Since 7 months Rita and I were living in the same apartment but merely as occupants sharing the same roof. Our 4-year marriage was on the rocks and divorce was just a few months away. Both our lawyers were busy with other cases and this period of awaiting the divorce was getting miserable. Every night I would sleep in the living room secretly wishing that we both would once again get together.
One day, while returning from work, I got down from the Metro. It was raining. Rain was not very heavy. While dashing quickly to get a rickshaw that would take me home, I came across a very old lady selling small garlands of jasmine. The smell of this gajra was inviting. I stopped by. The skin of the old lady had a lot of wrinkles. She had covered herself with some cheap plastic to protect her from rain. Her spectacles were pretty thick. I was so sure that she would not be able to see a thing without those glasses. Suddenly, a thought raced through my mind and I recollected that Rita loves the gajra. In the early days of our marriage she used to wear a gajra in her hair every night. The enchanting fragrance of the gajra used to mesmerize me.
I decided to buy the gajra for her. That night, I kept the gajra on the dining table present in the living room. Rita came late from the her office. I thought she will notice the gajra and we might have a small discussion. She totally ignored the fragrance of the gajra and went straight into the bedroom.
Next day, while passing through the same street, I again saw the old lady. Today she was sitting on her haunches and calling aloud to the passersby to buy the gajra. Her tiny eyes were visible through her thick glasses. The eyes were tired. I realised that the lady might be in her seventies. Yesterday’s idea of buying the gajra did not work. Today, I decided to buy the gajra just so that the lady might earn something. I bought it and when I reached home, I kept it on the same dining table.
Even today the previous night’s ritual repeated itself. Rita slammed the bedroom door hard. Next day, the old lady was there at the same place and again today I decided to buy the gajra. Again Rita did not pay any heed. This continued over a period of few days. The old lady was like a symbol of hope. Every day when I saw her, I thought of my beloved grandmother who had died many years ago. It was as if the lady wanted me to try my best to salvage my marriage.
One fine day, I reached home, I was a bit surprised to see Rita come home earlier than me. Quietly, I placed the gajra on the table and started my routine of taking a shower and wearing the lungi. When I came out of the bathroom, I was astonished to see Rita wearing a beautiful salwar-kameez and she had put the gajra in her hair. I distinctly remember those two benign clips which held the gajra to the hair. A tiny miracle was unraveling. Rita asked me to sit at the dining table and said that she had prepared my favorite Misal pav. We both sat down for the dinner and after eight months, we spoke to each other. That night Rita folded my mattress in the living room and asked me to join her in the bedroom. We made love after ages and I thought that I might have just managed to save the wobbly boat of my marriage.
Next morning, while offering prayers to Hanuman Dada, I thanked him for last night and also for sending the old lady in my life. I swiftly kissed the cheeks of sleeping Rita and rushed to my office. My mind was fixed on the old lady. I wanted to give her a big hug. I was keen to wind up my work and meet her. That day, I scanned the streets very carefully but the lady was nowhere to be seen. I was disappointed. But marched to my home. Rita had prepared the meal and to my surprise did not ask about the gajra.
I tried hard to find that old lady. Many days had passed but I could not find her. I even inquired the other vendors about the old lady. Rita was gradually opening up and we were having healthy discussions. We found solutions to many of problems while we decided to just accept the other ones. We withdrew our case.
One day, while returning home, I saw a young lady selling the gajra. I rushed towards her and asked her about the old lady. She replied that the old lady had died a few days ago. I felt torn. I stood there for some time. I was blank. Then quietly, I gathered my composure.
I bought the gajra from the young lady and trudged towards my place. That night I cried, and Rita could not hold my tears.