Mrs. Raichand sat on her bed, watching the daily saas- bahu serials she followed religiously, only because she had nothing else to do. Whatever was left on her scalp was tied into a thin braid that ended at the nape of her neck.
Her daughter, Radhika was in the kitchen, cooking breakfast for the both of them. The maid had arrived; she was dusting up the whole house. It seemed to need a lot more dusting these days, since summers had arrived and the stubborn dust refused to leave the house for once. It would just swirl around in the house, finding queer nooks and crevices to enter into, even people’s eyes and nose.
Radhika went to her mother’s bedroom and saw her lost somewhere, her glassy stare piercing a random spot on the wall while the TV was blaring annoyingly.
‘Maa, breakfast is ready. Come downstairs.’
‘I am not hungry,’ said Mrs. Raichand.
‘Just a bit Maa’, coaxed Radhika.
‘I said no’, replied Mrs. Raichand curtly.
Radhika sighed, it was another bad day.
The maid had entered Mrs.Raichand’s room now; ferociously swinging her dusting cloth around, hoping to have some fatal effect on the dust.She had started cleaning a photograph now. Seeing this, Mrs. Raichand shouted at the top of her voice, ‘You stupid girl! How many times should I tell you that I will clean that photo? Get out of the room and leave the cloth behind!’
The maid scurried away, muttering under her breath. Radhika knew that she would have to give her another raise.
‘Yeah yeah, no I’m trying. Sahil, I can’t leave her alone in this condition. She really needs someone to support her right now. Find a substitute otherwise; I don’t know if I would be able to make it. Yeah, okay. Bye.’
Though Radhika was talking in a hushed voice, nothing could surpass a mother’s ears.
‘Do you have to go? I’ll be fine by myself. I don’t want you to miss your project because of me.’
‘Naa Maa, don’t worry now. It’s your nap time, let’s get you to bed.’
Mrs. Raichand hobbled towards the bed, excited to sleep. Existence seemed too painful to go through. When she slept, she felt closer to being dead and thus closer to her husband.
While the whole house went in a snooze state during the afternoon, Radhika would take the liberty to mourn over her father’s death. She needed time to give food to the emotional chaos she used to go through under the iron façade.
He didn’t have a peaceful and timely death. He rather had a turbulent and untimely death, caused by a heart attack. He had gone for his duty at the hospital when the heart attack took place. Funny how he had managed to save so many lives, but couldn’t save his own and neither could his colleagues. Perhaps it wasn’t an untimely death at all.
He never had the chance to speak to his wife or daughter before dying. He was the first to die among his friends.
Radhika just took out the old dusty album she had made a habit to go through every day. The album had some white and black and some colour pictures. This wasn’t necessarily an aesthetic album. The photos taken were blurred or clumsy, or the model was not looking photogenic at all. All these photographs had strange stories behind them, because her father was a strange man. He was an adventurer who would pick up his camera and go anywhere and do something crazy for the Sunday. He was a visual raconteur. His wife never understood his obsession but his daughter very well did.
She would accompany him on his small missions, the Watson to his Sherlock while they solved away photographic mysteries. Due to this, Radhika became a videographer, wanting to capture the whole world in her lens.
Since her work reminded her so much of her father, she didn’t want to go back to it. Her camera, which was such a dear friend of hers, had become a foe, now symbolizing the biggest part of her life that she had lost. And no one likes to be reminded of their loss.
Radhika gave her tears some freedom for a while but quickly wiped them when she heard her mother cough.
The night had long lost its youth and yet Mrs. Raichand couldn’t sleep. Sleep was dear to her but not so much when nightmares visited her, bringing in fresh memories of the hurt caused to her. She tossed and turned, bringing despair to the bedsheet beneath her, all wrinkled by now.
She opened her cupboard and there lay a new pair of jeans. Her husband had bought them for her a week before his death. He had always tried to persuade her to wear them, going to the extent of writing down all the advantages of wearing them and had stuffed it in the pocket of the pair of jeans. She had discovered that only after he was gone. But stubborn she was, and she refused to try anything so different, especially when she felt that she was not longer young enough to be experimental with her clothing. Also, he was no longer there to see her in jeans,so there was no point now. It was too late.
She ran her hands over the coarse and dusty cloth, hoping to find some last message left by him, maybe a consoling sentence or the feeling of warmth.
Just then, she heard some noise.
She shouted, ’Radhika, are you up?’
‘Just going to drink water Maa.’
Mrs. Raichand headed down to the kitchen.
They both shared a knowing smile, aware that the other one had a sleepless night.
‘I know that you look at those jeans every night. You should try them on.’
‘I know that you go through that album every day under the pretense of reading a book.’
And just with an exchange of something that might seem trivial to someone else but was nearly existential for them, they both broke down. Each was trying to be strong for the other one, but they found strength when they were sharing their weaknesses, knowing how broken they both were. This common knowledge pinched them, yet comforted then.
Just like that, they spent the whole night talking, letting open the dam of emotions and pouring them out for the other one to swallow.
It was a pleasant Sunday, true to its name as the sun was out and gleaming with just a hint of a merrily floating cloud here or there.
‘Maa, I am going out for a while. I won’t be there for lunch, so carry on without me’ said Radhika as she picked up her camera bag.
‘Wait for five minutes.’
'Arre Maa, it might rain today and I don’t want to come back sopp-'
Radhika stood there with her mouth agape.
Mrs. Raichand had shyly stepped out of her room, dressed in her new pair of jeans and one of her husband’s old shirts.
‘Can I join you today? ‘she asked with a shy smile.
‘Of course. You will be my model today, you look so beautiful.’
They both stepped out of the house, both carrying something of Mr. Raichand. They ventured out to begin something new along with something from the past to hold on to. It wasn’t going to be easy, but it was the only way to move on with time.