Friday, 5 March 2021

Empathy

 


by Swati Moheet Agrawal

Ristretto

 

Every Sunday my wife rises from bed like someone with purpose. Her energy levels are alarmingly phenomenal that day of the week. However, as the day begins to wane, her enthusiasm takes a nosedive faster than it surges through every cell in her being.

 

Her mother promises to come over for dinner every Sunday but fails to show up.

 

My wife washes the linen herself. Never mind that the sheets are freshly laundered, reeking of detergent, soft and warm. She spends half the day sprucing up the house: she runs a rag along every corner, painstakingly and diligently, rearranges furniture with great gusto, changes cushion covers, strings marigold to make a bright garland for the front door, burns incense, puts out her best china, lays out the block printed set of 6 Kalamkari placemats her mother specially fetched for her from Jaipur, and so and so forth.

 

Get a dozen rajbhogs, she orders Raju to get her mother’s favourite sweet dish from the bazaar. Raju, our man Friday, indulges her just the same. We know the drill.

 

The dinner table is laden with hors d’oeuvres like achari paneer and aalo chaat. Main course comprises of her mother’s favourite black dal and steamed rice, naan, and mixed vegetable among other delicacies.

 

The blue goes out of the sky, the green slips away from the trees, everything dwindles away into darkness and the day finally fades away.

 

It is half past eleven. We are still waiting at the dinner table.

 

My wife retreats to a corner to call her mother. She hangs up after a few minutes.

 

Mummy has promised to come home next Sunday, she tells me rather sheepishly.

 

Raju dutifully winds up the kitchen. I lovingly put my wife to sleep.

 

My mother-in-law died of a cardiac arrest last year. She was really on her way home for dinner that Sunday.

 

Glossary:


Aloo chaat – An Indian savoury snack served with potatoes, sauces and spices.

 

Achari paneer – Tangy, flavorful cottage cheese appetizer.

 

Dal – Lentils, a staple ingredient in Indian cuisines.

 

Kalamkari – A traditional Indian art form involving block printing or hand painting, usually done on cotton fabrics.

 

Naan – Flatbread.

 

Rajbhog – Saffron-flavored cottage cheese dumplings, an Indian dessert, stuffed with exotic dry fruits.

 

 

 

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