The room was silent. Even the faces of the occupants looked calm. The quiet of the house felt uneasy. Most of the times there is a calm before the storm but here it was calm after the storm. The lady of the house had passed away a few days back.
The daughter in-law took us inside where the man was seated on his chair near the balcony door. His walking stick was also there. He stood up with great difficulty and folded his hands with a smile to greet us. We settled down. I asked gently,”How it happened?” The young lady tried to answer and then the man took over. He started with a smile and said that after her surgery she became very weak, everybody thought that it was normal and she would recover after some time. One morning she asked him to take her to the hospital. Then he realised that something was wrong. With the help of the servant and a neighbour she was taken downstairs and he took the driver’s seat. At that point with a gentle smile on his face he told us that on that day he drove for the first time after so many years; else, because of his weak legs she never allowed him to drive. He told us that she was very smart and active and did all the work herself –be it bank related, or settling various bills like electricity bill ,water bill etc. as her only son lived in another city because of his work.
While going to hospital she talked to him one last time. She said, “Drive carefully and slowly, you are not in practice.” When they reached hospital she was taken inside but doctors could not save her.
While talking to us he kept the smile on his face. A smile can hide all the emotions – I realised on that day. We were served water to drink. Before the awkward silence prevailed again, he smiled and once again started sharing the beautiful memories of his wife with us.
He fondly remembered how talented she was, a great singer, dancer and equally expert at household chores. In her early years as a house wife she got a job offer as a teacher from a reputed school in the city. He never wanted her to work. But his father convinced him to allow her to do it. And how beautifully she handled both work and home!!
All through this he kept on looking at us, we could feel various emotions in his voice. Sometimes love, sometimes pride but above all, the sense of loss.
He told us that from the last few years he was totally dependent on her, because of his various health issues. She never allowed him to do anything neither inside home nor outside it. He looked at the empty wall while telling us that for the last twenty years they never went to watch a movie and never had a meal outside, in restaurants. They never felt a need to do so. She loved cooking for him and he loved everything she cooked for him.
She was very caring. During his last days his father was bed ridden. She took full charge of looking after him, from feeding him to changing his diapers. He specially mentioned one incident with great pride in his voice that one night in December, the heavy blanket which his father was using got soiled. She woke up, cleaned the old man and then asked him to sit beside his father. Then she washed the heavy blanket alone and during those cold hours she took it single-handedly upstairs on the roof top to spread it there. That is how she was!!
He lovingly told us that she was the cultural head of the registered group of his community there. A few days back before her surgery she was preparing kids for the upcoming events. Nobody could have imagined that soon she would be gone.
All through this he managed to appear composed. I was relieved that we didn’t have to handle the raw emotions.
When it was time to leave, he again tried to stand up with folded hands to see us off. We asked him to be seated and started exiting the room. At that time I felt like turning back once again… I saw him wiping his tears. All the emotions which he was trying hard to hide finally came out through his eyes. For the first time I felt his loss, his longing and the fresh void which destiny has created in his life. All of us stood there speechless. His daughter in-law gave him a glass of water. Through his teary eyes he gestured that he is alright. With moist eyes and heavy heart we took leave.