“I have requested you countless times not to leave by early morning flights. You not only trouble yourself but also put everyone in the house to considerable inconvenience. I don’t know why you persist in harassing others!” exploded Sumitra in anger at her husband.
Murali replied softly “Why do you have to raise your voice? Our office is into austerity-drive since the last year. We are avoiding night’s halt in a starred hotel. We leave in the morning and return by the evening flight. As a senior executive, I cannot myself break the rule. How does my early morning departure affect you anyway?”
“Ha,ha! How considerate you are to others”:she replied in mocking tone, should She added”The whole house is woken up at 3 a.m. as if it is Deepavali night. Lights are on in the hall, kitchen and everywhere. You may plead you get up only at 4a.m. but you should not forget you are the cause of early morning bedlam. You wake me up at 5 a.m. asking whether I have seen your new pair of socks or spare kerchiefs. You don’t pack your things in advance in the previous night itself and raise a hell at the eleventh hour.
I am not going to put up anymore with all this nonsense of yours! Our child and I will go to bed at 10 p.m. sharp bidding you bye. We will not wake up to see you off. Do remember not to set the alarum in our bedroom. You wake up by your own device and go out of the bedroom quietly, remembering to close the door”Sumitra said unrelentingly.
“Don’t be telling lies. It is my mother who gets up early in the morning to switch on the geyser, boil milk and make coffee. Dad remains awake to wake her up as she cannot hear the alarum. Mom even offers to quickly make some upma or dosa. Most of the days, you keep snoring loudly in deep sleep even when I leave the home for airport,” contested Murali.
Rajamani Iyer and Kaveri were listening to the heated conversation in the adjacent hall from their room but kept quiet. They knew that it was best not to intervene in their discussions however untrue the statements hurled were. Murali, being a marketing man, frequently went on short tours of a day or two. He always took the early morning flights. However careful and quiet one tried to be, there are bound to be noises of the doors opening, the running water, the shower and the conversations with his hard-of-hearing mother.
Iyer would hardly sleep those nights, switching on the light now and then and waiting for the alarum to ring and Kaveri waiting for him to nudge her. They would get up at 3 a.m., get the hot water and coffee ready and keep waiting for the clock to strike four to wake up Murali .He would not get up on time and as the clock ticked by, the aged mother would get restless and the old man will be walking from one end of the hall to the other. Fifteen minutes past 4 a.m., Kaveri would go near the door of the bedroom and call gently “Murali, Murali, it is getting late.” There would be no response for a while but Iyer would hear Sumitra telling Murali in a low voice that his parents were calling.
He would finally come out hurriedly around 4.20 a.m. and get ready in a jiffy, making loud noises and intermittent conversations with his parents. The TV would be on to catch the day’s news while his mother would have put the Sri Venkatesa Subrabatham on the tape recorder. When he left the house at 4.45 a.m., the house would turn very quiet like a sea-coast town after the hurricane had left.
This was the scene when Murali left this morning too. Iyer switched-off all the lights after his son left and retired to bed. Kaveri had already slept. Both of them who could hardly sleep in the night tried to catch a few winks before the day broke.
At 6 a.m., the servant-maid rang the bell and finding no response, rang again. Normally Iyer would have kept the door slightly ajar and be waiting for the milk and the newspaper. But this day, he was fast asleep after the sleepless night.
Sumitra got up fuming at the early morning disruption to open the door. The maid asked “Where is the periyavar (old man)? Is he not well?”
Sumitra replied in an acerbic tone, “Nothing is wrong with him. They both are still sleeping like a newly-married young couple knowing well this donkey is there for all the drudgery. It is my fate.”
The maid who knew the truth, kept mum. The aged couple was blissfully asleep, unaware of the caustic comment of their bahu (daughter in law) whom they loved dearly like a daughter.