Rajeshwer Nair turned to his sister-in-law and asked, “What time did your father say he’d be back, Sadhana?”
“He wasn’t exact, Rajesh, he said around sundown.”
“It’s sundown now,” her husband said. “He’s probably lost or worse. Why did you let him go out alone?”
“You know my father, Sashi. Once he decides to do something, nothing we can say or do will stop him from doing it.”
“But we need to get back home soon. The baby needs feeding and you must be home to feed her.”
“That’s okay; you take Meera home and feed her. I will wait here with Rajesh, until my father returns.”
“You can’t expect me to feed Meera; That is the woman’s job. You are to come back with me. Rajesh can wait for your father.”
“Did you say no to me?”
“Yes, I did. I will wait here for my father. He expects to see me here and will be confused and worried if I’m not here. It won’t kill you to feed Meera for once. You know where her food is; now go!”
Sashi wandered off, carrying their young daughter and muttering complaints about women not knowing their places, usurping their husbands’ authority and bringing down ruin on the family unit.
“At least we won’t hear any more of his moaning for a while,” Sadhana said to her brother-in-law.
“Tell me about it,” he replied, “Sashi was always like that; complaining about anything and everything whenever he didn’t get his own way. I still don’t understand why you married him, when his brother was so much nicer. Why don’t you come and sit beside me?”
“How many times must we go over this, Rajesh? I made my choice. Sashi is a good man; a good provider and a good father.”
“Even when he’s complaining?”
Sadhana released a small laugh. “Even when he’s complaining,” she said, sitting on the jetty beside him.
“I am somewhat worried about your father, Sadhana. I believe his mind is beginning to fail him.”
“Not his mind, Rajesh, just his memory. He forgets things, is all.”
“Do you think he has forgotten what time he said he would return here?”
“I think that is possible. It is also possible that he has forgotten where ‘here’ is.”
“Should we look for him?”
“I don’t know. Where did he say he would be fishing?”
“He just pointed to the horizon, outside the harbour, and said he would find fish there.”
“Perhaps we should notify the coastguard, just in case.”
“Alright, Rajesh. You do that. I will wait here.”
“Will you be safe, alone here.”
“I expect so. Just be quick, though, heh?”
“No need. Look; over there; between the breakwaters. Is that him?”
“It’s too small and too far away to see clearly. It might be. Let’s wait to see what… oh dear. Look, Rajesh.”
“I see it. Do you think the captain has seen the small boat?”
“I don’t know. Can’t you phone someone?”
“Let me see if I can raise the harbour master.”
Rajesh ran to the road to get a better signal. When he returned, Sadhana asked him what he had managed.
“The harbour master instructed the ferry to come to dead stop. He’s sending a patrol boat to help your father in.”
Some minutes later, the harbour patrol vessel arrived at the jetty; Sadhana’s father was on board and his small boat was at the end of a tow-line.
“Father,” she said, “why are you so late back? How was your fishing? Let me see your catch.”
“I caught nothing,” her father replied. “I left the harbour, then couldn’t remember why. I tried to make my way back, but didn’t know where I had to come back to. I was frightened, Sadhi”
“You’re back now, father, that’s what matters. But next time you want to fish, you must take Sashi with you.”
“Not that misery. He will spend the whole day complaining about everything. I will go out with Rajesh, here; the one I told you that you should have married.”
“But you never—” Rajesh put his finger to her lips so she wouldn’t say any more. She nodded.
“Come on, you two,” Rajesh said, “let’s get you home.”
I wrote this in response to Kreative Kue 120, issued on this site earlier this week. Feel free to join in; just follow the link.