“Okay, we are going now, ma!”
“One minute, beta.”
My teary-eyed mother handed my wife a bag. It was not hard to guess it was full of small plastic containers filled with food she had prepared earlier that morning, a gesture that had become tradition over the past few years during our visits back home. Jars of sweet mango pickle, boxes of round besan laddoos; it had everything that reminded me of my childhood, of my home.
I looked up. The last rays of the sun coloured the old walls of our home almost orange. The door was wide open, my father standing on the steps and waving at us, just as he did years ago every morning when I was leaving for school. On the right side, my mother’s tulsi growing green and lavish in the small courtyard. My father’s bicycle leaning against the wall, under the kitchen’s window. On the rooftop, colourful spots against a blue sky – mother had washed father’s shirts and hung them out to dry.
Mother never said it aloud. But she loved us. Her endless cooking, her food was the proof. I took the bag, held it firmly in my fist.
“Have a safe journey,” was all she said as we started walking away from the house. I bit my tongue. Every time I visited home, there was so much I wanted to say, but no words came out of my mouth.
Once we were seated on the train, my wife grasped my hand and held it up.
“See! You are trembling again,” she remarked. “What’s wrong with you?”
“Nothing,” I snapped and withdrew my hand.
“You’re living in denial,” my wife whispered as she turned her back to me. The train started with a twitch.
As women always are, my wife too was right. Restless nights and trembling hands, it all had a reason behind it. I had moved to Delhi eight years ago, leaving my parents alone in our village, my childhood home. We had all explained it to ourselves by saying we didn’t have a choice. Way too educated people such as myself cannot find decent jobs in small towns. Since then, I had learned how to swim, wasted ludicrous amounts of time at movie theatres, started blogging, married the most beautiful and lovely woman, moved from a shared flat to a small apartment, enjoyed my wife’s half-raw chapatis, tasted her preparations as she evolved to cook delicious sabzi, gotten glasses, ran in four marathons, and lately, started up the small voluntary job of reading aloud for the visually impaired. We were now expecting our first child. My parents had, of course, missed it all. Instead, they had stayed home, which was far from Delhi, way too far to visit more often than once or twice a year. They had stayed in a house free of the noise of running feet, sweet laughter, clings of accidentally dropped tumblers and splashes of spilled milk; free of the smell of fresh mehendi applied during festivals, regrettably burnt food, my wife’s favourite rose incense; indeed, free of life; as they were fighting alone against diabetes, against boredom, against gossiping neighbours.
On that eighteen hours train journey, I took a lifetime decision. I couldn’t find any sleep as I lay awake, counting years, salaries and miles in my head. For once in my life, I wanted to do the right thing. My parents deserved so much more than the lonely life they were living for too long. They deserved to finally get to know their daughter-in-law. They deserved to see their grandchild smile for the first time, walk for the first time, speak for the first time. They deserved to stop worrying and enjoy life, as I would take care of them.
As dawn broke, I gently awoke my wife. She yawned and blinked, trying to wake up.
“I want my parents to come to Delhi,” I blurted.
“Okay, but we just visited them, Vik.”
“No, not for visiting. I mean, I want them to move in with us. We could buy a two bedroom apartment. Anyway, we will need to move sooner or later, as we have a baby coming. I’ve been making some calculations and I think we could afford it. They would help you with the baby, you know, and in return we would keep them company. They are getting old, I don’t want them to stay alone anymore. I… I believe they would like it.”
It took a minute for it to sink in. I took her hand in mine, eagerly waiting for her reply. Then my wife started smiling.
“You know what? Your hand is not trembling anymore!”