Her light gray locks, with tresses of silver falls down by her wrinkled cheeks, as she coughs. Once she is done, she tucks them back, behind her ears and begins to sew my old torn shirt. I searched for this in our old almirah and found it out after hours of throwing clothes out of it. She kept cursing me for messing things up and I continued without saying anything. This Shirt is not the only good on I have, but is surely the favorite one. Also not because my beloved wife had brought it for me, on our 25th anniversary, taking care that the color suits me; but because I cannot bring myself to part with it, even now, when she herself asks me to cast it away, I still wish to wear the touch of her fragile hands, which she had put on my chest, while looking into my eyes, and had made me her MAN of the world. I have kept this shirt for some special occasions as today.
Whenever I wear this shirt, the night comes alive in before my eyes. That had been a special day for sure. I had forgotten that it was our love day. Men are always blamed for the forgetfulness, aren’t they? I too was man enough then, to have forgotten the date. She had been sick the night before, and I had to go to work. But I kept thinking about her all day long, I wanted to give her a call to ask her about her health, but in those days we had one land telephone in the living room, and I couldn’t make her leave her bed and walk all the way from our bedroom to pick my call, just to let me know she was fine, as I hoped. So I refrained from calling her.
The faster I tried to wind up my work, the more work was up for me. I worked till late that day and when I started for home, it was already 6 in the evening. And dusk had begun to swallow the little light of the sun. I had the spare keys with me, so she should not open the gate for me. When I tiptoed into our room, she had not been on bed. Before sundry thoughts could flock me, I had felt her hand clasp my shoulder. I looked over my shoulder and found her standing behind me. I filled both her wrists into my palms and watched her smile her brightest. “Where were you? I got so worried!” I touched her forehead “you still have fever” I had said. “Look at you! You didn’t even tell me how I am looking!” she frowned. Then when I looked at her I found her in a beautiful yellow sari, it was new as I had never seen her wearing it before. I had not even noticed her black bindi on her forehead, and that she looked more than gorgeous even when she was so ill. Her mascara laced eyes peeped through her smile. And I looked into her as if for the first time. “You look mine!” I whispered. I witnessed the same saffron return to her cheeks, but she chose to hide it behind her frown. “No! You must tell me.” She insisted, winding her arms round my neck as if waiting to hear an already known answer. I wished to tell her that she looked like the sun and my love sprout in her presence to its bloom. “You look like a sunflower!” I said instead. Her wrath drove me crazy every time. And it worked too. Her expressions did change. She narrowed her eyes, and then as if suddenly remembering something again began to smile. “No fights for today! Okay Mr. Husband?” she said sweetly. I still couldn’t understand her and asked. “Why? What’s today?” I had asked. She looked down as if hurt. From Within I began to push myself to recall what anniversary it was today. We had many “our days” as she liked to remember.
‘My birthday? No! Her birthday? No! Marriage anniversary? No! First date? No! Actually I don’t remember’
She winked and unwound her arms, walked a few paces behind, held my hand and turned around to pull me after her. I protested but she would not listen. Soon I was blindfolded and was hurled up the stairs. She was taking me on the terrace, I had guessed. And I knew I was right when she pulled the blindfold from over my eyes.
My eyes took time to adjust with the light. And I saw tiny lights all over the terrace. Floating scented candles in water filled bowls. Balloons were spread everywhere on the floor and brown chocolate cake was placed on a table. I saw a card beside the cake and seeing it I picked it up. Brushing my fingers, on its surface, I looked at her. The card smelt of her. She was still smiling appealingly at me, and gesticulated me to open it and read.
“I never knew my life could be this beautiful.
I never knew I could feel this good, and even growing old
I would find new love every day. The day I had said I love you
I didn’t know we would make this far.
That you would not remain my smile and become my habit someday
And I hardly knew I would be blessed with this day
And you were the blessing in disguise I didn’t know.
I found myself, all over again.
A new me, who had a reflection of you
And this was the day, I fell for you.
And pardon my stupid rhyming too!”
I read and I smiled. After relishing my expressions from a distance she had walked up to me and I embraced her, lacing myself to her, wrapping her within me. She was my home; for it was there that I belonged. All the creases upon my soul seemed to dissolve. Today she had decided to love me. She could have anybody, somebody who would not leave her when she was sick, somebody who would remember dates, somebody who would do these things for her, which she had done for me, but she chose me instead. I was her worthless husband, whom she loved so dearly. “I love you!” is what I could murmur into her ears. “I love you too!” she had said hugging me tight. And after 25 years of marriage, I had fallen for her, all over again.
Now, as she sits in the dark; the setting sun casts its last light upon the floor, She complaints of her eyesight being weak and the spectacles are of no help. And that I should stop wearing this shirt, and get a new one for me. She says instead that she will buy me one, “you cannot do a thing!” she chides me. And in this chiding, I find a new different Annapurna, the one who would be different from the one who had earlier blushed all pink when my love showed. She is different now. She frowns a little too much, and also has developed a habit of finding fault with my (over romantic disposition) which still makes her blush before our colony kids, which she now doesn’t like.
But I can’t help it now. It is something naturally happens whenever she is near. She is a part of me now, a part of my habits, my everything. I unconsciously hold her hands, with my trembling ones. And this doesn’t make my hear leap and bound as it used to. Now it relaxes me and makes me reach the peak of serenity.
Since the times I have retired, and the ache in her knees prevented her from work. We would sit for long hours, on that same porch and talk. I don’t remember what our conversations would be about, sometimes we would chide and at some we would tease each other. Oftentimes we would talk of our children. And she would dab her eyes dry whenever she mentioned them. How less we smile and we tend to frown more. But I like these. It is the only pleasure I posses now, and to give it away in exchange for the world, I wouldn’t do.
Years ago, sitting idle was an old man’s activity. And I wondered how old men could fleet time carelessly, upon my youth. But had I known then, that this they received, I could have gone to any extent to please God to turn me old then. The things which meant so less, means the world to me now. Now days we do not celebrate anniversaries, we don’t talk of love. I realize that I had not fallen for her smile that day, or for her beautiful hazel eyes. Neither for the yellow sari. But for herself, without her smiles, with frowns, with her forgetfulness, and also with her imperfections. I don’t even remember when was the last time I had told her that I was still in love with her. But when she was done stitching my shirt, I took hold of it from over her lap. Sliding my arms into the sleeves, I wore it, and she helped me put it on. And I guess, I saw her smile, and I realized, that she remembered that it was our 52nd anniversary today