The Storm

Oct 08  |  Shilpa Gupte

The rain drums on the tin roof incessantly, trickling in through the holes, streaming in through the gap under the door. What if the house gets flooded by morning? The mats, your favourite wooden stool, the prayer books in the nook by the temple and the tiny idols will all be floating around, colliding against the damp walls. The cot will not budge from its place, though. Its sturdy wood will ensure it stays.

But I don’t care. My eyes are glued to the closed door that, I hope, flies open any moment now, and you barge in.

“Are you okay, Vasu? I am so sorry I couldn’t get home last night. Oh god, what a mess!” you will complain, your wet clothes sticking to your back, your hair plastered around your head.

What will you ask next? Um, yes. You will thunder, “Vasanthi, did you stay alone all night? Why didn’t you call Lakshmi Akka?”

“Uff, stop it, will you?” I will admonish. “Look at me. I am fine, am I not? Why all the ruckus?”

“Did you at least eat anything last night?” You will cry, your patience wearing thin.

“Why, woman, why do you do that? Ishwara, when will my wife learn to care for herself?” You will get melodramatic and dash towards the kitchen. The cans will rattle and the pans will clatter, but my heart will dance to the music of your love. It will nestle snugly within my chest knowing it’s safe with you around.

You will cook the flattened rice recipe I taught you, all the while mumbling about your day. Lazy Raghu failed to turn up and all the load fell on your shoulders. The storm refused to abate and caused such chaos, you just couldn’t get home last night.

You will then rhapsodise about how, this month, we might have some extra money to buy better tiles for the roof, plug the darn holes and change the door, finally.

“And, Vasu, we will also buy that blue saree with the gold border. You loved it the moment you saw it, didn’t you? Come on, now. We will buy it. You can wear it at Vishnu’s daughter’s wedding next month and show off!” Your eyes will twinkle like stars in the inky winter sky.

You will bring me the food, sit by my side and watch me eat. You will rake your fingers through my hair and gently massage my outstretched legs, your soft words soothing my nerves.

I lie on the bed, listening to the world outside, my eyes willing the door to open.

Lifting my head, I look out of the window and catch the faint orange glow spreading along the horizon, pushing through the greys, heralding the new day.

I lay my head on the pillow as I remember Akka murmuring about the raging sea, and how, she felt, the Gods were cursing us.

“The Gods never curse us, Vasu. We are Their children. Can parents ever curse their children?” Your soothing words float in from the past when I bemoaned my barren womb and my useless legs.

I lift my head to call Lakshmi Akka, but the words refuse to escape my lips. A deafening silence worms its way into my heart and whispers the dreaded words into my ears:

“The sea swallowed him up, Vasu.”

I shut my ears and try to scream, but my voice fails me.

I move my hands away and hear the birds chirping, the water dripping from the roof into the puddle below in a lilting pitter-patter and footsteps approaching our home.