The Visitor has been edited by Rushi Bhimani.
“Oh no, not now!”, Anjali exclaimed, as rain splattered heavily on the kitchen’s window-pane. She hurried upstairs to the terrace, after reducing the stove’s flame to a gentle simmer.
It had barely been a few minutes before she had come to check if the clothes had dried, but they had been a little damp. A couple of more minutes in the sun would have been enough. The sky had been overcast at that time too, but it was normal for a day during the monsoon, and even more normal for a town like Navsari. In stead of taking the clothes safely back with her to dry them under the fan, she turned away from the clothes. Unfortunately, she decided to come back after cooking the paalak sabji. She was quite confident with her decision, and the high winds blowing, reassured. She stared at the clothes, cursing herself for all the work that was piling up.
Her husband was a bank officer, and shifting to new places was now a routine. They had shifted to Navsari just a few months ago. Going to a new place took the same amount of effort as it took for a tree to nurture itself when replanted at a different place. She should have developed the habit of adjusting and making new friends quickly, but with time, her willingness and ability to do this was gradually reducing. And now, it all seemed very tedious.
Anjali did not like Navsari very much. The incessant rains and the moist weather dampened her spirits as well. Parts of it could be attributed to her loneliness. Mornings were very busy, but after her daughter and husband left for school and office, solitude embraced her like an old friend. From her neighbors, to the native language, to her house, everything was alien to her. However, outside the colony, some parts of the city had a sense of familiarity. Places such as the City Mall, or the movie theater could have easily belonged to a big city.
They were impersonal, not welcoming.
The roadside stalls selling food; the wet roads, the buildings standing dangerously close to the pavements; hand-pulled rickshaws running past. To her, they looked like the pieces of the city peaking from the folds of the past. She felt quite close and distant to them, both at the same time. Close, because she felt as if she had seen those streets, and walked amidst those slow-moving yellow taxis; although she had never been here before. While distant, because having lived in so many new places, she always felt like a visitor and no place she went to felt like home anymore.
“They are on the top rack near the bed”, she said loudly, hurriedly hanging up the laundry. It was a gloomy morning. Her husband had left for office leaving her alone for the day’s most difficult task—preparing their daughter for school. She went inside to find her daughter Tanya, struggling to find her socks. She quickly retrieved the socks for her and helped her wear them. Then, she fed her breakfast, picked up her bag and an umbrella, and took her to school.
On her way back, the sky was clear with light breeze. On the neem tree near her apartment, a flock of crows was cawing happily. She was accompanied by other women who were also on their way back from school after dropping their kids. They exchanged greetings, smiles and introductions. However, small talk did not interest her.
Not today, at least.
Anjali was depressed with her life. Before marriage, she had always been the most social person among the lot. She had a stable job at a call center back in Delhi. But she had to give it all up after marriage, including a part of herself.
Life within four walls was not easy, particularly because she now had the most undervalued job of the Indian society, being a housewife. She sometimes wondered how good life would have been, had she never shifted around so much.
She reached home and sensed a different atmosphere. Things just weren’t the same as she had left them. The house was a complete havoc.
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