Meeting an Angel

Express

The truth is bright and stark, not as willing to bend to the mind’s will. She presses one hand to her heart again and wonders if  she has made a mistake. Closing her eyes she thinks of her grandfather, grandmother, her parents, their love, affection. She could not meet their expectation! Sigh. Countless thoughts and questions envelop her mind. As Lekha leans against a soft pillow on the narrow bed, the thick printed curtain parts. Lekha sits straight. A woman in middle forty enters in a navy blue saree with gold border. Her black hair in a loose bun, small gold earrings on her ears, deep red bangles on her  both arms and a big red dot on her forehead, in between the brows. She appears to be a simple and friendly lady. Sometimes you meet someone and suddenly your heart sings. Yes, it is something like that. But who is she? May be a relative of my boyfriend .Out of courtesy, Lekha gathers her lilac colored silk saree from slipping and climbs down from the bed.

 “ Good morning! She smiles, pursed lips, raised eyebrows. She points at the bed. “ Please sit.” Her bright big eyes settles on lekha’s face for a while.

“ I heard from my son and sister about you. Is it true that you like my son?” She looks up at the ceiling, then to the wall.” A small sigh. She shifts and leans gently against the bedpost.From the trail of her eyes Lekha notices a slight similarity between mother and son, same nose, oval face, big brown eyes. A voice distracts her.

“ I understand completely. In our society we have to think hundred times before taking this type of decision.” Her eyes fastened on lekha.

“ Your parents love you so much and you just left them! She nods her head in disbelief. “ Sweety, if you want then I will arrange someone to drop you at your house.”

Lekha sits quietly. Her head down. She has no answer.  The stubborn nineteen years old girl is there to stay.

It has been a month after that incident. Now she is married and stays with her in laws.It is bright Sunday morning Lekha comes out of bathroom with a wet towel and pauses as her mother in law calls her. Lekha looks towards the veranda. Her mother in law sits on a wooden chair with a small white teacup. Without raising a hand from her lap, she offers a narrow smile.

“ Darling, today is a very special day.” She takes a sip from the hot tea.It is a special day for the new daughter in law to cook lunch for everyone and usually the neighbors come to taste the food. You can cook whatever you want. A big smile flashes on her face. She pushes the chair back and takes the cup to the sink. “Let me know if you need anything special for cooking and I will get those from the neighborhood store.”

The wet towel  slipped from Lekha’s hand when she heard about cooking. It is a grave situation. She can prepare special tea with ginger and cardamom. What else? She knows how to make chapati. Well it may not be quite round but it may work and rice is the easiest. In her parents home the cook does everything so she has no idea how to cook. She always thing cooking is boring, wastage of time. Instead read book, write or explore nature. But somehow she gets the confidence to do the task. Her father always says confidence is the key to success.  Lekha walks into the kitchen. “Oh, no! There is no gas stove here”. You have to use kerosene to light the woods which she has never done before. “Well, I will try.” Lekha pours a little kerosene on the dry woods and strikes the match. Yep, it works, the flame starts.She looks at the pots to cook rice but they are not the stainless steel or brass small pots, instead they are huge clay pots. “ Wow! It is even hard to lift the pots when is full with water.”Rice is almost done. She has to remember how to prepare the potato curry. Which one goes first? She stands with six big raw potatoes in a container and spices in a small bowl.A long deep breath. Lekha sits on the kitchen floor and peels the potatoes. One end of her light pink cotton saree is towards the other stove. Her mind replays a few scenes of the kitchen but the there is no clue to know the steps of the cooking. It feels real hot in the kitchen. Lekha wipes the sweats and suddenly hears her husband’s voice. “Take off your saree, right now. Take off.”

“ What? Here in the kitchen?” A shy smile hovers on her face. But she feels very hot. Must be the humidity. Then her mother in law comes running with her husband and both of them pull her saree fiercely.

“ Fire on your saree!”

She pours a bucket of water on the saree to diminish the fire. All the faces are white with fear. She hears the soft voice of her mother in law.” Sweetie, are you okay? You should be more careful while cooking. Do not worry, you go and change. I will ask someone to help you out.” Lekha walks out of the kitchen to change to another saree. She returns back into the kitchen. There her husband’s youngest sister has started to  peel the rest of the potatoes. Inside the kitchen her mother in law is mopping the water. She stands straight as Lekha steps in. Lekha is scared that she may say something.

“ Lekha, do not worry about cooking.” She points at her daughter. “ She will finish up and if anyone asks then let them know that you have prepared everything.”

Lekha looks at her face.She is so nice just like my grandmother or  my mother! I am so lucky to have her in my life.

It is the second week of wedding, a pretty spring morning. The sun is resting on the mailbox when Lekha opened it to pick up the mail. It is a letter from her grandmother. She walks to the backyard and settles herself on a wooden bench to reads the letter.She reads and reread each sentence. All of a sudden he face falls slightly. All the sweet memory of her grandma comes live.  She starts to sob.

“ Morning!” Her mother in law walks through the back gate. “ What are you reading that makes you cry?”

Lekha wipes her tears in the back of her palm. “ It is grandma’s letter. I miss her so much. I wish I can go back to her, see her, hug her and spend time with her.” Her mother in law sits down next to her on the bench. They sit silently. The air is thick with the scent of  honeysuckle, white and yellow blossoms dotted the bushes.

“Smell that?” She asks.

Lekha lifts her face from the letter and sniffs. “ I do not want to. I want to go back to my grandmother.” Her face is down. Her mother in law’s hand touches Lekha’s shoulder softly. A tear falls from the corner of her eyes leaving a trail down her cheek. She put her arm around Lekha. “ I understand your emotion and I can feel your sadness. But you made this decision of marriage. The only way is to wait for a miracle to happen, so that you can meet your family again. Give some time.”

Lekha looks at her. “She is so kind, warm,compassionate! She is the  sweetest person and the greatest gift in her life!Time will heal this.”

“Thank you so much Mom!” says Lekha folding the letter in her hand.

“ What for? She smiles. “ Come let’s go inside.

Two days back my ninety-three years old mother in law  passed away.

Her motherly affection, love, kindness will always stay with me. It will be perfect to say that she was an angel not only for me but to all others in her family, her neighbors,to strangers!

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