The cups cluttered. The tea boiled for the nth time on fire. I sat in sleepy mode next to my father, who recited early morning “stotras” Ram hare Krishna hare tav naam sada …” I poured the water on the earthen floor that sucked it rapidly, leaving a black softness behind. I looked up through the steam, between the kitchen window & “sitafal” (custard-apple tree) tree & she stood there, all of 32, very dark & lifeless, in a beige nauvari (an old way of dressing Indian sari). Malati Bai , pushed her empty glass for a bit of a milk for morning tea. She flashed an emptier smile which then she instantly forgot just there, on her lips. I looked down to avoid being smiled back & ducked next to my father. Aho..(my father addressed my mother this way ) …give her…give her some milk, tea & sugar. He then smiled & patted me kindly “beta”(child) are you scared of her? She is our Malati bai. Inclusive!! Keep giving, it’s a good habit, it makes you bigger. It makes you proud.
Malati bai was a young woman, married off to an old man of late 70’s as part of “ our responsibility over gesture ” by relatives. She wore a tattered thread as mark of marriage and commitment to her husband. She rarely spoke. She was there and yet not there. Completely forgotten by life & society, like her smile. She left the world in few years since then, equally quietly.Tied by tradition, freed by death.
Malati bai this note is for you to know you did not leave unnoticed. A black softness was left behind in the ducked heart across.