Meenakshi continued to stay at her apartment alone even after her husband's demise. She declined her daughter's pleading to stay with her but comforted her saying that her house being close by they can meet daily. Though past 70, she was keeping fit except for the pain in the legs and could cook her food. She spent the time watching TV, reading and cooking. She always had her nap at noon. It was around 1 pm and she was woken up from her sleep by the bell. It was Muthu the carpenter who had come. He had done plenty of petty jobs when her husband was alive. He knew plumbing and some electrical work. A handy man, he came whenever asked to come to fix minor repairs. But she had not asked him to come today. Wondering the purpose of his visit, she opened the grill and asked him"What brought you here? I trust you are doing well"
"Amma, I always remember ayya (her husband) and wished to check about your welfare. I have also some business with you" he replied. He seemed slightly drunk from the smell that emanated when he spoke. She felt she had done a mistake in letting him in but put on a smiling appearance.
"It is nice of you. It is very hot. Let me get you a glass of cool butter milk “she said.
When she went in, he surveyed all the sides of the hall. He knew the apartment well as he had worked in all the rooms. There were two bed rooms and one of them had cots and a steel almirah.Ayya used to get money from it. Things were as they were when he came on the previous occasion.
"Drink this. It is cool" she offered the glass of butter milk. After he had finished, she asked him whether everything was fine.
"Amma,By god's grace I am fine. Can you bring the silver plate you keep in your puja room?"
She was taken aback at his audacity. She suspected his intentions were not honest and that she was in a piquant situation. Wanting to buy some time, she said" I don't know why you want the silver plate. Any way please wait. I will bring it"
"Please get it. You will know why I asked” he said with a smirk in his face.
After a couple of minutes, she came trembling to the hall with the silver plate. To her great surprise, she found him taking from his cloth bag dozen plantains, betel leaves, areca nuts, turmeric sticks and an invitation letter in traditional yellow and pink combination. He wound his towel around his waist and placed the things on the plate. When she looked at him with wonder, he prostrated before her and said "Amma, I want your blessings for my daughter whose marriage I have fixed.Ayya was like my father. You are the first I have come to invite.. It will give, me utmost pleasure if you can come and bless the girl"
She felt very small and bad at mistaking him and said “I am happy to hear the good news.Ayya would have been very happy were he alive. Please wait"
As she gave him thousand rupees, he said " Amma,please give it to the girl when you attend the wedding.You must not fail to attend."
Just then three of Meenakshi's neighbors entered her apartment and asked " Mami, what for you wanted us. There was some urgency in your tone."
“Please wait. I will tell you presently. Incidentally he is our carpenter Muthu and known to us for several years. My husband had a liking for him. He has come to invite me for his daughter's wedding."
After Muthu left, she said" When I sent you SMS, I thought I saw a serpent enter the house. I realized later it was the serpent of my foolish suspicion. Everything is fine. Thanks for coming"
Not understanding her, the neighbors looked at her with a quizzical expression as they left .