Something Different

Something was different I thought, as I entered the room even
thought it seemed the same as always. The green walls faded now to a dull dusty
indeterminate colour breaking out into angry blisters, the flowered
curtains  drawn together to keep away the
morning sun , the  once brilliant red
Persian carpet worn threadbare with hundred miles of pacing up and down and an
old ceiling fan groaning slowly. On the bedside table , the filigreed brass
lamp which they got back from their honeymoon and which was there for as long
as I could remember,that kept company to the 
silver framed picture of my grandparents taken on their wedding day. I
found it strange that grandpa allowed that picture and the lamp because he was
not one for mawkish sentiment. In fact I always felt bad that despite being the
only girl in a family of boys he was unmoved by my girlish charm and refused to
give in to my winning ways.  “Grow
Up!” he’d admonish me whenever I threatened to throw a tantrum, “Life’s
tough. Just face it,” he’d say, implying that I should be more like a man
and less like a cry baby who got her way just because she was a girl. But
perhaps the lamp and the photo was his one indulgence to my grandma who had
left everything behind to make a life with him.
I stared at the picture of my grandparents captured in black and
white, and glanced at the shell of a man lying on the metal bed. He was so
different from the man in the picture that stared back at me: a young man of
twenty five, rakishly good looking with a hint of a smile; pleased as punch
with his bow tie, slicked back hair and a young girl by his side. And grandma
she looked strange – she actually looked pretty with her hair curled softly
round her face and her eyes a little anxious. I never understood why grandma
wasn’t as thrilled as grandpa was but now when I realize that she was only
eighteen at that time, I truly understand. It must have been hard to say
goodbye to all she knew and come to stay in Bombay
“She’s come, Dada,” whispered my grandma into his ear, “as she
promised she would.”
He opened his eyes and I caught a glimpse of his grey blue eyes sunk
deep into the hollows of his face. His pale skin was discoloured with age spots
and creases that crisscrossed like a patterned leaf each line telling a story
of his life. For my grandfather had led a rich and fulfilling life. He started
out as a young engineering student setting sail for London where he spent four
of the best years of his life he used to tell me.
“It was fun, my girl. England was so lovely then and London was a
dream,” he would say, his eyes taking on that look of longing and desire…….”How
I miss those days,” he’d sigh as he imagined his Glucose biscuit was a crumpet
with his tea.
I loved hearing my grandpa’s stories – he had made a special wall
in our living room in the house he so proudly built. “You see that stone?” he’d
ask me, “that’s the one I got from Jaipur, when I was asked to build the
hospital. And that other one that looks like an engine? That’s the one I got from Chennai. And this one and that one till he came to my favourite red laterite tile –
that’s from my very first job,” he’d tell me, his voice resonating with pride, ” it was my professor’s house in Mahabaleshwar. In fact that gave me an idea to have a memory
– a little bit of every project for me to look back and see.” 

I used to
think that wall was ugly and wondered why my house didn’t have the smooth walls
of my friends’ but when he explained  his Wall of Memories, I was happy
that he had brought home a bit of his work for all of us to share.

“Your grandpa,” my grandma would complain, “was a workaholic. He
hardly stayed at home. He would finish one project and then march off to
another. I used to ask him, Aren’t there other engineers in India? Why is it
that you always have to go?”
“He’d smile tolerantly at me then,” she told me, “and would bring
out a sari from his leather brief case, especially for me. See for you I’ve
got a sari and for me, a memory.”
She shuffled in the big arm chair and adjusted her sari “Come sit with
me,” she said, making room for my small frame. “You’re so skinny. Just like me,” and she hugged me close. “Have your grandpa’s biscuits? Or some peppermint?  Or would you like a cup of tea instead?”
Sighing, I shook my head and took her hand in mine. I could get
the smell of jasmine mixed with iodine. And hydrogen peroxide and chlorine and menthol. But it wasn’t the smell of the  mints that she kept hidden in a jar beneath her bed. I looked at her, all tired and defeated. And suddenly it struck me. The smell of death was lurking  in the air.

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Author: Unishta

A granny who always sees the humour in life and tries to do things differently. When others make cupcakes, this granny makes banana fritters. When she’s not busy chasing her grandchildren who love making her run around, she indulges in her passions of reading, writing, meeting friends and watching movies. And somewhere between all this she enjoys travelling and cooking!

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