She sits at her desk, framed by books and papers. The room is in darkness, except for a small table lamp. She turns around to make sure the door is closed and that no light can creep out. And she writes, furiously, her hand racing across the notebook. At times, she stops to refer to one of the books around her. She shakes her head, argues with herself and the buzzing mosquitoes that seem to be suffering from insomnia. From the room inside, she can hear gentle snores.
He wakes up without a start, from 40-year-old habit. He quietly puts on his slippers, careful not to disturb her and then shuffles down the stairs, his knees throbbing just a little bit more than usual. After brushing his teeth and making himself a cup of tea, he closes the door of his room to ensure no sound creeps out. He looks at his gleaming tanpura and dusts each inch again, lovingly. And then, he starts to sing, the notes of raga Bhairav, stretching pure into the yet-to-be-morning.
He puts his instrument away and shuffles back to the kitchen. He makes two cups of tea now and takes out the sugar-free biscuits, and the bread and milk for breakfast and goes back to the room.
“Deepa, wake up! You have class today.”
“Drink your tea. It will get cold,” he says as she struggles to get up. “Did you fix the meeting with your publisher?”
“Yes. I can meet him only after finishing my class at college.”
“So, I will keep lunch ready then. Making aluposto today.”
“You are pampering me with aluposto because you want me to go and collect the pension for this month, right?”
“Of course. And because I make it better than you do. Ask the grandchildren.” He laughs.
Related reading: Couples that laugh together
“They are biased because you tell them stories.”
“But they love your luchi only.”
“Your luchis turn up in all other shapes except round. Even your music students say that, die-hard fans though they are of Guruji’s music.”
“So make luchi then today evening. They are coming,” he grins sheepishly.
“And I’ll make the mutton and some chutni,” he adds.
“Proper bhog. What are we celebrating?”
“Your new book. What else? Not my cholesterol, surely,” he returns the teacups to the kitchen.
“Or your new music performance and story. Even my publisher secretly prefers your spicy stories on music to my academic research. Send me Dada’s next story, he keeps saying.”
“And the Maharaj of our ashram just doesn’t believe you can’t sing. Ma Deepa is the epitome of talent for him. How can Ma Deepa not sing?”
“Serves you right. Better start teaching me finally. In 50 years of marriage, you haven’t taught me one line of singing.”
By now, they’ve finished breakfast.
“By the way, I have called Mala’s son in the evening too. He needs some help with his English.”
“Ever counted how many students you have got from the maid’s son to the ones at University? You are never going to retire, are you?”
“No more than you have. Practically calling everyone in the neighbourhood for music.”
She dashes off for her bath and returns to see him standing by the window, looking at young children playing in front of their gate.
“It’s nice when the house is filled with young voices.”
She stands at the window for a moment. “Yes, I agree. And we don’t miss our grandchildren too much.”
“Don’t worry, they will be calling as usual in the evening.”
“For your music.” She picks up her bag and her keys.
“And your teaching.” He hands her the mobile which she often conveniently forgets at home.
“Let’s go and surprise them for Pujo?” They walk down together to the gate.
“Ok, we’ll plan that in the evening.”
Related reading: Best love stories ever
“Don’t lose your mobile. And answer when I call.” He closes the gate.
“You start writing your story. Let’s see which one the publisher and the grandchildren like more this time.” She fires her parting shot.
He was always the storyteller.
She was always the teacher.
My parents. They are as different from each other as Raga Bhairav and Raga Darbari Kanada. And it is that very difference which they not only tolerate but celebrate, as they lead independent lives that merge like the notes of the perfect song, in moments of quiet companionship and humour.