Kriti whispered the name almost reverentially. It promised to alter her life forever. It mattered little that some other woman had triggered such a drastic change in Mrigu, her husband.
“Rudhaan, help your mother with the washing,” Kriti heard him call out to their son.
This was a Mrigu she had never known. Emptying the washing machine, Kriti mused on the way everything seemed to take on a new meaning since her husband had met Surjana. He seemed shaken to the core, and was trying to make amends for all that had happened before he met Surjana.
|Kriti and her arrogant husband Mrigu.|
Digital sketch: Harjeet
“Looks like there is hope yet for unloved wives like me,” Kriti told herself. “We need more of these Surjanas”, she thought wryly as she handed the linen to Rudhaan, who was somewhat nettled by the change in his father’s behaviour. He had always been spoilt by Mridu, encouraged to “be a man” and let the women do the chores. Thankfully Rudhaan, though 9, had not yet learnt to ask serious questions, or to rebel.
Surjana was a seasoned television personality, Mrigu had told her. When she had just started out, as part of an assignment she had approached a number of mothers with sons not more than 10 years old for participation in a quiz programme. Mrigu and his mother were among the sixteen contestants.
Surjana had put eight questions each to the boys and asked their moms separately what their sons’ replies would be. A practising doctor and her seven-year-old son were well tuned, and won hands down with perfectly matching answers.
Recently, Surjana had proposed that as many members of the eight teams as possible be located and quizzed again. The TV channel managed to track down Mrigu, along with some others. When they invited him to the show, Mrigu said he would consult his mother first.
Sarla, his mother, who still ran the house (now with Kriti’s help), recalled very little of that programme. However, she never said no to Mrigu. That meant five of the original eight mother-son duos would compete once more.
Mrigu’s decision surprised Kriti, but she could not have imagined the effect it was going to have on their family life.
When they returned from the recording, Mrigu was very gentle with Sarla, even escorting her up the stairs. Kriti decided not to bother him or his mother, who was exhausted from the effort. She would wait for the telecast to see what had transpired.
Sarla had withdrawn into a shell since her foot injury just weeks ago. She had tripped badly after the Velcro on her sandals snagged the edge of her sari. Mrigu was downright rude then, refusing to appreciate that her reflexes were no longer what they used to be, or that it could have been worse.
For days after the recording, Mrigu was restless.
Surjana had been very persuasive over the telephone. Had he known what would follow, would he have still gone? After deep reflection, he concluded that he would have. If he was so insensitive to his mother, and maybe all others, it was high time he changed that.
He went over the eight questions he did not remember from his childhood but that were put to him again during the show. And his replies.
“Does your mother always remember your birthday?”
“Do you remember hers?”
“Who does most of the household work?”
“Do you help your mother at home?”
“Does your mother like to cook?”
“Which of her dishes do you like most?
“I - I think … dosa … no, no. Vada paav, perhaps.”
“What is her favourite dish?”
“When was the last time you two went out together?”
The doctor and her son who had won years ago repeated the feat.
Mrigu had been too young then to understand the implications of losing the contest, but the winners’ bonding which had survived the years delivered him a strong punch now.
He did not wait to watch his mother’s responses when the show was finally telecast. “I let down my mother then as I did today because I never reciprocated her love,” Mrigu summoned the courage to confess to his wife.
Kriti kept her counsel, simply patting his hand. She did not want to hurt him, for he seemed willing to reform. He was shedding his arrogance. He had been an indifferent son and an indifferent husband too. She put up with him because of Sarla, who loved her dearly, and also because of Rudhaan.
She did try her best to bring up her child differently, but it was difficult when his father had such a swollen head.
Mrigu took his mother so much for granted that it revolted Kriti. Sarla would silence her if she objected to his tantrums. She made excuses for him, she was always there for him, but never expected a word or gesture of love in return.
“Kriti, I’ll be joining you upstairs for tea with Mother,” Mrigu told her a little hesitantly the morning after the telecast. She switched off the washing machine, and looked at him. “We’ll be waiting,” she smiled, and headed for the kitchen.
“If the Surjana effect lasts, I hope we can come to love each other,” she thought. She wished she could thank Surjana for what she had unwittingly done. Kriti was sure that her equation with her son would also change, that along with his mother Rudhaan could win any such contest! For the first time since her marriage, she felt truly at peace.