New beginnings and old pasts
He'd just married her. Untouched still. They had been packed hurriedly to an almost stomping, impatient train. Rather it was his impatience, to be alone with her.
Summer months are dry. They kinda dry up conversations too. His carefully planned dialogues, ones that were to draw her out, impress her to how witty her husband was, tell her about the politics- just a little. They had all the time to discuss that in detail later. When she would rub his tired legs from doing nothing the whole day...
She sat, timid and terrified. This being her first journey anywhere. And especially into the unknown.
She hoped her husband would be kind. Not like Latha's or even Padma's. Rather like Annie's, the kind who would smuggle the strong smell of flowers in plastic bags and weave it onto her hair. Then they would hold hands and ....How childish were her thoughts, she scolded herself. She was married. And married women didn't think of flowers or swings or holding hands. What happened after that was quite vague, but her mother had promised her that all her answers were in the cookbook. That was her forte. Just the right amount of color, spice, salt and sugar. Concentrate on that and your life is almost made out. She clutched the stylish handbag her uncle had given her- as part of a present.
It had nothing except a comb, few lace handkerchiefs and a crushed rose. The crushed rose, being what she had picked up after her ex-lover had dramatically thrown it. Shhh... He was in the past. One mustn’t think of such sinful thoughts.
He bought her the rice and dal that was served in aluminum foiled packs. She wanted to save those shiny foils, but they were way too greasy and they would stain her handkerchiefs. She wouldn't use those lacy wonders even when she had a terrible cold. She'd take them out when they went out for the parties. Matching them with her new sarees. She hugged her dreams to herself.
Did we check if she could talk, he wondered frantically. He'd never heard her open her mouth all the while. Or if she did, it was in the louder noise of trumpets and relatives at the wedding. But his confidence in his tyrant of a mother was more than his fears. She must have checked to the last little digit!
"Aren't you sleepy?” he asked her.
She nodded in the negative. This was cause for concern. Maybe his mother slipped...
"Well, I am going to retire for the night", he sounded as pompous as he felt.
Her eyes widened in admiration. He sounded like the curled-greased-oiled-moustache hero in the only movie she'd seen. She remembered every frame of it. Especially the stolen kisses. Shhh... She banished the sins again.
Changing into checkered pajamas, he told her, "I'll see you in bed and only then sleep."
She waited not sure of what that meant.
"Do you have anything to change into? Something more comfortable perhaps?"
She clutched her silk saree tighter. There was no way she was removing that.
She nodded her head in the negative. This was cause for alarm. He pushed down the panic that seemed to rise with every passing monologue.
"Which berth do you wanna take? Would the middle one be too high for you?"
She smiled thinking of the number of trees of dizzying height that she'd climbed.
He caught her smile.
"No. Speak. Let me hear your voice” he insisted.
The train's rhythmic beat, conversations from neighboring coupes, the whir of the fan and the whoosh of the wind was all that hovered around his ears and in front of her lips for a few seconds.
Voice demure with fright and lack of use, she murmured, "I'll take the middle one. Thank you very much"
It felt like music to his ears. She could speak!
She hoped she sounded sophisticated. She hoped he heard the thank-you parts. She'd practiced them to almost Scarlett O'Hara perfection.