Dear Readers, I would request you to read Chapters 1 to 4 of this series "The Lady Cook", first, for better comprehension of the continuity of the story so far...
The Lady Cook - Part 5
The next day, I handed over Rs 7000 in a sealed pack to Geeta's husband, Rajesh, calling him inside my cabin. I called up Geeta in the afternoon, and told her to call up her mother and inform her when the money would reach her.
Geeta came in the evening with a tiffin carrier in hand. I said, "What's that for ?"
"Your dinner and tomorrow's breakfast. I've already cooked at home and brought them," she was smiling.
She went to the kitchen platform and was busy organising the food in my containers.
I said, "But that means you had to cook from your own materials."
She said, "So what ? One day you eat, what we eat."
I said, "I didn't mean that... And you know it."
She said, "Yes yes, I know. Don't get so worked up. I brought this, so that I get some free time with you. We'll just chat today...no cooking."
I said, "Why, what's so special, today?"
She said, "Wait, wait Sir, let me finish organising these and cleaning up. Then I'm coming. You finish checking your mobile by then."
She came in 10 minutes, with a hot cup of tea and a plate full of pakodas.
I said, "Where's your tea ?"
She said, "I had it at home."
I said, "It won't do, bring a cup, we'll share. Otherwise I'm not having."
She came back with a cup, grumbling but smiling. We sat at the table. She didn't want to take any pakodas too. I forced half of them to her.
Once settled down, I said, "Tell me, what's so special that you want so much free time with me ?"
She said, "Mama, my uncle, has agreed to the proposal you had suggested. He had created a drama that he wanted the cash and he will buy the stuff required for the shop on his own. He actually wanted some money to buy his bottles. But my mother and sister put it into his head, that if his son and daughter-in-law knows that he has so much money, they would take away the cash. After a lot of haggling, it was settled that Ma and my sister will buy Rs 5000 worth of materials for the shop. Also with the balance money, they will stock up rice, wheat, flour, lentils, sugar, salt, oil, spices and all other essential items at our house, so that my mama and his wife can eat for quite some days."
I said, "Great news. So when are they coming ?"
Geeta said, "My sister is going to resign tomorrow from school. Hopefully, she will get her dues within a few days. Today is Friday. So possibly by next Wednesday, Thursday, they should be here."
I said, "Wonderful ! So, once they come, bring your sister here one day. I'll prepare an application letter and a CV for her. Tell her to bring all original documents regarding her education certificates, mark sheets and ID proofs with her. Whatever photocopies required, I'll get them done here. Then, I'll fix up her date of joining."
Geeta said, "I'm so relieved, I thought that all is lost. We had come so close, but we got stuck at the last hurdle so badly, that I had given up all hope. Then Sir, came your master stroke. I'm so satisfied, I cried in happiness, after Ma told me that finally my uncle has agreed."
I said, "I only hope that this person doesn't create some issue again."
Geeta laughed, "My mother has told him, that after he comes and settles down at our house, Ma will give him Rs 500 in cash for his own expenses. He will now come for the money. And his wife is very interested in coming to our house. She cannot tolerate her daughter-in-law. So she would love to live separately. Also with all that food grains, she is more than willing. She will make Mama stay there."
I said, "Good. And what about the money, when will the bus driver deliver it to your mother ?"
She said, "Tomorrow morning. I'll call you up in office, as soon as Ma confirms receiving the money."
She picked up the plates and cups and took them away. I shifted to my favourite sofa.
After a few minutes Geeta was back after washing the plates.
She came and stood in front of the sofa, "I took time off from cooking just to chat with you", she reminded smiling.
I said, "Come, why don't you pull up a chair and sit near me".
She joked, "No I'll sit with you."
I said, "But it's a single seater sofa Geeta. Although it's a little wide, but both of us can't fit here. Okay you sit here and I'll sit on the chair."
She said, "How's that possible ? You are my Sir, you can't sit on the chair, when I'm sitting on the sofa."
I said, "Then, you only tell me how you want done."
She said, "I'll sit on your lap."
I was astonished at her suggestion, "What !?" I exclaimed and questioned both with one word.
She started laughing, "Why ? You can roam around the room in my arms three days in a week. And you cannot take me on your lap, and that too sitting down, for once only ?"
I said, "I didn't say that I can't make you sit on my lap. You sit, I don't mind. But let me correct what you said. I don't get up on your lap on my own. It is you who pick me up forcefully whenever you get excited."
She was laughing, "Forcefully ? Are you a 10 year old boy, that I'll lift you up forcefully and you can't resist ?"
I said, "I don't want to argue with you on this. Come sit on my lap."
She sat on my lap cross wise putting both her legs over one arm of the sofa. I could see that she was trying not to put her full weight on me purposely. She asked me, "Are you okay ? Am I hurting you ?"
I said, "No problem, I'm perfectly fine."
She said, "I don't want that tomorrow you have to take leave from office because of pain in your thighs. What is your weight Sir ?"
I said "58 kgs".
She immediately got up from my lap. I said, "What happened, why did you get up?"
She said, "Mad or what ? You are 58 and I'm 80 kgs. 22 kgs more than you. I'll break your leg if I sit for too long. Now, you stand up Sir. It's better you sit on my lap. That's safer."
I didn't move, so she pulled me up by my hand, and sat on the sofa. Then she pulled me down on her lap. I keep a small plastic stool in front of the sofa on which I put up my feet, so that I can lean back and stretch out in a relaxing position. Geeta adjusted this stool according to the length of her legs and put her legs up on the stool and leaned back. She put my legs on her outstretched legs and pulled me back. My head rested on her right shoulder.
She put both her arms around me and said, "I have something to show you."
I said, "But since you have got free time to talk today, I want to know, what is this craziness of yours of lifting and carrying me and taking me on your lap on the slightest of opportunity. Why do you do this ? What fun do you get in this ?"
She gave me a light squeeze with her big arms and laughed out loud, "I'll tell you...I have kept free time only for chatting with you this evening. But first have a look at what I'm showing you."
She took out an envelope from her bag which she had kept beside her. There were some photographs there. She selected one and gave it to me. It was a group photograph of a wedding ceremony. She looked over my shoulder and asked me to identify people of her family. I could recognise Geeta in the picture, her height gave her away. But I couldn't guess her other family members. She didn't clarify, but gave me another picture.
This one had two young women standing on either side of the bride, in the same party. One was Geeta. The other looked a little older than her, but the face was oval shaped with high cheek bones. One thing which was common between the two girls were their height. Both were equally tall.
I said, "This must be Sita."
Geeta nodded, "How do you like her ?"
I said, "She has a very attractive face. Along with this fantastic height, I wonder why she didn't get a husband ?"
Geeta was smiling, "That means you like her."
I looked up at her at this remark...she was smiling mischievously, "What do you mean, Geeta?"
She was still holding that wicked smile on her lips, said, "No, nothing, I was just asking. See this next picture."
This one was taken in a photo studio. Geeta and Sita standing on either side of a chair with a senior lady sitting on it. That must be their mother. She looked more like Geeta, a little roundish face and a heavy set body.
Geeta added one more photograph in my hand. This one, like the previous one was taken in the studio on the same day. Here, all three ladies were standing, with the mother in the centre. But the most striking thing about this picture was, all the three ladies were of the same height, more or less. At first, I thought that the mother must be standing on a stool or some pedestal. But checking carefully I saw that all three of them had flat soled slippers on. It was quite a revelation for me. What a family of tall women ! Geeta was looking at my surprised face with amusement. She said, "Sir, what are you looking at this picture for such a long time ?"
I said, "What an amazing tall family you have. You didn't tell me this earlier ?"
She said, "Why? I told you that my sister is as tall as me. Wait I'll show you two more pictures." She handed me a photograph of a man standing in the compound of a village hut. Thick moustache wound up at the ends, with a dhoti and kurta on. This must be the father.
Geeta said, "The earlier pictures are recent ones of within a year. This one of my father is a few years old when he was alive, in front of our hut. Now see this one." She handed me one more photograph. Now, since I know all her family members, I could recognise her father and mother standing side by side. But what's this ! Her mother stood half a head taller than her husband. I looked questioningly up at Geeta... she was laughing at me. She knew that I was astonished at the height difference.
She said, "Now that you have seen all the pictures Sir, you turn towards me. If you sit this way, I'm seeing only the back of your head. I want to see your face properly when I talk to you."
Saying this, she pulled my legs across the sofa handle on the left. She put her right hand behind my back and turned me sideways on her body, so that my head rested on her shoulder with my face turned sideways towards her. She held my back cradled with her right arm and with her left hand, she pulled my thighs up across her lap and held them there.
"Now, that's better. I can see your face now," she said. "Now I'll tell you what you wanted to know," she smiled broadly. "You must be intrigued about the picture of my father and mother. Yes, my Ma was about as much taller to my Bapu*, (Bapu = Father in rural Hindi), as I am taller to you. But she wasn't taller when they got married. You see in those days in the villages, girls were married off at a very early age. When they got married my mother was 10 and my father was 18 years old. So, then my mother was much shorter than my father. But as they grew older, Ma shot up in height, whereas Bapu didn't grow much, if at all."
I said, "But wasn't that a problem for your father, having a wife so much taller and heavier than him ?"
Geeta said, "No, as Ma told us later, that since they were married so early, they grew up together and their bonding was such that this height difference did not matter to any of them.They loved each other very much.
And now the most interesting part...my mother used to love cradling up my father in her arms and also lifting and carrying him in different ways. Bapu used to love that too."
I asked, "How do you know this ?"
Geeta was laughing, "Didi and I used to sleep in another room adjacent to our parents room. On some nights, hearing noise from the other room, we used to peep through the holes in the door. We saw Ma carrying Bapu in different ways like cradling, straddling from the front, piggy back, sometimes even on her shoulder. They used to love each other with Bapu in Ma's arms or lap. They really enjoyed their difference in height and strength. But during the day or in public, they used to maintain a steady distance, with Ma pulling down her ghunghat in front of elders and outsiders."
"But how did you two sisters find out that this is their way of expressing affection?" I asked.
Geeta said, "Didi was born when Ma was only 17 years old. I was born 5 years later. Actually, when we were just growing up, one night Didi was not feeling well. So she wanted to go to Ma for medicine. Our connecting door generally remained bolted from Ma's side, but somehow that day it remained unbolted. As the door opened, Didi saw Ma carrying Bapu cradled like a child in her arms and they were both enjoying. She was so taken aback that she just stood there transfixed. Ma was embarrassed and put Bapu down immediately. From then on, we knew this and we used to watch them through the door holes sometimes. Actually, we were also in our growing up years and it was intriguing to us to know as to what happens in adult love.
Later on, when we grew older and Ma became more of a friend, did Ma open up to us, that this was their own special way of expressing affection for one another."
This was such an unusual love story, that I didn't know what to comment. Geeta continued, "That is why I was telling you yesterday, that Ma would only be happy if you told her that I pick you up like this," Geeta was laughing.
I said, "So, this craziness has been inherited by you also ? Tell me, do you lift and carry your husband also like this ?"
She laughed, "Yes, I can lift him easily. He is just a little taller than me, but I'm much heavier. Initially I tried lifting him up on two occasions. But he doesn't like being carried and gets very irritated. So it's no fun; we end up quarreling and he stops talking to me. So, now I don't even try this. Why unnecessarily hamper our marital relationship because of this weird thing in my head."
I said, "Ohh ! So that is why you try all this fantasy on me."
She laughed out loud, "Yesss, because you tolerate all my tantrums and don't protest, my little Sir." She gave me a hard loving squeeze in her soft but firm body.
I said, "Tell me one thing, did you tell your mother that you carry me around like this ?"
She said, "Noo, how can I say that ?"
I said, "I think it's getting late today, you better be going home. It was a nice evening chat. Here hold your photographs." I got up from her lap.
Geeta also got up and started arranging her tiffin carrier, which she had brought. She said, "I'll call you up in office tomorrow morning and tell you once Ma receives the cash. So see you tomorrow evening."
(Continued in next chapter...)