In Rashidi household the only thing you would smell is food; Indian food. Rashidi Sahib loves curry and would ask for a different kind of a curry every day before leaving for his store. As kids, Muni and Saki were so embarrassed of their house smelling of Indian food that they never invited their cool friends over.
Ami ji was in the kitchen giving instructions to the cook on how to make this curry, ‘Unlike fish curry, this one needs less sauce. Last time you ruined my recipe. Be careful this time,’ chided Begum.
Muni had acquired the taste with time. But Saki was not fond of Indian food, ‘Ami ji, please stop making these dishes. Aren’t you tired of this smell?’ she pinched her nose.
‘If you are so annoyed by the smell why don’t you go in the veranda and do your work?’ Ami ji snapped back at her.
‘It’s too sunny and hot outside,’ moaned Saki as she left for her room.
In less than a minute she was out again running like a headless chicken from one room to another, ‘Muni? Muni? Where are you?’
Ami ji caught her by arm when she almost passed by her and reprimanded her for creating chaos in the house, ‘How old are you? Five?’
‘Ami Ji, Muni has got it from you. She is as sarcastic as you are. Okay, let me go now,’ she made a failed attempt at wresting her wrist.
‘Saki, it is high time you act your age. Don’t run around the house screaming at the top of your voice. Muni has gone to the Bazaar. Wait for her quietly,’ she raised her brows to get assurance of silence from her.
Disappointed, Saki went back to her room. She was busy typing her message to Salwa when Muni entered, ‘Ami ji told me you were looking for me. I had gone out for just an hour and you went bonkers? Did you think I was not coming back?’
‘Shut up, Muni. Look, I have found Salwa!’ Wide eyed, she waited for Muni’s reaction.
‘How do you know it is really her? Her profile picture has two kids in it,’
‘The search showed only one Salwa Masood. Duh! It has to be her,’ she continued typing her message, ‘The problem is that my message will go in her other folder which no one checks on Facebook.’
* * * * *
She looked familiar but yet so unfamiliar; as if someone changed the frame or may be repainted the entire wall with a dull color that oddly stands out. Consequently, the creases on her face didn’t make her look old but seemed the signs of struggle. She was not old. She was just not her age. Muni approached her hesitantly. It was a strange feeling that she couldn’t understand. It was not because she couldn’t completely recognize her but because of the fear of what she might unveil.
Oh God! It is so hot today! Ami ji sighed before shutting the door to veranda. She hadn’t even turned her back when she heard a loud banging on the main gate.
‘Asha, where are you? Answer the door first.’ Ami ji ordered the maid.
Muni came barging in drenched in sweat.
‘Go, fetch a glass of water for her,’ Ami ji ordered Asha again.
‘No, Ami ji, I am good.’
Ami ji followed her to her room, ‘What is the matter?’
‘Nothing, Ami ji. Where is Saki?’
‘Must be on the terrace in this heat. I don’t understand this girl. She said she is experiencing what her main character will be experiencing in the story.’
Muni stopped listening Ami ji after she mentioned terrace and rushed to terrace leaving Ami ji wondering and worrying again.
‘What on earth has happened to you?’ Saki gawped; looking at Muni’s disheveled hair and sweaty forehead tensed her.
Muni couldn’t maintain an eye contact, ‘Where are you at with your story?’
‘Oh! She cares.’ Saki said melodramatically.
‘I am serious.’
‘And I am always serious with my work,’ she playfully flipped her hair back, ‘I am writing about how she is petite, doll like and sensitive.’
‘What if she is not like that anymore?’ Salwa’s stern face shed before her eyes.
‘What do you mean?’ Saki was taken aback.
‘Just saying,’ Muni paused for a moment to recollect her thoughts, ‘What if she is a different person now?’ The worry lines and flabby body of Salwa covered in a long sheet like chaader made her come up with this conclusion.
‘She was like a glass doll that can easily break. No person can change their nature just like that.’
‘A lot can change in a person with time. Let’s not argue about that.’
‘Come on! You remember her. Remember the elocution day when she accidentally bit her chapped lips and cried silently till the end because she was scared of that tiny drop of blood. How can a person like that change so dramatically? You make no sense. Where are you getting at?
‘In fact I’m busy. Don’t say anything. I can’t believe I just sketched a perfect character of Salwa arguing with you. Oh! By the way, can you shut the door on your way out? I don’t want any distractions.’ She turned back to her writing pad and started scribbling crazily.