A phone call

The boiling water is making a desperate sound. Blackened pan sits on top of the blue flame of butane and the crackle of the evaporating liquid is familiar. R sits on the narrow pedestal that the kitchen-window permits and looks out at the sight she has been accustomed to since the past 30 years. Red kiln bricks cover the captive horizon; some new constructions have indeed come up over the past few years. Change follows its own timetable and sets up the crucible for renewed urgency.

Single storied houses compete for the scooped up space and wild outcroppings at random joints pushes back the urbanization with passionate appeal. The windows are long and narrow, offering the space for sunlight to cautiously creep in the morning and gradually invade the marble-lined flooring. Sprinkles of marble in an outpost of cement, they provide a combustible mixture to wax nostalgia. She can hear the cries and the shrill laughter of tiny legs. Time keeps its appointment with history and brings pouring sadness to the graying surrounding.

She is awakened from this mid-afternoon slumber through the all-too-familiar call from the adjacent room. The crackle magically senses the shift and rises to the occasion and things are back on the timeline. She hurries to the stove and a pinch of Darjeeling tea descends onto the water volcano, paints it in its color and swirls around in merry-go-round. A dollop of sugar comes next for the masala is disliked for its cutting edge. Even in the process of making tea, she notices the change. Milk, now added last, makes it less of a health hazard as per her ‘Good Housekeeping’ column. She has to renew the subscription to that magazine she suddenly remembers. “Must ask K to renew it for me. Oh dear, I wish I could have done it myself!”

The telephone rings and is picked up soon after, just as the grimy concoction in the pan swells up rapidly to the brim. Strangely, a wave climbs up in her stomach at the very instant. It wells up and before its-too-late, is distilled through the fine mesh of the sieve and deposited onto the china that stood awaiting.

A bidding! So it is! Who might it be calling it at this hour? If only her excitement could be sensed hundreds of miles away. The way it boils up and extracts out the permeating suffocation. The excitement of a phone call, as if it were a pre-arranged trunk call made from a hired outpost by a distant cousin in a far-away land. But here we are, in the current age when calls come thick and fast but not from those from whom we want to hear. Just a phone call away, she was promised and she took it to be so. Now, years down the line, she knows it could never be so.

She asks herself millions of questions; such is the nature of her mind. Emotions are capsules that lie tucked away in eternal glory. Popping them each passing day she remembers her resolve and resolves to remember. For decisions that were taken back in the days are irreversible today, for the strength that dominated and were in reserve are rapidly dwindling out. She is witness to the change and waits helplessly for it to come to her in order so, she could be closer to her life, her family.

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