A news awaited her. The sister-in-law was impatient to broach it. Her lotus eyes were bright.
“He is coming.” She said as soon as she saw Anitha.
Anitha halted on the steps, eyes wide open.
“Who is coming?”
The sister-in-law was in a jolly mood.
“Don’t pretend. As if you don’t know.”
“No, Moli. I don’t. Who is coming?”
Moli’s Lotus eyes widened. As if she had to hold an ocean within her and it was to overflow through her eyes. Then she turned to her mother. Doesn’t she know it? Really?
Anitha’s eyes turned around and got locked with those of her father-in–law. He seemed to be pleading innocent.
The mother-in-law was tuning her sight upon Anitha. Like two laser daggers. To probe into her. Does she deserve the news?
Anitha suddenly understood. The oilman is coming.
“Oh. I know it. But it is not to-day that he is coming.”
The daggers wriggled in disbelief. How does she know? Did he tell her before telling me? The hen-pecked boy. Let him come. After all, I am his mother.
She never thought that Anitha had made only an impromptu statement, which just happened to be true.
The lotus eyes were unsure and the pleading eyes were shining.
After all, it was Anitha who cared for him. None else. Neither his wife, nor his daughter. And the son was far away.
His voice was arrested in his throat. Long ago. As if he had swallowed something, which was beyond his capacity. His wedded life perhaps, wherein the roles were reversed. With all its humiliations as his only share.
A she-husband and he-wife.
Theirs was not even a honeymoon to him. The honey tasted bitter.
After all, it is money and social status, which counts in the ways of life. His simplicity was bombarded and shattered by her vanity and in the process, he opted out and like a cocoon, spun a web of silence around him and gradually it took complete hold of him. No one seemed to think that the silent man can hear. He heard everything, understood everything, but never reacted. Tenderness in the eyes was his permanent facial expression.
He was a mechanical engineer in a medium–type Construction Company. Even when he lost voice, he tried to continue with his job. But when he realized that the success of his work depended on giving oral instructions, which he could not, he decided to resign.
It was the first time that he took a decision without his wife’s approval. It was an instant decision and he had no time to get the approval.
But she did not forgive him. And naturally so because it was a blow to her vanity. She felt as if he snatched her toupee, while she was among her society-lady-friends. His income was not so high nor his construction company was much big, but to her his designation amounted to something. It made her a missus engineer. Now she felt deceived.
And when her brother, who was the personification of vanity and her roll model, quipped after two large whiskeys that her husband was a fool all along, who did not know even how to dress decently, she felt totally cheated. And the venom erupted towards him, towards all those who cared for him.
Of course, it was long before Anitha entered the scene, but her sympathy and affection towards the sick man made Anitha a natural enemy of her mother-in-law. A friend of an enemy is always an enemy.
Having lost his address and being devoid of his individuality, the old man became an unwanted bundle in his own home. Subsequently, his body found solace in illness and chose to be bedridden. But that too failed him. Sympathy apart, he failed to get even the bare necessities in time.
It was the reason due to which he welcomed the arrival of Anitha to his home as the daughter-in-law, although hardly anyone had consulted him about the decision.
Anitha happened to be the one, who fitted well with his ideas of an ideal daughter-in law. With a golden tongue and an oval, regal face. And on her part, being frustrated by the dry and drab approach of the oilman, she took upon herself the duties of nursing the old man. As a hobby, a pastime, it began. But gradually, her emotional mind too got absorbed in the set-up. In fact, the only peaceful moments in her life there was while being at his service. And he reciprocated by bringing a faint smile to his dry lips, whenever she came to him. The wetness in his eyes, when she did something for him, proffered his genuine thankfulness to her.
And so Anitha became the enemy of her mother-in-law, although she did not know the reason.
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