My Loving Guest

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During my late-blossomed writing career I happened to become a contributor to an e-magazine. The e-mag was owned by Indians in USA and was running successfully but gradually stopped due to economic reasons after going through different stages of paid-contributions, free blogs etc with due apologies.

When the e-mag folded, two of my co-contributors wanted my e mail ID (not given by the mag) so that they could keep in touch with me and my writings. Out of these, one was married and employed and her ‘keeping in touch’ gradually petered off. But the other one Sneha,whose name means love and friendship, took a great liking towards me and continued to be in touch with me. Due to my advanced age perhaps, the initial acquaintance slowly evolved into a status where she looked upon me not only as friend/confessor but also a philosopher and guide. I also benefited much from her friendship. Her various links and experiences as an English lecturer, reviewer and interviewer helped me a newcomer to the literary field in my endeavors, though she was only a year older than my grand daughter. She had always expressed a desire to meet me and spend some time with me.

Recently her father invited her to his native place for a vacation and he consented to her breaking the journey at Bangalore on her way back to Mumbai and spend some time with me.

Sneha wrote to me about her arrival on a Sunday and asked me to send someone to the railway station to pick her up and that she would ‘pay’ him. The only 3 ‘he’s I had knowledge of were my 84-year old husband, my son who lived 25 kms away on the outskirts and my son-in law who lived at the other end of the city. None of them were ‘payable’ types nor were they at my beck and call , more so to pick up someone from Bangalore Station which was notorious for its always-full parking lot.

Finally looking at the time of her arrival (in a slightly leaner period of the day), my daughter with her husband offered to forego her Sunday TV serial and pick her up and drop her at our place. I e-mailed Sneha’s picture to her.

The guest room which was on the first floor was prepared meticulously. The room was swept, swabbed and dusted. The Curl-on bed was given a ‘jhatak’ and fresh pillowcases, bed sheets and blankets were provided. The bathroom items were provided along with towel and hand towel (oh, forgot the shampoo).The missing bulb in one of the bathrooms though on the ceiling was stubbornly replaced by the wobbly kneed old man of my husband, the perfect host. We could not do anything about the gutteral groan of the ceiling fan. The larder (frig) was stocked with fruits. The daily caterer was asked to bring extra food for four days.

On the scheduled date, my guest arrived. Though I had seen her pictures, her actual persona was a surprise to me. I had not imagined her to be so tall and majestic She had a confident air about her befitting a Mumbai College lecturer with 4 years of media experience.

After thanking and sending off my daughter and her husband, I led Sneha to the guest room upstairs and showed her the glorious privacy she could have there. Not trusting me my husband also had followed to show her the location of all the switches. I cautioned her not to keep her bag or hand bag near the window. That did it. She wanted to know how long back a theft had taken place there and if the rape and murder I had discussed in one of blogs was fact or fiction. After that she refused to sleep upstairs. She preferred to sleep in our second bedroom downstairs which for want of occupancy I had been using as my workshop_ iron box, massager, sewing machine, clothesline for winter etc. But she felt safer on the austere hard cotton bed as it was next to our room. However she had not bargained for our neighbor’s passion for 24×7 carpentry by talkative contract laborers, who would work with noisy planing machines and electric drilling machines under bright lights quite late into the night.

Apart from a few sleepless nights, Sneha was quite happy to meet her idol cum mother figure in me. I was also happy to share all my literary experiences and the collected mementoes which I could not do even with my own children .She reviewed my new uncompleted novel and gave useful suggestions for improvement We had an excellent rapport. But what she had not anticipated was the type of personality my Air force Officer husband would turn out to be. She had expected to find him stiff, prim and proper. Instead she saw a jovial, fun loving character who would be joking constantly. His witticisms which had rusted of late for want of new audience had become sharpened at Sneha’s response. She was highly amused the way he would throw his unexpected witticisms while I would be narrating an episode ‘passionately’( her words), stealing the thunder from right under my feet. She also greatly admired his cool, expert, facile way of dealing with the situation when he had to rescue from the bedroom wherein our 40 year old door lock had jammed in. She said, “ I came here as Vimala’s fan , but I am going as Ramu’s fan”.

Sneha fitted in very well in our now nuclear family, in fact, as much as any of my nieces would though some of our relatives had doubted the wisdom of ’harboring’ an unknown friend met only Online as a house guest. We on our part found her sweet, considerate, frank, forthright, accommodative and affectionate who had all good words to talk about us. She had no hassles about our catered food. In fact she liked the way our caterer made the vegetables (palya) which she would gladly finish for us.

The four days passed swiftly. The day of her departure came. Her father who was to come and take her to Mumbai had said he would book the 4.30 pm train. But since he could not do so, he had booked the night 8.30 train. He had told her that he would come himself or send someone to pick her by 6.45pm.But, suddenly at 5.30 pm he rang up, expressed his inability to come and requested me to put her on an auto rickshaw and to send her to Fathima Bakery at Johnson market. Her father had confidence in her. But we were not confident enough to send her alone in a strange city with unknown language by an auto whose driver himself might be a novice in the city.

Suddenly we decided to start immediately and take her ourselves by our car to Fathima bakery. Only it was important for my husband to return home before sunset as night driving was anathema to him. We hurried Sneha, bundled her into the car and jumped in ourselves. After going some distance, my husband suddenly realized that he was wearing a dhoti and Hawaii chappals, not very conducive to driving. We rushed back. I picked up his chappals, rushed out banging my head, opened the lock, threw away the chappals, collected his slip- on shoes and specs, locked the door and got into the car, all in a split second and off we set again. He had brushed off my suggestion to change to trousers in the car!

Braving the crazy back-from-work traffic, we managed to drop Sneha at the rendezvous at 6 pm. Her people had not reached yet. We had to rush back, racing the sun. There was no time for sentimental farewell speeches or fond good byes. I gave her a quick hug ( a hand shake from uncle) waved good bye and managed to reach home just as the sun was on the verge of setting.

But having left her on the road side alone, we were worried. So we kept texting till her father’s friend picked her up and put her on the train with her father.

Thus ended my loving friend Sneha’s visit , a bright spark in our sober routine life.