Chapter Three: Turn it Up
“Stop honking! It’s a bloody red light!” Jerk. Delhi traffic jams can be the true test of patience for anyone. Even Lord Rama in all his glory would at least think of giving drivers here the middle finger. But then again, he had the brahmastra... “Arey madam, green ho gayi!”
I put the car in gear, accelerated and zoomed ahead, happy having proved myself as a worthy driver, leaving those Indica drivers in the aftertaste of my exhaust. “If Rama had a brahmastra, I have you baby,” I said patting the stirring wheel of my metallic blue Swift Dezire. As if in response, my Bluetooth device attached to the wheel started buzzing. Mom calling flashed on the screen. “Surviving Delhi traffic is one thing, surviving Mom-in-law’s phone calls, quite another,” I said to no one in particular. “Hi Mom. Ya, I am on my way back from office. Ya, I got a little late today. Yes, Raj is home already. Of course there’s food at home, Mom! He’ll help himself. He doesn’t mind...Hang on. Cops.” And with that I put Mom on hold. Not that that stopped her from talking. I could hear her monologue blaring from the phone. “Beta, you should feed him hot chapattis. I mean you both should eat together. Hot food. He likes his food hot, except daal. He likes his daal warm. Not too hot, not too cold, medium. Since, childhood only...hello, hello?” “Haan, Mamma, I am just about to reach home, will just call you. Can’t talk on the phone while driving, you know. Okay, bye.” Thank you, traffic rules.
Just when I increased the volume of my stereo, the phone rang again. This time it was Ma. Mere paas maa-ien hain, I said to myself in the typical Amitabh Bachchan style and chuckled. “Ya Mamma, what’s up?” “Nothing baby, just about to have dinner. Have both of you eaten?... Are you driving?” “Ya Mom, not home as yet. Was stuck at a meeting.” “What about Raj, is he home? Has he eaten?” “I don’t know! I haven’t eaten either! What about me?” Ignoring my response completely, my mother says, “Beta, you should feed him hot food. Hot hot chapattis...” Wow. Do all mothers in the world go by a common script? And do all of them care just for my husband and at what temperature he gets his regular dose of carbohydrates? “Ma, you are unbelievable,” I said half enraged and half amazed. “I’ll call you when I get home... And when I have fed your damaad smoking hot chapattis,” I said for effect. My own mother felt more for my husband than she did for me. It was at times like this that I missed Dad. He balanced everything out perfectly. He would shower Raj with gifts and me with compliments. I was his beta and Raj was the son he never had. When Ma went overboard with this son-in-law business, Dad would give me the extra attention. In one of my last visits home, before he left us, I remember he had given me a five-hundred rupee note before I left. No reason, just like that. And in one of the last few moments we had shared, he had told me to take care of Ma and Eeshu. “You are my beta na,” he had said and few weeks later, he was gone.
I wiped the growing droplet of water before it even left my eye and submerged myself in the music, as I increased the volume of the stereo. It didn’t matter what song played, as long as I couldn’t hear my own thoughts. There was no time to cry, in a life as busy as mine.