Sometimes, it is hard to come to the point while telling a story. This is one such story. I wanted to tell it in just 500 words, but it insisted on overflowing into two parts. How could I get to the actual story without first saying something about the characters and their lives? If Part I bores you, just proceed to Part II.
Saraswati had run down to the shop to get a packet of milk at around eight in the morning, when she spotted Ambika pushing her twelve-year-old son Sharath inside the Star School bus and uttering sharp words. Saraswati bit back a grin when she saw the annoyed look on Ambika’s face and waved a greeting.
“Hi, Ambikka,” she greeted, trying to combine the words “Ambika” and “akka” without making it sound too complicated. “Did you just send Sharath to school?”
“Yes,” said Ambika with feeling. “Now I can enjoy peace for a few hours.”
Saraswati grabbed her packet of milk, paid the shop owner, and said, “But why do you escort him to the bus? Why doesn’t the bus come up to your house? The Kudla Competition School bus comes up to Imtiaz’s house and …”
“Oh, but that is the Kudla Competition School bus,” said Ambika. “They always want to be a step ahead of everybody else. The Star School bus driver is just as lazy as Sharath. He says he cannot come up to our house just to pick Sharath and risk getting late.”
“But Sharath is old enough to come here on his own,” pointed out Saraswati.
“Yes, he is,” said Ambika grimly. “But I don’t want to take any risks. Yesterday, his school informed me that he always comes late. The school bus reaches the school on time, but Sharath ‘always comes late.’ I asked the bus driver about it and he told me that Sharath has stopped taking the bus. When I questioned Sharath last night, he clammed up. I squeezed his ears and he started gibbering. It got on my nerves. I tell you, Saraswati, I am fed up of this boy. Even his father cannot control him, and …”
Saraswati spent the rest of the two to three minutes to her house listening to the doings of Sharath, the only son of Ambika and Deepak.
“Oh Ambikka,” she said as they neared her house, “I have to go now. I haven’t even got the tea ready because I ran out of milk.”
“Why don’t you come to my house at around ten or eleven?” Ambika suggested. “Let’s have some coffee and talk. Do come … I feel so bored.”
Saraswati made some quick mental calculations, hemmed and hawed, and finally agreed.
Later that day, she rang Ambika’s doorbell and Ambika wasted no time in throwing the door open. “You’ve come!” she said in delight. “Do come in. It’s your first visit to my house after you moved to the neighborhood.”
Saraswati stepped in and looked around. Ambika’s living room was a mess and smelled of fried garlic and mustard. Ambika hastily swept a few comic books and a few orange peels off the sofa and kicked a pair of discarded socks under the sofa. “I’m sorry,” she said, nearly falling over a football as she looked for a place to put the comic books. “This boy puts his things everywhere and so does his father. I really don’t know what to do …”
“But that’s ok,” said Saraswati, struggling to say the right thing. “Messy houses are cute. I mean, houses do get messy right?”
“I guess you are right,” said Ambika laughing. “Let me serve you breakfast. I made dosas today.”
“Dosas!” said Saraswati horrified. “No! I have already eaten and I am full.”
“Oh come on!!” Ambika insisted. “Surely you can manage just one dosa.”
Sure that she would burst if she stuffed her overloaded stomach further, Saraswati began protesting weakly, but that did not stop Ambika from serving her a plate of hot dosas and chutney. She then rushed off to the kitchen to make coffee.
The chutney was watery and had a few mustard seeds floating on it. “If I serve chutney like this to Rajesh, he will try to whitewash the house with it,” thought Saraswati as she gingerly dipped a piece of dosa in the chutney and placed it in her mouth. The aroma of brewing coffee filled the house and Saraswati sniffed in great appreciation. Apparently, Ambika could make some heavenly coffee.
Taking a sip from her cup as soon as it was placed before her, Saraswati exclaimed, “Mmmm … this coffee is just great!”
Ambika was pleased to hear that and spent the next ten minutes telling her guest about the person who had given her the coffee powder.
“Don’t you feel bored at home, Saraswati?” she asked when they had exhausted the coffee topic. “Have you ever considered getting a job?”
“Well,” said Saraswati, turning the question over in her mind. “I just finished my B.Sc. a few months back. And before that, we got married. And after that, we had to move. Life was so confusing and I am still struggling to get adjusted. I would like to do my Masters, but I am tired of science. Actually, I am confused.”
When Ambika was quiet for a few seconds, trying to digest the information, Saraswati asked, “What about you, Ambikka? You complain a lot of boredom. Don’t you feel like going for work?”
“NO!” Ambika cried out in horror. “No job for me! I just don’t want to get employed anywhere even if I die of starvation or boredom or both.”
“But why Ambikka,” Saraswati was astonished.
Ambikka shuddered and took a long sip of her coffee. “You know something, Saraswati?” she said. “I used to work as the art teacher of Cacophony School Kudla before Sharath was born. But I ran away from there.”
“Why? What happened?” asked Saraswati.
“They made me drink urine,” said Ambika sadly and a tear rolled down her cheek.
Disclaimer: Above story is a work of fiction based on the real world we live in. If you see yourself or anyone you know in any of the characters, the writer is not responsible.