Dear Readers, I would request you to read Chapters 1 to 6 of this series, first, for better comprehension of the continuity of the story so far...
The Lady Cook - Part 7
The next day afternoon, at around 2 pm, I got a phone call from Geeta in office, "Sir, we are in the market to buy Sita's saris, but we are confused, what materials to buy and at what price. We need your help."
I said, "It's not possible for me to go now, I'm busy. You go home. In the evening, I'll go straight from office to the market. You meet me there at 5.30 pm. Don't bother for cooking this evening, I'll get something packed from the market." I told them the spot where to meet.
I met the sisters in the market in the evening. Their mother had not come with them. I took them to a known shop of mine. I told the counter guys what type of saris we were looking for. There were three different varieties which suited our requirements and was also within budget. I shortlisted around ten - twelve saris according to my sense which would be appropriate for office wear. I told the girls to select six saris from the lot as per their choice of colour and design. Then I asked them to buy matching blouse and other under garments whatever they required. Sita had initially handed over the entire cash to me when they met me at the market. I then told Geeta to choose a sari for herself. She was reluctant, but I insisted. So she chose a sari for herself too. I asked them whether they had the basic lipsticks and other cosmetics required. Geeta said she had. Still I forced them to buy some more.
Then I took them to a restaurant and had some snacks and tea. While having our tea, Geeta said, "How much was the total bill Sir ? It definitely was more than Rs. 5000."
I said, "How does it matter to you ?"
She said, "Sir, why are you doing this ? We do not know when we can return that 7000 you have given us for the village house, and now this."
I said, "Listen you two sisters, I'm telling you finally. If ever I hear from any of you of paying back any of the money, I will sever all relations with you. I will not talk to any of you from that very minute."
Geeta looked at her sister and then said, "But why? Why won't you take money from us?"
I said, "If you really want to pay me back, then when you have enough, help out someone who is in need. Whatever little help you can afford, be with someone in times of their crisis. That will make me proud."
I then asked them how's their mother. Has she recovered from the mental strain she had yesterday, when she had hugged me and was not releasing me. Both of them looked serious. Geeta said, "Sir, she is of the firm opinion that you are our father's reincarnation. We tried to explain to her with all reasons, but she is not accepting. In fact she has told us that from now on, that she will only take care of you. I can go there and buy whatever stuff I do for you, but cooking and taking care of your food, she wants to take care. In fact, that is one of the reason why we wanted you to meet us in the market, because when we go to your house, she will also come along with us. Sir, I don't know how you will react to this, but she wants to stay with you in your house. She says that, that is her rightful place. When we reasoned with her that you and your parents may not like it, she said that she is fifteen years older to you and an old woman, so there should not be any objection from your parents. She is absolutely certain, that you will not have any objection to this."
I said, "But if it ultimately comes to that and she actually asks me to stay with me, what will I say?"
Sita said, "Sir, we leave it up to you to decide. We will accept whatever you say."
I held my head in my hands. I didn't expect this to happen. I told them, not to worry, I will explain matters to her. They said that their mother wants to meet me today, so they want to come to our house with her. She had already cooked for me. Since it was already nearing 7pm, we got up. Their house was close by. So they said, they'll go home, drop the saris and come to my flat with their mother. Before leaving, Geeta told me that their mother should not know that they have discussed all this with me. I went home to get freshened up before they arrive.
I had freshened up and changed to my casuals by the time they arrived.They reached soon after. Geeta's mother smiled at me as I welcomed her with a namaskar. Geeta and Sita went to the kitchen area with the tiffin carrier they brought to organise my food in my utensils. They left their mother with me. Now since I knew what she wanted, I was at a loss how to attend to her. But I had to take charge. So I asked her to sit at the dining table, so that the girls can join us also.
But she didn't sit, she wandered to the open window looking out at the sky. I sat down at the table, hoping the girls to join me soon. Suddenly I remembered, I called Sita to come and sign those papers. I brought the folder from my bag and sat with Sita showing her the CV and application I had prepared for her. The full set was ready, I showed her where to sign. Then I asked her, whether she is ready to join from tomorrow, that is Saturday, or she would prefer to take some time and join from Monday. She said she will join from Monday only.
I then went over to Geeta's mother still standing by the window. She was still looking outside. I touched her lightly on the shoulder and said, "Aunty".
She slowly turned. She put her hand on my shoulder and smiled at me, "Don't call me aunty from now on. I'll also not call you Beta. My name is Uma, you call me by my name."
I said, "Ok I'll not call you auntie, but how can I call you by your name ? You are so much older to me."
She just smiled and said, "Today I have come with a request to Geeta's Kalpataru (Wishing tree). You are granting everybody's wishes, please also grant mine." She folded her hands in front of me. I caught hold of her folded hands. She continued, "Please allow me to stay with you. I will look after you, take care of you, do all your work. You have two rooms, I will make my bed on the floor of this room. But please don't turn me out of your house." She had tears in her eyes.
I saw her two daughters have come and are standing behind me silently. I was in a dilemma. The way she was appealing was very soul touching. It will break her heart if I say no. But, what will her daughters feel if I say yes. They were behind me, I was not able to see their faces. I needed to know what they wanted. So, I left her hand and called the two sisters to come to my either side, so that I can see their faces. Then I addressed their mother, "You do not have to request me like that. I do not have any objection. But you have come to stay with your younger daughter and son-in-law. Now suddenly if you want to shift out of their place, you must tell them first."
She said, "I'm their mother, I will decide what I want to do." Then she addressed her daughters. "See, I told you he will not have any problems."
Geeta said, "But where will you sleep ?"
Her mother said, "Go home and get me a bed sheet. That will do. I will lie here in one corner."
I said, "That's not required. I have a folding cot kept packed for visiting guests. I also have a mattress for that cot and extra pillow and bedsheets too. You two just help me set up the bed in this room."
We then set up the cot so that it was under the fan and rearranged the other furniture, so that the room looks organised. The mattress, pillow and bed sheet completed the arrangement.
I said, "What about her things which she might need tomorrow morning ?"
To which Geeta's mother replied with a smile, "I have brought whatever I need in a small bag. Rest of my things, they will bring tomorrow."
Geeta said, "Sir, Ma has prepared the food for you today. There's enough there for the two of you." Then she addressed her mother, "Ma, come this side, I'll show you where things are kept."
I called Sita, whispered to her, "See I could not refuse her to stay, the way she was appealing to me with folded hands and tears in her eyes. What do you think, have I done the right thing?"
Sita said, "Sir, you have done the right thing. If you had refused, she would have broken down."
This girl Sita looked very calm and composed. I somehow felt an affinity towards her. Her nomadic features and tall 5 feet 9 inches height and athletic figure has just mesmerized me.
It was a strange situation for me. I knew fairly certain, that the younger sister Geeta had a soft corner for me. She somehow enjoyed carrying me in her arms and taking me on her lap at the slightest opportunity. This was her passion, which her husband doesn't entertain. So that is why she fulfills this craze by picking me up whenever she wants. I have somehow not objected to these tantrums of hers. Maybe I used to enjoy this weird adventure. After all, I am a man of forty and Geeta was thirty two, with a fantastic solid figure. Moreover, I had this affinity towards tall women, the taller, the better and she was 5'9", that is six inches taller than me. But I knew that this is not right, Geeta is married. She may be enjoying this as harmless flirting, but for me this is no solution to my marital void.
But after meeting Sita, my interests shifted towards her. Primarily because Sita is unmarried. She has also got a graduation degree, which would be an important criterion for my parents to accept their son's bride. Her age was just right for me too; she's 37, just 3 years younger to me. She also is quite fluent in my mother tongue, which will help her to adjust in my family. The only issue was that I wasn't aware if she is willing to accept me as her husband, since I'm six inches shorter than her. That I'll have to find out.
But the major complication is the mother. Now she has jumped into the middle with her claim over me as her husband's re-incarnation. This is a very peculiar problem for me. I cannot openly say no to her, lest it hurts her emotionally. But if I allow her, her possessiveness over me might grow in an awkward manner. Further Geeta will get deprived of enjoying her own fantasy of lifting and carrying me, since her mother will now be living at my place, full time.
I was lost in the above thoughts, when I realised that Geeta and Sita have come to take my leave. I told them, that after I go to office tomorrow, if her mother wants to go out of the house, what will happen. Geeta said, that her mother will not go out. She doesn't know this area much. If necessary, she will make a call and Geeta will come over. Their mother was standing by and listening in. She said that she doesn't need to go out of the house, as Geeta will bring the rest of her belongings tomorrow. So with that Geeta and Sita, kept their mother with me and left.
Once alone, I found their mother standing by the open window once again looking outside. I went and stood beside her. I was just looking at her from the side. Such a magnificent figure, tall 5 feet 9 inches, well toned body at this age of 55, no excess fat, but solid body. Hair long, till her waist, very few white hair compared to her age. I said, "It's dark outside, you won't be able to see anything now. Let's sit inside and talk."
She said, "I like this window of yours, you can see the full sky from here, no obstructions."
I said, "Yes, this window has got a good view. What time do you eat dinner ?"
She said, "I'll eat after you."
I said, "Fine, but when do you generally eat at home ?"
She said, "There's no fixed time. Geeta told me that you eat after 9pm. Where is the clock here ?"
I said, "The clock's in the bedroom, come I'll show you."
I took her to my bedroom, there was a small clock up on the wall. She said, "But isn't there any clock outside where I'll be staying ?"
I said, "Don't worry, I'll shift this outside. Actually I don't need to see this clock, I am used to seeing time on my mobile phone only."
She said, "If it's ok for you then, because otherwise I'll not know when to prepare the food for you."
I said, "No problem, I'll put this out right now."
But the problem was, the clock was high up on the wall, and again my height had become my disadvantage. I couldn't reach it. Geeta's mother saw the problem I'm facing. I looked at her and said, "May be you can reach, you are much taller than me."
She came forward, but she was also just missing it by a few inches. She looked at me and called me, "Come here".
I approached her and said, "What ?"
She didn't reply, just bent down and picked me up straight. She lifted me high up and said, "Can you reach now?" I took the clock from the wall. She put me down.
I said, "Wow Aunty ! You are strong."
She laughed and said, "Thank you. But no aunty, remember? My name is Uma."
I didn't say anything. I came out of the room, wiped the clock clean. Then set it up near to the extra bed which I had made for Uma in the drawing room. She came and saw the clock and said it's the right position for her to see.
Then she came to me and said, "Did you mind?"
I said, "What?"
She said, "I lifted you up ?"
I smiled and said, "You are really strong."
She said, "But did you feel bad, that I lifted you up ?"
I said, "No, not really."
She said, "Then, can I, just one more time ?"
I said, "If you want, it's ok."
She smiled, then bent down, put her arms behind my back, and straightened up. Since, I am by now habituated to this sort of routine by her younger daughter, I wrapped my legs around her waist; and put my arms around her neck. Her face was lit up in a bright smile. "You are so light and so small", she remarked.
I said, "Wow! You are so strong. Who would say that a 55 year old woman is carrying a 40 year old man ?"
She said, "Ohh, it's so sweet of you to say that. I thought your manliness might be hurt being lifted by a woman, that too an old woman."
I said, "Old woman ?? I'm feeling quite helpless in the arms of this old woman. You are holding me so tight, I think if I try to get down also, I may not be able to."
She laughed, "Just try and see."
I genuinely tried to break free. She increased her pressure of her hold on my back, so much so that it pained.
I said, "Uff Aunty! It's hurting, don't hold me so hard !"
She released the pressure and laughed, "If you call me Aunty once more and not Uma, I'll carry you out on the balcony like this and stand there overlooking the road, so that everybody in the locality can see you helpless in the lap of a 55 year old woman."
I said, "Sorry, sorry Uma !"
She said, "That's better".
I said, "If I call you Uma, you will also have to call me by my name."
She said, "No, I can't call you by your name, I'll think of something. Now come...".
I said, "Where?"
She said, "Let me get your food ready." She carried me to the kitchen area.
I said, "Then put me down."
She said, "Why?" Then she shifted me sideways to her left hip and held me with her left hand under my buttock, the way a mother holds her child. She smiled down at me sweetly and said, "See, I can work holding you on my hip with one hand only, you are so light. You just hang on to my neck." Then she started arranging the food on a plate all with her right hand, glancing and smiling at me sideways from time to time, while I sat on her hip hanging on to her strong body, watching her work.
I said, "Why are you arranging one plate only ? Get your plate ready also. We'll have dinner together."
She said, "No, I'll have after you finish."
I said, "No, those days are gone. You prepare your plate too. And let me down please, it's difficult to arrange things with one hand."
She said, "No, then you might not allow me to lift you again."
I said firmly, "Uma, don't worry, I'll allow, now please put me down."
She put me down. I then showed her how to heat up in the microwave. She organised two plates and brought to the dining table. While having our food, I spoke to her about her regular routine in the village, just to make her free and behave normally. She was talking casually with me now, with no signs of any emotional stress she displayed yesterday, which resulted in her adamancy to stay in my flat.
After dinner, she took the dishes away. She was working in the kitchen, cleaning and arranging the utensils. I went later to show her where things are kept and to help her arrange things in the fridge. Once I had shown her, I let her complete her work and retired to my bedroom to catch up with my whatsapp and facebook.
( Continued in next chapter....)