This is a tribute to one of my life’s endearing fixtures, my bong babu and his adorable wife. This short story was a long time coming. that misty morning when i stepped into their abode and saw this painting,well.. i was smitten. and between the endless cups of tea, that never ending laffter, their LPs and Anju….this tale has been cooking since then, i hope you like it.
It hung on cream colored walls surrounded by elegant drapes and long bay windows. A three-focal light hung above it. It seemed to look on with interest at all the comings and goings in the house, yet stay far removed from it.
People came in and went. The same faces but always their expressions varied.
Sometimes a face would stop in front of the portrait as if looking to see itself better. The glass framing the portrait reflected back images, happy, sad, thoughtful, lost and sometimes blank.
But this was only sometimes.
Most often people walked by without seeming to notice it.
Only the evening hours seem to give life to the still image looking in, looking out.
In the afterglow of the sun you could actually see the eyes look back at you, waiting.
The house was filled with laughter. A dog barked in the distant. Sunlight streamed into the normally shuttered room. A chest of drawers was placed beneath the portrait.
A vase filled with wildflowers, a candle holder and a small lithograph were placed on top of the chest.
The elegant hand making this arrangement removed the lithograph and looked up at the portrait.
A soft smile curved the lips.
Did it just look back and smile?
A nod of the head and the sound of a sitar strumming softly in the hallway had her hurrying out.
Was there more?
A single wooden bookcase was placed in the alcove. The sitar played on softly.
A bronze warrior and a gramophone that looked like something from a 1960s movie took center stage and below racks of LPs were lovingly stacked.
Screeching sounds of wooden chests being drawn across the marble floor, books tumbling down and more laughter, the house had come alive.
Slowly, the routine settled in.
A candle glowed gently reflecting the haunting expressive eyes.
The pleasant fragrance of lavender wafted the air. Those gentle hands wiped the portrait clean, always taking time to stand and watch.
A smile reflected on the portrait.
Sometimes, images of a huddled couple with mugs reflected. Standing thus, for minutes on end, just watching in contentment.
It seemed to take on the aura of a shrine.
Sniffs and whispered hurried words, always the hands around each other, warmth pervasive.
Months passed by.
Those hands would lovingly wipe the grime of the portrait and look with a smile, a knowing smile.
Spring had arrived.
The rooms were bereft of the familiar book case, the chest of drawers, the strains of the sitar, the fragrance of lavender…..Silence.
The melancholy had returned. There were no images now.
Cobwebs gathered around and damp, musty smell. It hung there gathering dust.
The sound of footsteps and that old familiar scent of lavender.
Windows were opened and the sound of spluttered coughs.
It lay amidst rolls of paper.
The chest of drawers with the vase of wildflowers the candle holder stood where it always did.
Loving hands dusted the grime and hung it on red walls.
He was home.