The Crystallized Moment
by Ananya Sarkar
“Grandma! Grandma!” Mita cried as she came running to Nilima’s room. Nilima looked up from her knitting to the child. “Do you know, it was a great disappointment to me to hear father’s announcement today! You know, he had promised to me long ago that he would take ma and Mainak and me to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands this summer. And now, just a few weeks before our trip, he says it’s not possible, as he isn’t getting the tickets and stuff! Can you believe that? Treachery in the highest degree!! He said we would be going to Goa instead, but it’s not the same as Andaman, is it?” Mita completed her long grievance and sat sulkily on Nilima’s bed. As for Nilima, she found it quite difficult to comprehend Mita’s feelings. Why? What was wrong with it? She had heard that the Andaman and Nicobar Islands was a truly beautiful place. It attracted not only Indian tourists but also foreigners. The scenic beauty of the place was indeed, of great repute. But Goa was also such a wonderful place to visit! Tourists from all over the world flocked to it as well. But she did not know which was better. She hadn’t been to either of the places, and whatever she knew about them was from hearsay.
However, Nilima turned to console her little dejected granddaughter, “Mita shona, don’t be upset. Never mind if it’s not Andaman, Goa is an equally beautiful place, they say. It is a great fortune to visit other places and explore the beauty of the world! Now, I have just made some excellent mango pickles. Won’t you taste some?” Mita’s countenance showed some improvement when the last proposition was made. A smile lit up her face as she put her arms round her grandmother. Nilima then brought her the pickles and narrated to Mita a folk tale while she ate them.
It was a few weeks later in the evening. The house seemed vacant with the children gone. Nilima’s son Ritesh and her daughter-in-law Mona had taken the children along for the trip to Goa. Nilima was alone in the house with the maidservant. She was telling her beads as usual, as she did every evening. But today, however, her mind was far from God. She was thinking of Goa---or rather fancying about what it might look like. It was a place on the seashore and she loved such places. How would Goa be? It must have white sandy beaches, tall coconut palms and the gurgling waters of the sea advancing and touching your feet with playful mischief and then receding again.
Didn’t Ritesh know that she loved seashores? Of course he did. She had narrated to him many tales of the sea when he was young. He had listened, rapt with awe, and had often asked her to repeat her stories. He knew quite well, that of all places, Nilima liked the seashore the most. She had only been to Puri once and she had more than once, recollected the memories of the trip. Then what? Could’t Ritesh take her along to Goa? But then she remembered…that she was old. Quite a few years back, when she had, had osteoporosis, Ritesh had told her, “Ma, you can see that we can’t
take you anywhere now. You should not travel much at this age but should keep to the house.” “But son….” Nilima had protested, “I can travel at ease with my walking stick. Yes, I do admit I will take time to tread my steps but I will be able to…” “No, ma!” Ritesh interjected, “Please do not argue. Try to understand. It is not just you being able to manage on your own, but we also have to look to your welfare in the journey, don’t we? I don’t want to take any risks, ma. Why take chances?” And there the conversation had ended.
From then on, Nilima had missed her brothers at Raipur. Earlier on, whenever Ritesh, Mona and the children would go for a trip, they would drop her on the way to Raipur. She thoroughly enjoyed her time there and always looked forward to her visits there. But after Ritesh refused to take her, there wasn’t anything she could do about it. The relationship with her siblings was confined to letters and the phone.
It was eight ‘o’ clock in the night. Nilima usually completed her puja at this time and had a cup of tea, before having dinner an hour later. But today, she was still telling the beads and reminiscing on the past. The maidservant quietly entered with a cup of tea, and then looking at Nilima, placed it on the small table in her room.
Nilima now, after many days, once again recollected her fond memories of Puri. She was in her early thirties then, a pretty woman with long, black hair till her waist. Anil, her husband, was also fair and handsome. Ritesh was very young, just five and Ruchi was barely two years old. She remembered how Anil had saved diligently over the years in order to make that trip possible. When he had announced it to her on her birthday, she could hardly believe him! He had always given her the impression that he was saving in order to invest his money in the shares of some reputed company. And this came as a pleasant surprise! She was so elated, that she had declared that it was, indeed, the best birthday gift that she had ever got.
It was eight-thirty now. A wasp was striking against the window-pane and creating a buzzing noise. It brought Nilima out of her reverie and she started. The tea on the table had turned cold. Nilima got up and went to the idol of Lord Ganesha. She took up the conch shell to blow, and hence conclude her puja. But strangely, she suddenly put the conch shell to her ear instead of her mouth and closed her eyes. And she could hear at once the roaring waves of the sea…She was no longer in her tiny room, isolated and alone, but was in Puri, the Nirmala of her youth. She could see Anil and Ritesh splashing water at each other, running and laughing, while she stood smiling with Ruchi in her arms. Far across, the fishermen were returning with their catch. It was a little after sunrise and the beach and the waters were bathed in an orange hue. This was it. This was all. It was the crystallized moment of her life. The End