The little baby boy cooed and wiggled his tiny hands. Parvati smiled, accentuating the soft wrinkles around her warm eyes. The baby gave her a toothless grin in return. She picked him up from his mother’s arms and hugged him close.
“I wouldn’t have troubled you if my babysitter hadn’t canceled. I have so many arrangements to make for his birthday party today. You are my last resort Aunty!” Reema sounded apologetic.
“I have no problems taking care of him Reema. I will bring him with me in the evening”, Parvati assured.
An uneven sliding sound of footsteps interrupted their conversation. Sudhakar crossed them and walked towards his reading table. He wore a white kurta pyjama and looked pale and haggard. The end of his brown shawl brushed the floor behind him. He looked dazed and continued walking without acknowledging Reema’s ‘Namaste’.
“Aunty, how is uncle now?”
“As usual…aloof and forgetful. Sometimes he wouldn’t utter a single word all day and look at me as if I am a stranger trying to invade his privacy. He would sit in his chair and stare at the horizon for hours. He toggles between episodes of dream and reality. The doctor said that it’s dementia due to old age, can’t be cured completely”
“I will be happy if Uncle comes to the birthday party”
“Me too…” Parvati smiled.
The moon cast its silver light on the porch when Parvati returned home from the party. She unlocked the door with sweet memories of a day well spent in the company of a little baby. The silence of the house reminded her of her mundane humdrum existence. She sighed and entered.
Parvati jumped with a start upon seeing Sudhakar standing abruptly in the dining hall looking at her. His hair was neatly combed and he wore the new pants and shirt which had gone old sitting untouched at the bottom of the wardrobe. And the best part, he was smiling, showcasing his uneven front teeth. He outstretched his arms and said in a sing-song voice.
“Happy anniversary my dear Paro!”
Each and every word rang like temple bells to Parvati’s ears. He addressed her as ‘my Paro’ after eons. The prefix ‘dear’ was a cherry on the cake. After the initial surge of happiness passed, the word ‘anniversary’ hit her.
Anniversary? It’s not our anniversary today…
“Same to you dear!” she decided to go with the flow as a teardrop slid down her cheek. Such moments were precious.
“Oho I made you cry… I hope this will cheer you up!”
He pointed towards a small rectangular bar of fruit cake kept on the dining table with a single candle (tilted at an angle) somehow fixed on it. A smile escaped Parvati’s lips.
“Surprise!” Sudhakar chirped with childlike enthusiasm.
“You have surprised me like never before… Happy 1st anniversary dear…”
Sudhakar made a ‘tch’ sound from his mouth while nodding his head in disagreement.
“Not 1st. It’s our 2nd anniversary, Paro!”
I’m so confused right now…
“Tell me…Was Bunty there on our 1st anniversary?”
“No…” Parvati answered like a robot.
“Then?” Sudhakar laughed as if he had solved a difficult question with ease.
“Even on our 1st wedding anniversary, I was on an office tour. But believe me Paro… that day itself I had promised myself that I would make up for it on our 2nd one”
“Moreover, 2nd anniversaries are special… the 1st year goes away in merrymaking… by the 2nd year only the reality sinks in… one gets face to face with the real deal… people get to know each other’s strengths as well as flaws… deep relationship blossoms during this time creating an inseparable bond… hence celebrating it becomes so important”
To hear him talk was a delight to Parvati. She devoured all his words voraciously.
“Your reasoning is perfect ” Parvati gave a thumbs up.
Sudhakar came near and clasped her hands with his own.
Parvati shivered a little.
“Paro… you look gorgeous in this silk saree that I had gifted you for our anniversary. Thank you for wearing it”
This indeed is the saree he had gifted me decades ago on our 2nd anniversary! Oh this saree might have triggered his memory…
“And that jasmine flower you have tucked behind your ear. It intoxicates me. Love you Paro…”
You clearly missed seeing my white hair behind that jasmine flower… Hehe… I also am so intoxicated right now with the ‘twenties’ love in my ‘seventies’…lucky me!
“I can understand… you were so busy with Bunty that you forgot to wish me in the morning. I have watched you taking care of our son the whole day”
Oh you imagined Reema’s baby to be our son Bunty when he was little… and Bunty was born before our 2nd anniversary… hats off to your logical brain!
And I thought you were watching the horizon…maybe you watch everything everyday…but only on certain days, the puzzle gets its right pieces…”
“You will raise a good son Paro…”
We sure did….
“We will raise a good son together” Parvati corrected him.
Without losing another moment, she lit the candle. Both of them blew it and cut the cake together.
“This is for our happy 2nd anniversary… and many more to come…” she wished and fed him a piece of cake.
“Where did you leave Bunty by the way? Do you want to know what I’m planning for his 1st birthday?” Sudhakar said in between bites of cake.
“He is playing with our next-door aunty. Yes, tell me all about it” Parvati encouraged him to talk more.
She wanted to freeze this moment. She wanted to hold this memory and lock it forever in her heart. It could go ‘poof’ in a second. She wanted to celebrate this 2nd inning of her life. She wanted to devour this 2nd chance. Only the lucky ones are bestowed with it. She wanted to go on celebrating this 2nd anniversary forever….