Out of Mind - contd ..
by Stuti Jamwal
( Portsmouth, United Kingdom)
Back to page 1 of the story
Deepa smiled. Vinod had always been a foodie with a great sweet tooth. It was only nine in the morning and he was behaving like he'd been hungry for days. She watched him as he put the tray down on the table and set the plates in front of them. She wondered why he was staring at her.
'You said you made halwa.'
Deepa laughed. Her spirits lifted at the sight of the innocent wonder in his eyes. 'What do you think this is? Dahi vada?' she said.
For a few seconds Vinod kept staring at his plate like a man possessed. Then he took a spoonful. It was delicious and he decided to be more charitable than he felt.
'It's delicious,' he said.
She beamed at his praise and took her own plate. After a while of eating in silence she spoke.
'Is Adi all right?'
'Yeah, he's fine,' he said.
'You look worried.'
'Do I?' he said, smoothing his brow and mentally debating whether to speak his mind or let it drop, just like the many innocuous comments he'd been tempted to make of late but had resisted because he thought she might get offended. She was unusually touchy these days so he bit his lip more often than he was used to. But something was bubbling up inside him. Something that wanted to acquaint her with the error. Something persistent that had begun to nag at him. However trivial it was, he felt obliged to point it out.
'You forgot to add water,' he said, looking straight at her, his tone just a wee bit accusatory.
She simply looked at him, an empty glance devoid of understanding. Whatever was he talking about?
He could sense frustration rising from deep within him. Without meaning to, his countenance took on an urgency, his voice almost a pleading note.
'Deepa, you have to add water to the semolina after frying it. You have to cook it in water,' he said.
She didn't look offended. He'd have been glad if she had displayed some hint of remorse or regret at the lapse. But she didn't seem to understand she had missed something important. As if he was being needlessly pedantic. He hated to see incomprehension flood her eyes at perfectly normal, everyday things. Things that had become second nature to her, instinctive. Things there was no way of forgetting unless there was something horribly wrong with her. Something which was taking her away from him bit by bit, leaving a deep, unbridgeable gap between them in its wake. He thought he could not stand it any more. He would go for a walk; it might help to clear the cobwebs. Just looking at her was triggering painful sensations in his heart.
He finished his tea, gulping it down until he had almost swallowed the dregs, and picking
up his wallet, made to leave.
'What happened?' she asked, alarmed by his haste.
'Nothing. Just remembered I had to get that FD cheque deposited today. It's already overdue. I'll be back by lunch time.'
She didn't remind him it was a bank holiday and the branch office would be closed. It was not something she had written in the little black diary. ***
The clouds ran in fast and thick and soon covered the whole sky, bringing in a chill reminiscent of rain. Vinod disliked rain in winter and the bleakness of the morning made him melancholic. Soon it would start pouring. He realized he would need to get under a sheltered spot and increased his pace. He checked his watch. It was going on for three now. He was late for lunch. Deepa must have been waiting. He decided to call her from the nearby PCO, having forgotten his mobile at home. He would also have to wait at the PCO until the rain stopped. He fished out a coin from his wallet and inserted it into the cash slot. When Deepa picked up at the first ring he heaved a sigh of relief. One could never count on Deepa to respond to even basic stimuli these days. Her reactions seemed to be pathetically slow.
'Deepa,' he said, raising his voice a little to make sure she could hear him. 'It's raining very heavily here so I have to stop at a PCO. Don't wait for me for lunch. I'll be back once the weather clears up.'
He asked her if she understood and when he was satisfied she had he hung up. He saw the PCO guy give him a strange look. Probably disappointed he had not made a long distance call. As he was planning to wait there he decided to buy a magazine. Then, settling on a ramshackle wicker chair next to the phone booth and under a thick red awning he began to read the feature story on the rising cases of dementia among the elderly. Reading it made him anxious to get home to Deepa and he regretted leaving her alone for so long. She shouldn't be in the house all by herself. But even as he waited for the weather to clear, he became engrossed in another article, something on global warming, and passed another half an hour reading.
At around five pm he began to feel impatient. He wondered what he was doing at this PCO. Something had begun to nag at him but he couldn't place the feeling. He was supposed to be on the road, heading to some destination he couldn't recall. Was he going to a friend's house or to get groceries? It made him edgy not to remember. If only the rain would stop now.
But there was no rain. Not a drop had fallen from the skies yet. The End