☛ Submission for October, 2024 issue (Vol. 5, No. 2) is going on. The last date for submission is 30 September, 2024.




-         Sagar Mal Gupta (India)

At exactly 4:30 am, he gets up sometimes willingly; sometimes unwillingly. Willingly when he had had a sound sleep; unwillingly when he couldn’t sleep or slept interruptedly. After washing his hands, he would perform Kapal bhati, Bhramri, Narishodhan, Anulom-vilom and Onkar pranayama. After cleaning his teeth, he would collect water from the water tap. Water supply starts at 5:00 am in the city. He boils about 4 liter water to make it drinkable. In the meantime, other family members, his wife Sulochana and our guest grandson Manmohan also get up. At 6:30 am, they all sit together; have tea; Sulochana with Britania crackers and water-soaked cashew nuts; Sriraman takes tea brew mixed with honey and lemon- juice and water-soaked raisins and almonds. Then starts the mopping of the outside enclosure and the compound outside the wall. He waters all the plants and flower-beds that decorate the front of the house on the one hand and provide life giving oxygen on the other. At 8 ‘o’ clock, he would sit in the chair, spread his legs on the centre table and read The Dainik Bhaskar, a Hindi newspaper. He has stopped subscribing to ‘The Times of India’ because he found that the news is stale in the Jaipur edition and the only readable stuff was the editorial page but lately because of his failing health, he could not read the full English paper. While reading the paper, he goes on sharing the important news loudly with Sulochana and his guest grand –son so that they don’t ask him to let them read the paper. During his reading, there starts bickering between Sulochana and Shivraman.


“Why do you waste your time here reading the paper? Why don’t you go to the City Park where a number of senior citizens gather and consume a plethora of oxygen and share their ideas and thoughts on different topics assailing the country and our everyday life,.” said Sulochana.


“I don’t want to go and waste my time there. You know, I used to go there in the past. These people only talk of politics. One party enthusiasts are at logger heads with the other party buffs. There is a hot exchange of words except that they don’t come to blows.” said Shivraman.


The outbreak of Covid was really the cause of my not going to the senior citizen’s meet. We all were advised to keep social distancing though in spite of all these precautions, we were attacked by Covid. The bickering was not confined, only to the senior citizens meet. The next day, it started on the disordered room.


“What are your books, magazines and papers doing spread over the whole central table and on the chairs? Why can’t you order your books and help me keep the room neat and tidy?,” said Sulochana to Shivraman.


“I know the room is untidy. But please leave me alone. Don’t you know I am writing a poem, my magnum opus. This would make me more famous. The disordered room is a minor matter. What difference does it make whether the room is ordered or disordered? You won’t understand there is order in disorder and there is disorder in order”, retorted Shivraman.


Sulochana used to go to buy vegetables and fruits from the local market held on every Tuesday and Friday. But lately because of her knee pain and heavy traffic, she has stopped going.

“You have retired and do not have much to do, why don’t you go and buy vegetables. Remember the hints, I gave you while buying the veg” said Sulochana.


Shivraman reluctantly went to the nearby periodic market. He bought potatoes, tomatoes, guava, bananas and orange, his bags were full to the brim. He could hardly walk and with great difficulty he limped back to the house and complained of the pain in the shoulder caused by the heavy bags. Sulochana held the bags and thanked him. Shivraman felt elated for the first time. When she sorted

the vegetables, she regretted giving me thanks.


“What have you brought, Shiva? These tomatoes are flabby and soggy. The lemons are no better. They are flaccid. I advised you to bring solid lemons and tomatoes. The guava is too hard. I instructed you to examine the outer skin before you buy it. Buy it only when it has scabrous skin and has red spots. But my advice falls flat on you. Be careful to buy vegetable and fruit next time, advised Sulochana tauntingly.


After bringing vegetables and fruits, Shivraman got busy in washing them. After the attack of Covid, it became necessary to wash vegetables and fruits first in saltish water and then in fresh water. He started first washing the grapes in saltish water, some of them separated themselves from the bunch washing them in this state was very troublesome. When the washed vegetables and fruits were put in the plastic baskets, some water leaked from the pores. When I stepped on the floor, the floor was covered with dust stuck on the soles of the slippers. The whole drawing room looked extremely dirty. When Sulochana saw this, she burst out, “You have dirtied the whole room. Your washing the vegetables and fruits is admirable but you should have done this task more carefully”.


Shivraman was speechless. In the hearts of his heart, he knew that he really did his task awkwardly. He assured her that he wouldn’t do it again. One day Sulochana was in a good mood. She started telling about her teen age life to our daughter, Alpana. Their village had only a primary school. When she passed her 5th class, her studies came to a halt. Her grandfather used to take her to the farmers’ field who were their clients. They used to buy oil, jaggery, sugar, tea, and other eatables from their shop on loan. They usually went to the house of the farmers first in the morning to collect the arrears of the loan. The farmers were very good hosts. They offered them milk to drink, and then they took them to their fields from where they gave them vegetables and during season sugarcane juice to drink. After a year, the school was upgraded, Sulochana wanted to study but her mother put a brake on her studies by saying that her younger brother was only one year old. She couldn’t look after the child and the domestic work together. Her services were required to take care of the younger brother.


Hearing this, Shivraman said, “Your mother was no good. She always created obstacles in your career.”


This remark of mine infuriated Sulochana and functioned like a spoonful of butter in the fire. She burst out, “Your mother was worse than my mother. She made me starve and even provided no water to drink. She gave me no stool to sit even after my first delivery. She tortured me by getting a lot of work done.”


Shivraman kept quiet; because if he had spoken a word, that would have led to the outbreak of the war of Mahabharat.


One night when Shivraman returned after buying three bags full of vegetables and fruits, he complained of a severe pain in the right shoulder. He lay down in bed and ate no supper. In the morning he also had a fever and headache. The doctor was called who gave him medicine for five days and advised complete rest. The disease diagnosed was extreme fatigue.


During these five days Sulochana’s daily work increased. She had to collect water from the tap early in the morning and sweep the floor of five rooms apart from her kitchen work. After three days, she had to go to the weekly bazaar to buy vegetables and fruits. While returning, she was almost run over by a car. She was so scared that she vowed not to go to the weekly bazaar ever to buy vegetables and fruits. She then realized how useful Shivraman’s work was!


She sat near the ailing Shivaraman and waving her hair, she said,” Please forgive me for quarreling with you and finding faults with your daily chores. During these five days, I have realized that your work is excellent.  In future, I will never quarrel with you. I promise’, saying this, her eyes glistened with tears and she felt choked to speak further.


Next morning, Shivraman felt all right and resumed his daily assigned work. When he was collecting water from the faucet, Sulochana came and said angrily, “Have you washed the buckets before collecting water or not?”


Hearing this both of them burst out in a loud laugh.