At the senior citizen community cafe, it was officially tea time. The residents had come down from their afternoon naps for chai and gossip till it was time for their daily soaps. Today’s charcha was the death of one of their neighbours.
“Heart attack, the doctor said.”
“And no surprise! I always told Lata not to let her husband have so many biscuits with his chai. It’s not healthy, especially at our time of life-”
“Joshi Kaka never did listen to anyone. Not even his poor wife.”
“Poor Lata. 40 years of marriage, and now what? Left alone, no children, nobody to take care of her. No company in her old age.”
“We should go and visit her. Ask her to come down for tea. The poor bird will lock herself up in misery otherwise.”
“I’ve never seen a wife more devoted to her husband. Not one fight in 40 years! How is that possible? My Lord! Shirish and I fight almost everyday, and we’ve been married for 50 years!” Mrs. Kulkarni cackled.
“I’ll tell you what. I’ll ask her to accompany me on my morning walk and see if she’s interested in the laughter club. Get her out of her funk.”
The gathering nodded, very pleased with themselves and their good-natured plans to help the widow and supplement their gossip.
Lata was sitting at her dining table in their small little condo. It had become difficult for them to climb the four flights of stairs to their old apartment, so they’d moved here 3 years ago.
She liked this place much better. She’d retired as a bank clerk last year after 35 years of steady service, and her pension was quite comfortable. An old woman like her did not need much.
The kettle whistled and Lata got up to make herself some tea. It was so quiet now. Just the sound of her shuffling feet and the bubbling water.
The death hadn’t hit her immediately; there had been so many arrangements to make and people to call. But twelve days later, she felt hollow. Like a mango that had rotted on the inside, gruesome, wrinkled and lifeless.
She shook her head at herself.
“It’s much the same.”, she told herself. “I’m sitting here on this chair, with my dinner, switching on the TV at 7:30 PM. Exactly like I’ve done for the past decade. Nothing at all has changed.”
Nothing had changed the last time either. It was oh, so long ago now. She was younger then. Her darling Pramila had been 4 years old. Such a wonderful child. So sweet, so smart, so beautiful! And then God had taken her away. Snatched her up to heaven. They never talked about her after that. They’d both carried on living their lives like nothing had happened, like nothing had changed. The same routine.
Lata was a very devout person. She’d known it was God’s plan that Pramila should be in heaven, in His lap. She trusted in His plan.
They’d both wanted more children. When she had Parag, they were so overjoyed! A fine, healthy baby he’d been. So full of life and vigour! God had a plan for him too.
Lata wiped a tear from her eye. She shouldn’t be ruminating. Not after so many years. What was the use?
God has a plan for all of us, she kept telling herself. He always has a plan.
She’d known his plan for her husband too. God had come to her in her dreams, as He’d done so many years ago, and told her. She was His humble servant. She’d merely carried it out.
Lata sometimes wondered what God’s plan for her was. He’d sent her to earth as His messenger. It was her sacred duty to execute His word. First her mother, then her father, then her brother. Then dear Pramila and Parag. And now her husband. Would He ask her to dispatch herself to Heaven next?
“Not yet.”, she murmured, a she poured herself another cup of tea. “Not yet.”