Short Selling

“I don’t know much.  I’m just a housewife. I’m a mother. I haven’t done anything but cook, clean and take care of you and yours.

I have zero talent.”

And went conversation.

The never ending conversation remained the same. Endless, meaningless talks with no one to argue against her.

Her children had settled down. Her husband had taken up a part-time job as a consultant to beat the monotony of watching endless news debates, empty walls and silence.

She went on long walks in the evening. She opened her mouth to talk to her husband of oh-so-many years but she had lost track and touch with what made them special.

Her kids had moved on to busy lives of their own. A call, a message, a whatsapp forward – their endeth the conversation.

Young couples in the apartment they stayed in looked at the couple with envy and a sigh. Ah, companionship. If we get to that stage of life with a beatific smile. We have arrived they thought.

She was that sprightly 50+ lady, vivacious, gracious and zestful.

If only they knew.

The loneliness.

The lack of self worth.

She opened a tattered cardboard box and pulled out earrings she had made from shards of glass. They glimmered in the sunlight throwing multi-colored diamonds on the wall.

She pulled out the little trinket she had made for her daughter and smiled. Her daughter had worn it for a week before discarding it for another trinket she had created.

The doorbell rang.

“Hello Aunty, we are having a yard sale. Do you have anything you would want to give us? ” smiled the 18-year old girl and her friend from next door.

She turned around and saw the box with all the earrings, trinkets, bracelets and other accouterments she had made over the years. She invited them inside and sat down looking at the box. Abruptly she gathered the scattered items and stuffed them into the box, silently handing it over to the girl. The earring fell out which the girl picked up in wonder.

“Oh my God Aunty. Did you make this? Could you tell us how? Do you have more of them?”

She smiled and nodded her head.

“No beta, these are very old. I made it for my daughters but it doesn’t hold any value now.”

The girl stared at her friend, thanked her and left.

She sighed.

Another part of her had been cut away.

She began to tidy up and begin preparations for the evening dinner. Not that they ate much now. A simple repast of roti and sabzi with some salad was all that was needed. Yet, she found comfort in the ritual of kneading the dough and rolling out the rotis to put them on the tava and watch each roti fluff. How her daughters would gaze in wonder as they saw the roti fluff over the stove. “How do you do it Maa? You must teach us too.”

The doorbell rang. She was surprised. Her husband never came back this early.

She washed her hands and scampered towards the door wiping her hands on the kitchen towel.

She switched on the  lights and peered out of the window. It was the girl next door with someone.

She opened the door and looked inquiringly, “Yes beta?”

“Aunty, this is my friend. He has a boutique and an online store that specialises in handicrafts. I showed him all the trinkets you gave us for the yard sale. He wanted to speak with you.”

“Hello Aunty. I’m delighted to meet you. When I saw the trinkets I knew I had to meet the lady who made it. You wouldn’t believe me but there is a huge demand for products like this, especially among the younger generation.”

She looked on in disbelief before saying, “But beta…..”

“I understand Aunty. You must be busy with all the housework. We can look at small orders at first, and then when you are comfortable you can start sending us more volumes. I would also like you to meet two NGOs we support to teach this craft to the women who come there. If all this sounds too much, we can take it a step at a time. But please, please say yes.”

“I have no talent you know,” she began but the girl and her friend took her hand in their own, and smiled.

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The Portrait

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.

1

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.

2

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.

3

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.

Waiting.

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.

4

Silence.

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.

Watching. Waiting.

5

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.

 

6

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.