The Marital Clock

The marital clock in her head chimed. She stirred a little, not quite awake. Just a stir. 

It then started pounding inside her head, screaming, imploring her to wake up. Wake Up!!! 

With a jolt of guilt, she awoke. The clock inside her head seldom had to scream at her. She usually got up at its initial stirrings. She must be getting tardy at this. Shame on her, she thought. Lazy to perform the one duty she was born for! 

She let out the first of her sighs for the day. 

This meant that her first “me-time” would have to be sacrificed now. She usually spent a few lazy moments in bed, right after waking up, listening to Him snore gloriously in her ear. She would play with the “chains” around her neck, the mangalsutra her husband graciously bestowed her with and the eerily thin but elegant gold chain her mother-in-law gifted her with when she stopped working and resolved to look after the kids. 

Those minutes, she also spent dreamily going over the chores for the day ahead – the house that needed tidying, the vegetables to be cooked for lunch, the ones to be chopped for dinner, and the clothes and vessels that craved for her touch. Riveting stuff. 

Today, her mind went back to the day, many happy years ago when she innocently had served the same dish she had cooked for lunch, also for dinner. She remembered He had stifled a look of utter shock but had graciously had the meal. An upright gentleman and a model husband, He said not a word, not one word. He however looked wistfully far and away the rest of the evening, sulked impressively and climaxed by calling His mother on the telephone, heaping praises on her, particularly her cooking. He even told her repeatedly, how much He sorely missed her. 

She mended her ways immediately – one call from her mother-in-law the next day meant she understood her grave failings. 

She stopped playing with her chains. She was late already, and here she was brooding, as if she had the time for it. She needed to be up and about. 

With great care, she extricated the sari that was under her husband’s stomach. He liked to wrap himself in her fabric sometimes while sleeping. He was romantic that way. She of course had never thought she would ever go to bed in a six-yard sari, a blouse, a skirt and the essentials within. But then again, He always preferred her to wear a sari. Even when He was not at home. When she did venture out in a nightie to the bedroom once, He turned away at once, choosing to sleep at the very edge of His bed, sulking so hard the air got stuffy and she had to open a window. She then came to her senses rightly, and understood the value, the sheer emotional value each of the six yards of a sari held to her husband. 

Without eliciting as much as a stir from Him, she deftly got her sari around herself and sprinted to the toilet to get ready for the day. 

She came out wearing a new sari. Fiercely she tucked the wayward pallu in, rolled up her imaginary sleeves (He preferred short sleeved blouses) and made her way to the kitchen. 

Armed with a bucket and chalk, she stepped out the door. She sprinkled the ground first with water and then got down on her haunches, starting with the muggu. 

She was known far and wide, in the colony, for her illustrious designs. Her husband glowed with pride whenever someone showered praise on her muggu skills. “Outrageous”, they said once. “Patterns we couldn’t even imagine were possible”, they praised. She always did have an eye for it, having done a degree in art after all. How satisfying, her husband said, that an otherwise useless art degree was being put to such good use! 

Satisfied with the pattern, she strode back in, radiant with the first success of her day. How many people can vouch for having fruitful days that start as early as 4 AM in the morning? A smile broke across her lips even as she dabbed at a bead of sweat on her upper lip. Buoyed with the success, she started humming a song as she reached for the day’s vegetables. 

She had already decided on what to cook for her family that day. She always planned it before going to sleep the previous night. Therefore, with a song on her lips and the choicest bhindi from the market, she rollicked her way from one end of the kitchen to another. She expertly handled all three burners at the same time, her brow scowling in concentration as she measured, pore and stirred. 

Sweat broke out on her face, pools of it collected at her armpits and waist, drenching all multi layers of her clothing. 

She emphatically rolled the dough, her arms working their magic. She whistled in tune with the cooker, thankful for how beautifully the day was coming into its own. 

Having conquered the kitchen, she left the fumes of her glory behind and attended to the kids next. She cajoled them out of bed and into the bathrooms, halting to marvel at the outstanding wet stain her seven-year-old had left on his bed. Her kid had outdone himself she thought wryly to herself. 

She cheerfully changed the stinking sheets, all the while foraying into the bathroom to wake her seven and ten-year-old toddlers up. She could tell they had fallen back to sleep when she could hear the sound of their brush whine down at first and then completely cease. Oh, the joys of motherhood!

She marched into the kitchen to make sure things were in order. On the way, she picked up packets of milk and put a kettle on, one for coffee and one for tea. He never knew what He liked in the mornings. Reminded of Him, she knew she had to go and wake Him up. But not so soon.

Her sweat drenched blouse must go. She cannot greet her husband first thing in the morning looking and smelling like a pig. She had to look and wear her best. 

The next couple of hours went by in a hurry. She did most of the hurrying herself, while they, her family, fussed over the three varieties of breakfast, the coarseness of the tea (He had taken a while but had finally decided on tea) and the busy day they had in store for them. She ooh’ed and aah’ed at appropriate moments, running from the dining to kitchen, taking care of breakfast and packing their lunches. 

“You’re so lucky Mama”, her seven-year-old wet bed artist said. “You don’t need to go to school and sit in class”. She awwed at him. 

Finally, about four hours after she woke up, she closed the lids on all the tiffin boxes and shut the door on her family. 

Turning around, she went to the bedroom. She untucked the bind on her pallu, unfurled it and plopped noisily down on their bed. Her second break of the day. She let the air from the fan wash over her and waited for the opportune moment. She hiked her sari a little, positioned herself appropriately and then closing her eyes in anticipation, cracked the fingers on her feet moaning loudly in ecstasy. 

Write Club Hyderabad, Satire – October 2018. 

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