By: Someeta Das
Spring was in the air. The songs of the birds as they flew to their nests, sounded melodious and sweet as Rukmini stood on the verandah listening to them. After the day’s hard work, it was late in the afternoon when she had some time for herself when she could tend to the garden in the small backyard. She was particularly fond of her garden, though it was just a very small patch, and there were only a few rose bushes, a tulsi tree, along with magenta petunia. But she always felt relaxed in this haven. For this place gave her a sense of freedom, as she could be amongst her favorite flowers and she depended on them as they did on her. It was an interdependence, they on her for their water and sustenance, and she on them, for serenity and peace of mind. With her children Meeta aged ten and Raghav, aged twelve at school, and her husband Nitin at the office, this time in the late afternoon, was the time she could call her own.
The mornings were never quite easy. The children had to be pulled out of their beds, groaning, and pushed to complete their morning rituals, given their breakfast and tiffin and finally packed off to school. Nitin too had to be woken with his tea at the right temperature, his clothes to be readied, and then after a hurried breakfast, while Rukmini sipped her tea, with agoodbye- see –you- later- rush out, which meant that now she could catch her breath and bring some order into the disorder of the house.
Rukmini lived on the ground floor in a four storied apartment building, with her husband and children. It was a blessing to live on the ground floor for she had the advantage of the small area near the kitchen,which liberated her spirit from the monotony of daily routine life. It was here, she could spend the little time she had to call her own, where she could think, maybe even heave a deep heartfelt sigh of relief and even sometimes speak or sing to herself, without feeling guilty.
She had planted the rose bushes herself-getting them from the nursery, a couple of red and yellow rose plants and could tend to them only at this time of the day. Though she managed to water them twice a day in the summer when they withered and appeared to have wilted in the heat, but in the winter when they blossomed, she had the satisfaction of seeing her roses bloom, red and yellow, their size surprising her.She loved all her plants, but the yellow rose plants held a special place in her heart. She had heard somewhere that one must treat plants like humans, which she did, talking and singing to them softly, sometimes even confiding to them, when she did not feel well, or after a difference of opinion with the children, or her husband.
It was spring, but both the red and yellow rose trees were still flowering. She knew with the summers setting in, the plants would be the first to suffer.Somehow she had the feeling thatthe plants fate was intertwined with her own. She did not believe in superstitions for she was well educated, and it not practical and defied logic, but she felt though strange it was true. Earlier, when the yellow rose bush was wilting she felt a sense of foreboding and discomfort, that something unfortunate was going to happen.Eerily enough, something did happen, just as she thought it would. She rememberedit had happened twice, that one time when one of the yellow rose plant was wilting. She was puzzled as she had dutifully watered it, even had given the plants manure a couple of weeks earlier.
But strangely, the particular plant did not respond to her care. She was a little worried for she cared for them like her own children, and worried in the same manner if either of them were sick. But all thoughts were driven away when the very next day her husband came home with a raging fever. She was upset and puzzled as Nitin had left home in the morning without any physical discomfort. It took quite a few days for him to recover from that bout of illness, and get back to his regular routine. The next time, she had noticed something wrong with one of the red rose plants. The buds were there, but before flowering, they were falling off. She decided to call the nursery and ask them to send a gardener to deal with the problem.
But this time curiously, the very next day Rangav came home from school with an injured leg. He had twisted his left leg while playing, and hurt it badly. He came limping back from school, accompanied by his sister. Rukmini soothed him, put some ointment gently, and carefully nursed him, all the while thinking “Is it a coincidence?” Again, it took a few days for Raghav to be completely fit before he returned to school. She thanked her stars that it wasn’t a fracture, and apart from a couple of days’ rest, it was nothing serious. It seemed magical as the red rose tree started flowering once again.
That evening asRukmini was tending to her plants, she noticed the one of the yellow rose plant seemed a little withered. For a moment she stared and tried to figure out as to what was wrong. It was the month of April, and the summers had not quite set in. She had dutifully watered them twice, in between cooking lunch and cleaning. She tried to recall when she had last tended to them. Abstractedly she thought “Today is Wednesday-did I not give the manure last Thursday”. Yes, she remembered that it was Thursday, for she had to buy the grocery from the local market. She had mixed the manure to the soil,and then bathed, having a quick lunch, hurried to the shops. Then it struck her, was something going to happen?She was filled with dread, and now had a sinking feeling in her stomach as she tried to stop panic setting in.
“What is going to happen? Are the plants trying to tell me something”, she asked herself. She thought of taking her husband Nitin into confidence. But she knew that he would probably laugh at her, and tell her to be logical and not let her imagination run wild. She knew she could not relate that sense of foreboding to anyone, so she just prayed silently, asking for courage to deal with whatever challenges came her way. She appeared to be quiet over dinner, as the children squabbled over something that happened in school. Noticing her being unusually thoughtful, Nitin asked “What is wrong? Are you feeling unwell?” Rukmini shook her head and smiled, saying“No, I am perfectly fine”. That entire night she tossed and turned trying to imagine various things going wrong. The next morning with the usual hustle-bustle of the day, she forgot her misgivings and appeared to be her normal self. Settling the house once it was empty, the sense of dread returned. Glancing at the garden, she saw that the yellow rose tree seemed further withered. She hurried out, and started watering them and speaking softly asked,” Why don’t you tell me what is wrong?” She felt a shiver run through her.
The call came just while she was having lunch. The shrill ringing of the telephone shook her out of her reverie. It was her husband,Nitin. His voice shaking a little, asked her not to wait for him and to have her dinner with the children. He seemed to be in a hurry, before Rukmini could ask him what was wrong, he had rung off. Now she was in a dilemma as his voice had revealed nothing.She went over every word he had spoken, but could not deduce anything. Did his voice sound worried or anxious? She asked herself. At one moment she thought of calling him, but Nitin had said he would be busy, so she did not like to disturb him. Moreover, she felt that she was worrying unnecessarily and was reading too much into his call. Maybe he would be dining with a client, and therefore would be a little late, she reasoned. She hurriedly completed her work, and went to the garden.
She was now kneeling down besides the yellow rose bush, speaking tenderly to it, as shetried to find the reason for its wilting. She sang softly and it somehow seemed to her that the plant looked comforted. Was it a figment of imagination that it seemed to be responding to her words? She spent a few moments more and then hearing the voice of the children, she returned to the house in time to see them entering and searching for her.
Dinner, was the usual chatter, with the children asking about Nitin and then relating what had happened at school, Rukminiengrossed listened, as she asked about their lessons and saw to their homework before they went to play. Sometime later, putting them to sleep and glancing at the grandfather clock in the dining room, she saw it was quite late and Nitin had still not returned home. Again, she started feeling anxious and kept looking at the clock after every few minutes. Panic was slowly setting as it was way past ten and there was still no word from him. Rukmini decided to call him, but Nitin was not picking up the phone.
It kept ringing till the automated service declared that the person was not responding to her call. She was already planning to call Nitin’s office colleagues and ask them for help when the doorbell rang. Rukmini got up slowly fearing the worst. Was it someone from the police station saying that Nitin had met with an accident or someone from the office to inform her that Nitinhad been admitted to the hospital? Her hands had started sweating and her feet refused to obey her. The bell rang again, this time a little impatiently. Dragging her feet forward, with a prayer on her lips, she managed to open the door.
But what was this? Nitin stood there with a box of sweets, a smile playing on his lips. Turning indignantly, Rukmini greeted him with a frown, about to speak angrily as to how worried she was, ready to vent her anger, when Nitin stopped her by saying” First listen to me and then speak, for you are speaking to the Vice President of the company”Rukmini’s mouth fell open, as the angry words died on her lips. She knew that Nitin had been angling for the post for quite sometime, for the post had beenlying vacant for a few months now.She knew that there was another contender for the post, and of late Nitin had appeared quite distracted.” The final interview was today” Nitinsaid.”I wanted to see the surprise on your face and so did not tell you anything”.
Caught unawares, Rukmini started crying. Nitin put his arms around her as Rukmini sobbed her heart and troubles out. Hearing her out, her premonition, Nitin took her out to the garden. Rukmini stared in surprise and disbelief. The yellow rose plant now appeared quite healthy. She saw a small bud had just started appearing. She now knew that connecting the plants to her own sense of foreboding was just a figment of imagination. Nature, she knew was a great teacher. The ways of the Almighty were mysterious and so Rukminiswore to herself that never again would she connect the two as Faith and Prayers were more powerful than Fate and Destiny.