It was with unnecessary force that I pushed the pump of the kerosene stove. It was already past tea-time and my tongue craved its sweet acidity. For a few days now, I had been expecting the gas cylinder to finish. It finally gave up its last fumes now. Just before the tea began to boil; on a day I was already late. I had got back from work later than usual today. Didi, my employer, had wanted me to clean the grains and it had taken so long to sort out the chaff and stones from the wheat.
I wish I had asked her for tea. I wish she had not forgotten to offer it to me like she usually did, when I stayed back late. I struck the matchstick and the kerosene stove finally came to life. As I placed the tea on it, I sat back and wiped my brow with the end of my stole. It was so hot for this time of the year. It would take forever to cook dinner now. I knew the great husband would grumble when I would serve rice kichdi instead of rotis, but I didn’t want to slave over this stove. The rotis would take forever and I would have to make vegetables too. I looked at the kitchen corner and saw the wicker basket was empty. He had forgotten to buy vegetables!
Walking up the empty basket, I lifted it and threw it back at its spot on the stool. It thumped to the floor instead. The smell of tea wafted through the room. Pouring myself some in a glass, I walked to the doorstep and sat down, watching the tree outside. There was an idol of Lord Hanuman placed before it. Last year the kids had placed a rock there, called it Lord Hanuman and begun to worship it. Now, it was a temple which people bowed to and prayed at. The tree looked so beautiful when it was lit up last month for Hanuman Jayanti festival. Everyone from the area had come to propitiate the Lord.
The hot tea scalded my tongue and broke my train of thought. I looked at the tea and then at the tree. I looked at the kerosene stove and at the crow cawing on the tree. How the mind ran from thought to thought! How much time did I spend thinking, worrying? These thoughts did not mean anything. It was all the same… an empty vegetable basket or a temple full of hope.
After placing the empty cup in the sink, I picked up the grocery bag. I didn’t want to spend any more time with my mind. I had to go buy vegetables first.