Mukta woke up thinking, “I’ve got to grind daal for the puranpolis, order srikhand and tell bai to start making aam ras as soon as she arrives.” By 1 pm Sachin would be home and the mid-day meal had to be ready. Even as a child he would start wailing if she was a minute late getting him his khana. He was 28 and still hated being hungry.
Mukta had reminded Namrata about this several times but the girl took her own time. She’d learn once Sachin and she were married and the honeymoon was over. Her normally sweet-tempered son growled if his stomach growled.
Sachin and Namrata were going to be living only four floors above, in the same building. They had started shopping for furniture and furnishing. The lagna was a month away. But when it came to the kitchen, Sachin had wanted her to take charge. As far as he was concerned, she was the queen of the rasoi.
Mukta smiled as she went to take a shower. Twenty minutes later, she was shaking her husband, Rahul awake with a cup of tea, telling him he had to go to the market. She needed fresh fish.. and if he was early, may be he’d get some garam jalebis too. Sachin would be home soon. Instantly, Rahul sat up. The boy was his life too, had been since the day he had cradled him in his arms after waiting 14 hours outside the operation theatre. It had been a difficult birth and Mukta had been strictly warned against conceiving again. She would have liked to have another child. She consoled herself with the thought that at least she had Sachin. He adored her. She wondered if things would change after marriage..
The apartment was soon redolent with the fragrant scents of Maharashtrian cooking. Sachin had left with friends on Friday for Alibaug for the weekend.. his last bachelor bash. Since Monday was a holiday, his friends had wanted to return late. But Sachin had promised her he would be home for lunch.
It was 2 pm and he wasn’t back. His mobile was switched off. His friends were unreachable. A sense of foreboding washed over Mukta. “Something is wrong,” she told Rahul . “Traffic must be bad,” he tried to reassure her. But Mukta wasn’t convinced. Her son would have called, he always had, even if he was 10 minutes late.
The call finally came at 4 pm. There had been an accident. Sachin, sitting besides the driver, had been badly injured as a truck had rammed into their car. He had been rushed to hospital. He was dead.
They brought him home around 6 pm. Namrata didn’t stop crying.. Mukta couldn’t cry. The relatives and neighbours fussed around, coaxing her to take a bite. Mukta waved them off. Some of the food she had prepared all morning had been eaten.. most of it put away in the fridge.
Finally, everyone was gone. There was just Rahul and her. He had refused dinner too and gone to bed. It had been a long day and he had finally nodded off. Mukta shut her eyes tight, hoping for a few hours of oblivion. Suddenly, she heard his voice. Her Sachin was back. She heard him clearly, “Ayee, where’s the food? I haven’t eaten all day, I’m hungry.”