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Sunday Musings: ‘The Telephone Call’

Gurgaon: The wife had gone away for a month to see meet parents in Delhi leaving the daughter in my care in Paris. She left detailed written instructions for running the house that we followed meticulously and did fine.
One day while grocery shopping in the supermarket, I got a sudden impulse to call her and tell her that there was a certain emptiness in the house without her. I walked up to the call booth in one corner and inserted the coins. It was with a degree of excitement that I punched the figures. She herself answered.
“How is Delhi?” I enquired by way of a start.
“Much warmer than Paris”, she said. “It was silly of me to carry the overcoat. How are you both?”
“Everything is fine. I just called up to tell you…”
“Make sure Roopali eats properly” she said, cutting me short. “She needs a lot of cajoling. She likes frites. You know how to make them. Just be careful and keep clear of the boiling oil when you put the chips in”.
“Yes I will do that”, I said reassuringly, “You need have no worry. I rang…”
“No, I am not worried. Do not cover the milk while boiling, otherwise it will spill over before you realize. And remember to switch off the cooking range before you leave the kitchen. How are the plants? I hope you are watering them every Tuesday”.
There had been only one Tuesday since she left and I had done so.
“Yes, all that is being done. I just meant to tell you…”
“Yes, tell me all about Paris. Has Mrs Kzentowski returned from Rome?” she asked of our Polish neighbour.
“I think she has. I just…”
“She was to bring me a marble Venus. Oh, that reminds me. Sixteenth is Marble Mehlanbrookhevia’s birthday. Do send her a nice bouquet from my side.”
“Yes I w…”
“And on the twenty-third is Spyridons’ wedding anniversary. You know how they love Indian music. You must send them a pack of Ravi Shankar’s cassettes. They are in my clothes cupboard. Third drawer.”
She had written all this down and even underlined in red. ““I will do that, actually, I called…”
“How is the hamster?”
I could enviously picture our pet rodent sleeping peacefully on my discarded woolen socks in his cage.

“You must feed him twice a day. Once in a while leave him free in the passage so that he runs around and gets exercised”.
She paused for breath. But I had given up.
“Hello”, she said, “Are you still there?”
“Yes”, I said and felt triumphant that at least, I was able to convey a complete message uninterrupted.
“When will you call ag…”
This time it was she who was cut short as the coins ran out.

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