The pounding on the kitchen slab was gentle and familiar. Every morning at 6’am is these cheerful moderate thuds made her smile while she was still in bed.Keshav liked to get up early and prepare ginger tea for her and a glass of milk for self. Beating the ginger pods with a stone was something he did without knowing how it made her feel.
He had taken her to Shimla on their tenth wedding anniversary. The recently released ‘Barfi’ had made it a popular destination. Her in-laws insisted they leave the children behind and take this much needed break.
She loved the place. It was cold and beautiful. After much coaxing, she agreed to cross small stream bare-feet. Scared and jittery she twinkle toed her dainty self away. He used to tease her that if it weren’t for her mangalsutra and over-flaunted sindoor, people would think she was still in school as her height deserted her in early childhood. She turned around to look at him from time to time to make sure he was right behind.
At one point when she looked back, he tossed something at her. She caught it but slipped in the bargain and sat with a splash in the middle of the shallow stream. What he tossed at her was this very stone. She sat in knee deep icy cold water holding it tight and watched him come near. She wanted to be angry with him but couldn’t be. He laughed with such joyous abandonment and picked her up in his arms that any heart would melt. She simply clung on. The rest of the crossing was one of the most beautiful moments of their trip.
This smooth white stone which looked like a shapeless potato had been with her since then.
She was to marry her father’s business partner’s son when she was 16. As the business fell apart so did the marriage plans. No one said anything, no one heard anything. Everyone behaved as if the marriage plans never existed. But the young bride to be was crushed. In the next two years she finished her matriculation and left her home for making good of her future.
That is the time when Keshav and his innocence took over her. And suddenly their worlds went topsy-turvy leading to an exciting yet a journey of togetherness. The marriage was simple. She turned out to be a great wife and a daughter-in-law but for one handicap.
She could never get up early in the morning. Keshav got up early. Prepared tea. Poured them into tiny ceramic cups. Placed them on saucers and called out to her. She would place them on a tray, cover her head with the saree pallu and knock on the door of her in-laws.
Every family has secrets. This was theirs. It kept changing with time from being a tell-tale gossip to a funny story to a romantic legend. Now it was a tradition. The children had planned a grand get together for next year. Their sixtieth wedding anniversary.
Keshav walked in with cup of the same ginger tea. He propped the pillows and picked her frail body up to make her sit. She didn’t want a celebration. She didn’t want the world to wish her. All she wanted was to get her ginger tea in bed as long as she lived. She knew that the day the stone stopped pounding, her heart would too….