Those ten days came and went- WHOOOOOSH.........
The SRE left on the Saturday night with the requisite, expected dramatics- a very important document was not in his laptop bag. He remembered taking all the extra stuff out of the bag before leaving his office, and had obviously left that document in the office. The car had been called a little early, so after having dinner he left, went to the office, picked up the document and proceeded to the airport. Calls up, confirms that the document is now with him, and then has the cheek to tell me that I wouldn't have packed his cell-phone charger, would I?
(Nasty man, casting aspersions upon his highly organised full-time assistant, moi). It is in the side pocket of the laptop bag. Check and make sure. I haven't taken it out, so it's there if you haven't dumped it somewhere.
After all this khit pit, we bade each other a fond farewell, with instructions issued to the SRE to call me from Milan.
He had left a copy of his itinerary with me, just so that I'd know where he was, and when. I am rather challenged when it comes to time zones, but I gratefully accepted the document and put it away carefully. (There had been this one distressing episode some years ago- the SRE was away in Mumbai, and I tried calling him in the morning. In my house, we can even do international wake-up calls if required- this was a very routine, national one. The cell phone kept ringing. And ringing. Several times. At a respectable wake-up time. Scratch me and I'm as neurotic and anxious about my husband as any other Bhartiya nari. I was worried, seriously worried. All kinds of unpleasant thoughts were having a field day. I knew which hotel he was in , but didn't have a number.
Called up the older son, who advised me to use Googleji. Who gave me a number, which I dialled.
And they had never heard of the man, and no, he wasn't staying with them. But they had another branch, of which they kindly gave me the number, and a sleepy SRE was thankfully located. His damn phone was in his blazer pocket in the wardrobe. Bah. After this we do try to have alternate numbers for the man. For the sake of my sanity).
Well, Sunday passed by happily enough. I could hog all the Sunday papers, for a start.
And didn't have to rescue random sections of various papers, usually from underneath my significant other! It was only in the evening, when I expected him to call, that I got a little perturbed. When I tried his phone, it was switched off. Tried a few times, told myself not to worry, and slept somewhat restlessly. Decided to check his itinerary and call the hotel in the morning. Looked around, couldn't find it in the junk on the computer table and our dressing table, decided to look properly in the morning.
Mornings have a sameness- the milk man will come and wake you up whensoever he chooses, or ring the bell when you are busy in the bathroom. Tough if you are the only person on the premises! Mornings mean doorbells: car-cleaner, maid, press-wallah, the boy who scrubs the bathrooms to a shine, the driver! That's a lot of part-time assistance. (And the house can still be a mess- but I digress). Mornings mean baths, bed-making, breakfast, not necessarily in that order. Mornings mean no time to worry about non-phoning husbands. Well, not much- just a dash of worry to temper the long standing family policy of no news being good news.
It had rained all night on Sunday. Which meant that our lane was flooded. I called up the driver, and told him not to come- I would call him if I needed him to come. (Yes, the driver had inherited my old mobile phone- such a blessing).
All morning I search for the itinerary. Properly. Worry about it. Hunt seriously, with full attention, thinking it may have dematerialised in the way most documents pretend to do in our house. I can't find it. Neither does the man call. I even write a note to my husband's secretary, asking her to send me another copy. I'm about to send it off, when I finally find the damn itinerary, in, of all places, my handbag. To my chagrin, I find that there is only one city with the hotel number on it, in Pittsburgh, where he is reaching a few days later. The rest is merely flight details. Bah.
The SRE finally called on Monday afternoon- the much maligned cell-phone charger had taken umbrage or got damaged somehow and refused to work, and so he was incommunicado. His colleagues apparently had the latest cell phones, the chargers of which are not compatible with his older model. The spouse was alive and well, and now I could get on with my life with a free mind!
My entire household was in a strange kind of mode- the maid has been needing to get her roof repaired for a long time. Three days of leave were sanctioned during the week. Since I'm still eating very light food, basically a pressure cooker and a bowl or two were all that needed to be washed every day! And I could exercise the option of being as clean or messy as I chose to be.
I was expecting my aunt and uncle over the weekend, and so I managed to clear out some cupboard space for them. I also planned a minor colour scheme change for the sitting room, which I tackled slowly while the maid was away! I'm admittedly sneaky- she would have protested if she'd seen me fight with the bolster covers. From being cream and beige and maroon, the room became cream and blue. But the old blue curtains looked very dull and faded, so I decided not to put them up. The cream and blue room would just have to have a few maroon highlights to match the curtains that were already there.
There were also books, blogs and mails to read, and of course phone calls to make- to American hotels in Pittsburgh and Amarillo where the staff and I could barely comprehend each other's accents over the phone. The SRE finally bought a charger for the horrendous sounding sum of thirty dollars. Phew. (I digress- it is such a joy to be able to make international calls sitting at home, and not going broke either. When we were just married and the SRE was away in the US for some months, it was blue aerogrammes that I would wait for so eagerly. And each call he made from the States cost a small fortune).
Evenings I caught up on films that I'd been meaning to watch for a long time. I saw and loved "Khuda Kay Liye". I also saw "No Smoking", which Chandni recommended very highly. It was not an easy movie to watch, and yet was interesting and disturbing and quite Kafka-esque! I'd also seen "Anwar", which has the haunting song "Maula mere Maula", and disturbs with its vision of modern Indian life, its politics and human frailty. (One jarring note was the cop whose wife was dying. Surely a guy is able to take compassionate leave, and/ or arrange for someone to be with his wife and daughter in his absence).
Unexpected bonuses. A call from a dear outstation family member who was unable to proceed beyond Kolkata due to the railway lines being flooded, and who was staying elsewhere, but with whom I could spend a day full of fun. That was lovely, A. After some shopping in Gariahat, we went to Kewpie's for lunch, my very first meal out since I fell ill, where I somewhat nervously partook of daal and rice, while A most appreciatively relished Bengali cuisine in a charming old world ambience. A visit to Crossword, and I was able to pick up Gouri Dange's excellent book, 3 Zakia Mansion, which the Mad Momma has blogged about here.
This was already Thursday, the third maidless day! And though I was pleasantly exhausted after the day out with A, I had to read Gouri's book late into the night since I could not put it down before finishing it. And then picked it up in the morning and started re-reading it, slowly.
The driver had asked for Friday off, which was fine, since I needed him around on Sunday, the day my aunt and uncle were coming to town. So I had a nice, peaceful Friday with the maid clearing up the mess and neither need or facility to go anywhere.
On Saturday I thought it would be prudent to buy some vegetables and fruit which can be consumed by people not on a low-fibre diet i.e my aunt and uncle. Also picked up a chocolate fudge cake and some groceries for the guests to come. Some of us Kolkata bloggers are hoping that our favourite mommy blogger and her family will be able to meet us on Sunday- so quite a few fingers are crossed. Sue calls, says that she and Vicky will come over for a while anyway.
The phone signal isn't very clear, so I assume that they are bringing The Bhablet, and I baby-proof the drawing room and locate the toys I keep for visiting infants. However, the young Bhablet has a heavily booked social calendar of his own, so Sue, Vicky and I enjoy a pleasant conversational evening without the young charmer. I decide to leave the room baby-proofed in anticipation of the next day's visitors.
Sunday morning dawns bright and clear. The Mad Momma and family will be coming over in the evening. I convey the good news to Sue and Eve's Lungs (EL). The day is running away at breakneck speed! I arrange for some tea-time snacks. Post lunch, I send the driver to the airport to receive my uncle and aunt.
Sue, Vicky and the delightful Bhablet come first, and while Vicky has a comfortable snooze on the sofa, the Bhablet and I have an enjoyable game with some wooden napkin rings and a basket, chatting all the while with Sue. EL and her daughter are next, and then, voila, the Mad family arrives. The Bhablet shows a distinct territorial streak, since he is the child most familiar with my house. He and the Brat potter around the house, while the Bean, in a glamorous ghaghra-choli, prefers to be near her parents. At one point toys rain down from my bedroom balcony, and the driver is phoned to rescue them.
There is utter and delightful chaos when my uncle and aunt arrive after a very long journey from the interiors of Assam, so they relax in their room with hot cups of tea and some munchies.
The Mad family are on a tight schedule, so I reluctantly remind them of the time, and we all bid them a fond farewell. Sue and Vicky and EL and her teenager clear up the mess, while I sit and recuperate. The Bhablet wanders around rather triumphantly, basking in our undivided attention once more. I've had a grand time, but my body knows that it's still convalescent.
More farewells, and then I'm sitting with my feet up.
My aunt and uncle have rested, bathed and changed, and are looking forward to home style cooking after a fortnight's travel across several kinds of terrain and weather conditions. Since they stayed here with my parents while we were travelling abroad last year, they are very much at home. My aunt quickly makes some spicy khichdi, while I have some bland potato stew.
I have a wonderful time with them till they leave on Tuesday evening. I help my uncle start a blog. We watch Jab We Met on Monday night, and they both enjoy it so much that we pick up another CD for them to take home. Let me tell you that my uncle will be seventy-five years old this October, my aunt is a few years younger, and they are both really young at heart and fun to be with, as well as being wise and eminently sensible. Terrific role models to have.
The SRE returned late on Tuesday night. The ten days had flown past, barring the initial hiccups till he had called. God was very kind to me in giving me so much bonus companionship during those few days. None of the out-of-town visitors had planned to come while he was away, it just so happened. Being alone at home was not bad at all, but that's only because it was for a limited period. But I'd rather have a messy bathroom, wet towels on the bed and shoes and newspapers all over the place, and have the man around! Any day.......
And there's been another big bonus- our youngest child is now in college in Kolkata!
Although he stays in the hostel, we look forward to weekends with a youngster at home. I am so thankful for this, especially as he is the child who had to stay in the school hostel since he was fourteen, thanks to the SRE's frequent changes of location.
Ah, I subsequently had a week, an entire week of Internet withdrawal, as the underground cable was damaged some where. And that was painful: I experienced major withdrawal symptoms, fruitlessly nagged the service provider. I am only thankful that it didn't happen while I was supposedly "Home Alone!"