STRANGER – Part 1

Anusha  had been  devastated when she heard the news! She could not believe it had happened. And the sad thing was that it had happened so quickly and so suddenly!

It had been 4 .00 AM when she and Amma had driven out from her flat at Andheri. The flight was at 6 AM  and Amma was worried that they may not make it in time for her to check in. Anusha had been quite rude to her mother at having been woken up at 3.30 AM to get ready! She was sure that leaving at 4.30 AM would have been okay. But her mother was what she and her father called “paranoid” about everything! If they had to catch a train, she wanted them to be there half an hour early and if it was a flight then ninety minutes early!

Amma had already had her coffee and since Anusha was to leave for work straight from the airport, she was insistent that she bathe and have her coffee too. Left to herself, Amma would have also made breakfast and packed her lunch for her.

 She was still worried about Anusha’s health. Anusha had just recovered from a bout of viral fever! Amma had come down from Chennai to take care of her.  She had wanted her mother to stay back a few days longer but she was guilty that she had left her husband behind all alone!!

“Appa does not know how to manage by himself. I need to be there. Besides, I cannot extend my leave like this suddenly. There is an audit due and I have to get all the papers ready” had been her explanation!! Anusha had been rather sarcastic in her reply saying “ As if  your bank and Appa would fall apart if you are not there for a few days”!!

It was ironical that she had said that because now the world was actually falling apart!!!

She had reached office by 7.30 AM. There was no one around so she decided to have a leisurely breakfast at the cafeteria before starting work for the day.

The television was on and the anchor was excitedly screaming and saying something. Anusha looked at the screen in irritation wondering if she could find a remote to mute the sound! But what she saw on the screen chilled her blood. AI 521 flight from Mumbai to Chennai had developed a sudden fault just after take off. The pilot had tried to head back to Mumbai but in the  meanwhile the fuel tank had caught fire and the entire flight had exploded !! She looked up her email on the phone which had her mother’s ticket attached just to check if that was indeed her flight number. Unfortunately, it was ..!!

She became numb. Her body seemed rooted to the spot for a long time until her friend and colleague Siddharth walked  up to her table.

“ Hey Anu, how are you? Missed you yaar” he said depositing himself on the chair in front of her. She could hold back no longer.. she burst into tears pointing at the TV screen and sobbing!!

She did not how she managed the rest of the day. But Sid was a brick!! He called her father and came with her to the airport to find out what could be done!

Anusha, went through the next couple of days like a zombie. There had been no body to claim as everything was scattered around in the Arabian sea.  She took the next flight to Chennai to be with her father. Just as she was boarding the flight she thought about how her mother may have reacted if it had been Appa who had been lost mid air. She would not have allowed Anusha to come to Chennai fearing that something might happen to the flight that she was on. She would have come instead to Mumbai.

Malli Chitti, her mother’s younger sister had received her at the Chennai airport. Anusha had felt spooked when she saw her aunt. A younger version of her sister dressed in western clothes, Mallika was almost like Ambika’s twin. Anusha threw herself into her arms and started sobbing.

“Come on, hold yourself together Anu, we have things to do” said the ever practical Mallika!

She had driven her niece back to her late sister’s house at Luz. Her brother in law , was behaving as though nothing had happened. He told Anusha, the moment she entered the house that the fuse had blown off and the  plumber had not come to fix the motor despite being called a number of times. Anu looked at her father bewildered!!

“ He has still come to terms with it. Give him some time” said Mallika told her niece.

Anusha looked around the disarray inside her childhood home. Her mother’s absence was acutely visible! The living room had not been dusted, books were piled around here, sink filled with dirty dishes  and there were empty water bottles dotting the dining table! She remembeedr the spick and span house that was her mother’s pride!! Thiers’s was not a fancy house with too many decorations and artifacts but  it was what could be considered a very tidy house. Her mother had been obsessive about it, getting up at dawn on days when the maid was not there to clean everything up before she left for work. Every little detail was always attended to. Whenever Anusha returned from school, she had found the table set for her evening meal and the food inside the fridge ready to be put into the  micro wave! Amma was not much of a cook but whatever she churned out was clean and edible!

Mallika poured out some coffee from a flask and handed it to Anusha. “Drink this first.  Then we will start making plans for Ambu’s funeral” she told her niece.

Anusha looked at her aunt in gratitude! She did not know what she would have done without her. An only child she had no siblings who could help her at this time.

Organizing a funeral itself was a challenge, considering that there was no corpse! Ultimately, they decided to hold a prayer service inviting all their friends and acquaintances.

“But we have to first insert an obituary in the newspaper” said Anusha thankful for the coffee clearing her mind!

“Yes, but that would not suffice. Ambu had few friends in this town. Most of her friends were from Delhi and Pune where we had grown up and studied” said her aunt. After that, it was like a “ghost to ghost hook up” with phone lines buzzing across the world. Mallika had called a few common friends who had called others and others!  Anusha had to constantly keep her phone charged as people started calling in. She was exhausted by the end of the day and dropped off to sleep after feeding her father some dosa bought from Saravana Bhavan!!

Her last thoughts were about how her mother was rushing back to ensure that her father did not have to eat out any longer… “ I will have to get him a cook..” she murmured to herself.

A corner of her mind was also surprised at the number of calls she and Chitti had received! “ I always thought she was an introvert. Never realized that she had so many friends” she thought before sleep over took her!

(to be continued)

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3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. KP
    Aug 23, 2013 @ 14:42:13

    I suspect that some interesting and unexpected development is in store.Please come up with next part soon

    Reply

  2. Aditi
    Aug 25, 2013 @ 13:38:16

    Very engaging read…going on to the next part now!

    Reply

  3. lakshmi92
    Aug 28, 2013 @ 08:31:26

    WOW! brilliant, its engrossing. Please post the rest soon!

    Reply

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