Fictional curry

For the love of constellations

I love constellations, and my dada (maternal grandfather) loved the stars; just today, I was reminded of a conversation we had eons ago. This tale is from a past that I even cherish to date…Dada would have been a month short of his 101st year, if he were alive today. But, instead, he chose to be among the stars!

We were looking at the stars. Only a few were visible to us; but each shone brighter than the other, standing solitary, and doing their best to pale the blackness in the sky. He was counting them, but I was making out the shapes, tracing my favourite constellation ‘Orion’ and asking dada to look yonder, to get a better view.

“It doesn’t look anything like a hunter,” he said mockingly.“I don’t know why they named it that. Can’t figure out the head, hands or legs….Stupid astronomers! Count the stars instead, it is more fun.”
“That’s boring, and we did that yesterday,” I interrupted.
“And how many did you find?”
“Ten, may be.”
“I found 25. Clearly, you didn’t do a good job of it kaali maina (that’s what he called me).”
“Because I am not interested dada,” I clarified. “I’d rather look for constellations; we just learnt about them in school last month and it is so much fun…dada see…see the Ursa Minor,” I said, on suddenly noticing a new constellation, pointing my index finger towards the sky with uncontainable excitement. “By the way, it is also called the little bear,” sparing no moment to boast of all the knowledge I had recently acquired.
“You mean chotta bhaalu,” he asked, translating it for me in Hindi, just to check if he had heard it right. According to dada, English was a peculiarly funny language; one with too many words sounding the same, but meaning a lot different. It was always better to make things clear, he would say. I nodded, ignoring his strange insistence for translating homonyms.
He gazed back at the sky; his eyes running in the direction I had pointed; he squinted hard and in a banal tone, replied, “Hmm, I think I also found his elder brother, bada bhaalu.”
I did not know whether he was referring to Ursa Major (great bear), or if he was mocking me; I believed it was the latter as dada had claimed ignorance when I first mentioned the concept of stars taking on different shapes.
“Anyway, I won’t show you any more constellations, because you don’t seem interested,” I said, upset by his jibes.
Dada smiled, and lurched forward from his chair to get hold of the cane that was resting on the ground.“That’s like a good girl. You carry on with your project, I am going into the field.”
“To look for more stars…the view is way better out there,” he said; and may be he sensed my disappointment, because he quickly added, “So that we can bring all those stars together, and create more bhaalus in the sky.”
Fictional curry

The Patient

We were walking on dry leaves, its sound crisp and rustling in our ears. Today, we weren’t holding hands; may be she had forgotten the warmth of my fingers when entwined in hers, or may be I did not want to remind her. It was better this way, walking within searching distance from each other with only our silence for company.

She did not notice, but the corner of my eye was occupied with her. The frame of the side of her face sloping on the nose, then curving on her lips before slipping to her chin. She still looked so regal in her frailty that I could not help, but be besotted. Even now, I wanted her.

“How are you?” she asked. It was not the first time she had spoken, neither was it the first time she had asked me the question since we met today.
“Am fine,” I said for the fifth time.
Her mind seemed to meander again.

When we reached the curve of the road, she turned to me and inquired, “Do you know me?”
“Why are we here?”
“For a walk,” I said assuringly.
“That’s nice.”

We continued back on the route that we had taken from the hospital. She seemed lost, trailing behind me. When we were young, and when there had been no reason to forget, she had once said that I was the last person her mind would possibly erase. But today was so different. She did not seem to recognise me, like I wanted her to.
We threw sparing glances at each other, smiling uncertainly…I thought I saw dimples, but they too seem to have vanished like her memory.
“How are you?” I heard her say again. And like the loyal man of a beautiful yet nagging wife, who feigns calmness, despite being disturbed, I replied, “Am fine.”

When we reached the hospital, she reached for my hand and held it tight, just like she always did; her face broke into a wide smile, making her eyes smaller than they already were: “I had a nice time,” she said, “We should go out again.”
But all I could muster, was “Am fine.”

I think I was nervous; her smile had enveloped me, overwhelming me with deep sadness; my mind began racing. “Fine, fine, fine,” I could hear myself repeat.

Her hold on my hand tightened…I could see her leading me in, inside the building and then into the room. “It will be fine,” she said, and rested me on the bed.

I saw a nurse stroll in: “Is he okay doctor?”
“Yes, I think it’s a fit. His mind’s been playing tricks. He will be better soon.”
“Where did you go?” she asked her.
“He wanted to go for a walk, so I took him along.”

Sarah, Sarah…I am fine, fine, I repeated.

“Doctor,” the nurse said.
“I think he was hallucinating about his dead wife…she too, had Alzheimer’s.”