Life Is Round the Corner
By Neel Anil Panicker
He can afford to but can she. She still has a lot of chores that needed to be done before she too, like dear Viju, can afford to hurl herself into bed, all tired and exhausted from the day’s work.
Watching Grace, all quiet and in deep slumber, her puny little arms neatly entangled inside Viju’s is enough for her to get a wee bit sentimental.
She snuggles upto the two and gently plants a kiss, one each on their cheeks, hers_ all pink and rosy, and his_ still grimy and covered in dirt and grime.
Gosh! all those hours slogging inside the coal mine is taking a huge toll. Concerned, she pores over his face, now almost blackened beyond recognition.
And the coughing. Oh my God!. She must do something about it. It is turning from bad to worse . The other night it just wouldn’t stop. She shudders when she recalls what would have happened had poor little Williams had not come last night and given him the medicines. To his neighbours, he may be unbearably grouchy and generally ill mannered, but then to Mary, the short doctor with the obnoxiously loud voice was an angel; always there when required and ready to help, come day or night, or even midnight, as was the case the last time around.
And what had he replied when she tried to pay him for his nocturnal visit with a worn out much circulated fifty rupee note?
Wait, let me remember.
Yes, I got it.
“Brothers don’t take money from their sisters”.
Now she remembered. Such a man! Brothers… sisters…
Look at him. Only the other day Minu from next door was telling her that the man had bought the top floor flat and that too at one go.’All cash, you know,’ was how Minu had screeched in that high pitched voice of hers.
Man, how much would that have cost!
Wait let me take a guess. What was it that Sush Aunty had said? (yeah, the same old hag who just couldn’t stop herself from making it her business to know about every single thing that happened or nearly happened or was believed to have happened or otherwise around her and five kilometres beyond, including things inside and outside of peoples’ bedrooms).
Yes, I remember. Thirty lakhs! Yes, that’s how much money the old hag had said was the asking rate for a bare boned one-room flat.
If that was the case, the good doc must have shelled out close to a crore.
And oh! He also had__if Sush again were to be believed__four more flats in different areas of the city.
A lot of money, the man must have. And guess what. It was a known fact that Dr Williams was a bachelor with no relatives whatsoever to speak of __ known or otherwise.
And the man, such a man, a doctor at that, had come to her, not once but every time she needed him.
Yes he had been kind, had always been so.
Why? Because, plain and simple, she was her sister. That’s what he had said and not just once but every single time he had come over to tend to her husband and once for her baby.
She walked upto the kitchen and peered over into the sink. It was a mountain. A neat pile. Of utensils. All unwashed.
Dammit, why the hell does the water come only in the dead of night? Or, then again, early in the mornings? That too, very early, at around four. She looked at the heap one more time. It was a Hobson’s choice_either now or the morrow.
She decided to bite the bullet. The hell with it. Now or tomorrow, what difference does it make? Her hands slipped into slippery soapy waters allowing her mind wandered away.
Far, far, away. Into a land__beautiful and unknown__, a land full of small little houses, and among them one cute little house.
A small two roomed independent corner bungalow, and surrounded all around by a beautiful landscaped garden, blooming with an array of flowers, red, yellow and white. And from inside the sound of gentle feet and gurgling laughter and cheery smiles and incessant laughter. A house of joy. A house of her own. A house of celebration of life. A house for her, for Vijay, and for their dear Grace.
Her hands had stopped. The water had stopped. She dried her hands, swithed off the lights, and snuggled her small frame, feeling the warmth of her loved ones.
The dream had just begun and as she cupped the tiny little hands of her dear Grace, she knew that one day, some day, her dream will turn into a reality, by God’s grace.