The favourite Chicken Dahi had prepared. Another dish was almost ready in the belly of pressure cooker. As cooker announced the preparation of mixed ingredients to be fine grind, and then fry its Tikki in mastered oil. And when it happened, home as well as neighbours, even in sleep got the aroma, and they fell in to the world of dreams. Mr. Sharma’s had been shown how his mistress cooked all these aromatic dishes… Patel found his dhokla turned into a dish he was sniffing then in reality while sleeping… the subconscious of both had mistress and dhokla respectively which mingled with aroma and they started dreaming of having delicacies made by our Angel.
The neighbour sat up in consternation, cursing the jobless, thoughtless and sleepless old lady who had no better work than to cook these aromatic delicacies at three in the morning! ‘But the old lady is not so thoughtless everyday’, a part of her brain reminded her, that he remembered the delicious Dahi-Badé she had prepared for him a couple of days ago. Indignation simmering down to a grumble, the neighbour reached for his earplugs and dived into his half-completed dream again.
‘That’s four. Should be enough,’ thought Angel, counting the whistles while adjusting the light, almost invisible make up, she inspected her face, she still looked fresh! Satisfied— she walked over to the kitchen to switch the stove off.
She worked on Dahi-Hari-Mirch-Raita, they call it Changhezi Raita. Ten minutes later, sure that the steam would have completely exited the cooker by then, she opened the vessel. The mouthwatering aroma of Kashmiri Biryani.
The mouthwatering aroma of Mughlai wafted through the early morning breeze, making the neighbour smack his lips even in sleep. Perfect, just as Nawab would love it.
She had worked very hard yesterday on today’s menu, finalizing and changing it three times, before she finally decided on it. It had to be kashmiri chicken, Biryani, Rajma, Raita, Shaami Kebabs, Nawab’s most favourite dishes. Nothing else would fit the occasion. She had carefully remembered to get all the ingredients required for cooking the lunch yesterday itself, and was breezing through her cooking.
A while later, the delicacies’ sat on the dinning table, all neatly packed— first in aluminum foils then in Tupperware boxes, waiting for the creator to dress up.
Angel opened her closet for dress to wear, today she had no confusion what to wear, she picked out peacock color Banarasi sari which has border made of real gold, Nawab gifted this to her when she retired from the post of Chief Justice at Allahabad High court. She remembered how adorable, prestigious, special he had made her feel, she remember the roaring applause and standing ovation by hundred of famous Law Players, but the clapping of Nawab with an expression of pride on his face made her think that she had performed a very successful role in the field of law. Nawab, somehow made her realize how the family members of those condemned prisoners who had been awarded death which she turned down and sentenced them for life had been prayed for her through out her career. She had seen them all behind the crowd of elite.
That was the thing with Nawab. Everything he did and said was perfect, or at least nearly so. Be it business or personal life, his decisions was always bang on. He was a master of people management and he exhibited his skills both at work and at home, adeptly guiding his daughter without being authoritative or imposing. And unlike other youngsters of her age Grace always believed and relied blindly on her Dad. Every step of her career was strongly motivated by one man, her father. Today at 21, she was working with Intel Corp. in United States. It must be an extremely successful family and it is.
Nawab, a 6′ high Pathan …an extremely ambitious man in his thirties, by the grace of Almighty stuck with Anjali on Facebook, and even before meeting him personally Anjali started trusting him that she had decided to marry only and only this man. A multi talented magnet, a spend drift always pulled those who approached, and he never disappointed anyone. This Pathan had done impossible, in terms of convincing Anjali’s parents. He did it, despite religious differences, ten years of age difference, he convinced two aliens— Anjali’s dad and mom, God knows what magic mantra he had whispered into their ears. Anjali was the most beautiful thing ever happened to him, and Anjali, who later became Angel for Pathan, she had organized his life so efficiently that Nawab gave her name— Angel.
Angel took a final look into her mirror and appraised herself as she applied a bit of sindoor.
Placing the lunch basket carefully beside her on the back seat, Angel nodded to the driver. He had already revved up and kept the car ready for madam. He had been with the household for many years now and knew the importance of this day. Therefore he certainly didn’t want the car to cause any kind of hitch by failing to start in the early morning chill.
The car was just turning the end of the lane when Angel’s phone rang. Even before she looked at the screen she knew it was Grace.
‘All set?’ she asked, emotions constricting her voice. ‘Did you make any sweets?’
‘No dear. You dad does not like sweets, remember?’
‘Of course. Just asked. Hope everything goes well. Take care Mom’.
It took just twenty minutes to reach the place, thanks to the trafficless smooth roads of early morning. As the car entered the compound, Angel could hear sounds of divine bhajan— ‘Jaise mil jaye taruwar ki chhaya…’ floating through the breeze of ending September, Nawab had a special place for the bhajan.
She got down from the car, which the driver then drove away toward the parking lot, and walked toward Nawab’s room. As she neared it, she could hear the nurse’s voice, ‘Good Morning, Mr. Khan. Hope you slept well.’
She did not hear any response.
Angel stepped out of lift, walked a few yards, breathed and stepped into the room. Just like any other expensive hospital she found everything neatly set at its own place, she looked at her husband, sitting in a position probably nurse had made him sit, his eyes were staring out of window as if he was a motionless machine, a thoughtful machine trying to find out the answers of all those posing questions. As Angel sat on the edge of the bed nurse excused her and went out of room. She changed the sheet, sponged her husband’s body and face, combed his hair and then looked at him, ‘Here you are dear.’ She appreciated the look and realized her cheeks were being washed with tears. It was too much for Nawab, an extremely energetic man had been bound to the limits of a bed, that was too with the help of others. She started reading holy book, she was chanting the versus which was to beg the Almighty for someone she cared the most, her husband. Every now and then she looked up to her husband’s face to see if there was any sign of cognition. None whatsoever was forthcoming. She collected herself and went back to reading. She maintained a stoic appearance and never showed signs of the pain she felt seeing her Nawab in this state… right from the day she came to know of his ailment.
Dementia !! That’s what hit the Nawab and family. When the dynamic and flamboyant Nawab began to get lost in mid-sentence, everyone was amused at first. The amusement soon turned to horror when the condition was diagnosed. As he degenerated and increasingly became a vegetable, Angel and Grace had no other choice but to leave him in a palliative care centre, since Grace’s job required her to live in Seattle and Angel was no strong enough to single-handedly take care of everything. That’s how Nawab landed in this place.
Though Angel knew that this disease was degenerative with no proper cure, she had hoped for some sort of recovery. The doctors had told her it would be possible only through a miracle. But God had probably abandoned all of us for some alien’s world. Nawab’s condition went from bad to worse.
It wrenched Angel’s heart to see her husband like this. He seemed a shadow of his former image. Or perhaps a previous birth. She hated to see him undergo the agony and pain the treatment was causing. The self-made man Nawab now dependent on another person to even eat. Unable to bear Nawab’s plight, Angel thought of treating him in United State, and she consulted this idea with Grace.
It was mid-day. Time for lunch, Angel took out the lunch basket and laid the items on the table beside Nawab’s bed. She put a little of each item in a plate and repacked the rest. Giving the rest of the food to the nurse, Angel said, “It is my husband’s birthday today and I made some special food. I would like all you good-people who take care of my husband to have some. Please take this and distribute it among your team of nurses, would you? Nurse happily obliged and went to share the treat with colleagues.
Angel closed the door behind the nurse and return to Nawab. She sat for a moment near him, wishing for his lost eyes to turn their focus on her, just once. Closing her eyes, she planted a soft kiss on Nawab’s forehead, concentrating the full intensity of her love into two those little arcs and stamping them on to his skin. A minute later, Angel took a small vial of powder garam masala Nawab liked to add to Mughlai food from her handbag and added the powder to the food on his plate. She started feeding her loving husband spoonfuls, singing softly:
Happy Birthday to you… Happy Birthday to my dear luv… May God bless you dear… May God bless you my dear luv…
Tears streamed down Angel’s eyes. The tiny red orb on her forehead, the sindoor… somehow resembled the setting sun, as if it knew this would be the last day it would shine on Angel’s forehead. From tomorrow, white would be the only color in her world. Praying, ‘May God bless my husband with an easy and painless,’ Angel went on feeding the poisoned food to the person she loved the most.
Nawab’s life had finally betrayed him, perhaps for good.
© Short Stories 2016-17…