Madhu left the doll in Asha’s room did not want to give it to anyone else. Later in the evening she wanted to take it back and since that room adjoined theirs in the hotel she opened the door , switched on the light to see Rakesh sitting on the cot  smoking,  the flowers gifted by the schoolkids to Asha  were arranged in the ashtray, the gift was not to be found. “Now for what good deed of mine I am graced with this visit?” Madhu simply stood at the entrance, repulsed by the sight of flowers in the ash tray. He followed her glance, “Once they wither, they are used to make bonfire” Madhu removed the flowers from the puja* room at home and they became the organic manure for the tulsi plant. She never put flowers around a burning lamp, the sight of a flower burning  was like seeing  her mother’s sari burn ,  a careless accident, to see it done intentionally was unacceptable.

Her silent disapproval, irked him he upturned the tray, ash spilt on the bed sheets along with the yellow sunflowers, he had never cleaned an ashtray, it was apparent.  The burning end of the cigarette touched his fingers “ouch” he threw the bud it burnt the sheet, made a hole. She wanted to leave; it would humiliate her to say that she came to retrieve a gift that was not accepted.  “So how are things with that imaginary boyfriend?” He knew to irritate a response out of her.“ It is  off , he is engaged” She told herself that it did not make her feel as sad as it did on the first day. It sounded like a common event, everybody’s hurt. He looked at her for a long time and said “ So wait for six months, he will be bored with that wife then you can have an affair”. She got the joke , the implication was not funny “ I imagined marrying him, having his children, not a sleazy affair, why would anyone want to marry if they only want to sleep with that person?”  “I can give you two options or may be even three, come and get drunk with me, flirt with Sirish or AD or tickle me to death”

Now she was upset enough to sink on the sofa. How dare he suggest that she was flirting with Sirish or AD, he was a nobody in her life why should his opinions matter ? “I don’t drink” it would be foolish to explain anything else.


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