and waited for some time to follow him. Her eyes fell on the green, praying mantis, which was clinging to the brown tendrils of the rose. She checked her watch. It was only five minutes since he left. She could see his faint outline slowly merging in the grey and black background. The rain had stopped. The leaves had few raindrops which looked like dewdrops. It glistened in the yellow street lights. The praying mantis had managed to find a spot under a brown, mouldy leaf; She had to squint to see it.
As she stepped in the driveway, the smell of earth snuggled up against her nose.’ Mitti ki khusboo’. Lately, she had learned that there was a word to it, ‘Petrichor,’ her father had informed her while reading the newspaper. She strolled and put her hands in her pocket. Her gloveless hands pushed the medical prescriptions and medicine strip away and managed to find a cosy spot to warm her hands. She walked on. Her eyes darted in every direction, zooming in and out.
The takeaway shops were still open in the neighbourhood. Lights shimmered and danced to the beats of the latest Bollywood songs. ‘What was that song playing?’ she couldn’t figure out. ‘When was the last time all three of them had seen a movie together?’ Amma, papa and herself were the quintessential movie buffs. Her mouth salivated at the faint smells of kebabs. Her stomach growled, making her aware of its existence. She realised she was hungry.
Just then, a tiny yellow and red door of a takeaway shop opened. Rini’s eyes widened to see her father ambling back. He had a white bag in his hand firmly. Only she could see the faint tremors of his hands, ever so lightly. She quickly retraced her steps to their home.
The doorbell rang. ‘Papa, where did you go in this rain? ‘Her father gave her the bag and pushed her gently into a black armchair. A faint aroma escaped from the pack. The voice of Arnab Goswami greeted her as her father shuffled to change the TV channels.
‘Let us watch a movie tonight. What say, Rini? I got us chicken tikkas that you love so much. Amma used to make it so well. Happy birthday Rini.’ The spectacles that Rini wore threatened to Fogg over, the smell of chicken tikka embraced her. She smiled. She and Papa sat down to watch ‘It’s a beautiful life.’ Her body curved ever so gently into the arc of the armchair.