She was packing feverishly. She still couldn’t believe that it was actually happening . . . that she was going on a holiday with her husband. Just the two of them . . . away from the daily chores, the mundane tasks . . . away from the slow life of matrimony she had settled into, no questions asked. She took out a big stack of clothes, her western outfits that she had bought for her honeymoon and which, for the last two years, were laying unused hidden deep behind her burgeoning stack of sarees and suits. She smiled as she put them inside the suitcase.
You would finally see the light of day.
She held up a dress and tilted her head sideways, trying to imagine herself wearing it. She held it against her body and twirled a little. She was ecstatic. She couldn’t believe it was actually happening.
Two Years. I haven’t been on a holiday for two years!
The last ‘holiday’ she had been on was in fact her honeymoon. After that she had only been visiting her extended family in one town or other.
And God knows that is no holiday.
All these visits were the same, the kitchen changed, the rooms changed, the houses changed but the tasks remained the same. she was still expected to wake up before everyone and make tea.
All because maji likes to show off how talented bahu she has got. But not this time.
She was anxiously looking forward to staying at a hotel, ordering room service, trying put different cuisines and just having loads of fun.
Just me and him. No family. No cooking. No bahu rani. No hanji-hanji. No dupatta covering the head.
She smiled and carefully folded the dress. She went to her wardrobe to get another stack of clothes when the door to her room opened. She looked up, quickly closing the cupboard behind her. Seeing her husband, she heaved a huge sigh of relief.
“Are the tickets booked?” she asked apprehensively.
He went over to their shared dressing table and took off his watch, “Yeah. We have to leave in a week.”
She asked confused, “A week?! But the advertisement said the offer is only available for flights leaving this weekend that is day after tomorrow.”
“I know. So, we are not going by flight. It’ll be too expensive.” He went inside the bathroom. She could hear him bolt the door from inside . . . The tap water running . . . The splash it made as he washed his face. She stood outside, staring vacantly at the door. She was so excited about boarding a flight. She chewed her lower lip, a nervous habit.
At least we are going on a holiday.
She perked up a little and turned to resume her packing. She saw him walking out wearing his pajamas rubbing his face with a towel.
“What should I pack for you? Where are your shorts?” she said fiddling in his side of the wardrobe, “You look so nice in them.”
He smiled at her indulgently, “They are on the bottom shelf. You only put them there.”
He sat down on the bed, “Listen, I asked ma and bauji. They haven’t been to Goa either so I booked their tickets too. And guess what, ma asked Rinku mausi to come with us and she agreed to. It’ll be nice with all the family going together.”
He didn’t notice that she had stopped midway as if frozen. Her hands felt like they were made of stone. She was unable to move, unable to breathe.
Maji and bauji are coming? And Rinku Mausi?!
“Bu . . . But, this was supposed to be our holiday?” she asked stammering.
“It is. They are our family,” he replied nonchalantly.
She just kept staring at him. She opened her mouth to say something when the door opened with a loud thud and her mother-in-law entered.
“Bahu, did he tell you we are also coming with you. It’ll be so much fun. Rinku and Nandlal bhaisahab have also agreed to come.” She laughed her boisterous laugh, “arre, bhaisahab has only agreed on one condition that you’ll make your famous kachoris for the trip. I toh told him ki bhaisahab that’s a given! No train journey is complete without our bahurani’s wonderful cooking.” She sat down next to her son.
She hastily shut down the suitcase lest her mother-in-law see what she had packed.
“Beta, your bauji was saying that he knows someone who has a guest house in Goa. Staying at a hotel with so many people would be too expensive na. The guest-house has a caretaker and he said that a maid could be arranged. That leaves cooking which I, bahu and Rinku can handle, right?” The mother-in-law looked straight at her with raised eyebrows. She nodded faking a polite smile. She knew she has no say in these matters. She will have to do as the elders deem fit.
“That sounds like fun. I am dying to have that mutton dish that Rinku mausi makes.” Her husband replied smacking his lips.
“So, I’ll tell your father to book the guest-house,” she said getting up, “bahu remember to pack that new saree that Nandlal bhaisahab had given you otherwise he might feel bad.”
She nodded mutely.
At the door, she turned back, “Bahu come quickly in the kitchen; let’s start preparing for the train journey. I think there’ll be around . . .” she counted off her fingers, “around 15 people. I am thinking let’s make pooris and aloo ki sabzi for lunch. Also you have to make kachoris and let’s also make that namkeen that you make. It takes a week no? ” Without stopping to listen for her answer, her mother-in-law left muttering to herself, leaving the two of them alone.
She stared at him with her stony gaze as if willing him to read his mind.
“It’ll be fun. All of us together, hanging out at the guest-house eating delicious home-cooked food. It’ll be just like home, like we never left.”
That’s exactly what I didn’t want.
She bit her tongue. She didn’t like confrontations. She took a deep breath and started replacing the skirts with suits in her suitcase dejected, holding back hot tears.