Thud! Thud! Thud!
My 8 year old grandson petulantly humped the heavy pestle into the mortar.
I watched him as he sat on that little stool adjacent to my bed and impatiently thumped the pestle to ground the pan and betelnut into a fine paste. The neighbourhood kids were calling out his name. I could sense he was getting late for his play time.
He meekly came up to my side of the bed and asked,
“Dadu is it fine enough?”
I lovingly replied the docile kid..”Yes Dadubhai it is very fine.”
Having finished his tedious chore he cheerfully galloped his way towards the front door. I took the mortar in my hand and smirked at the little kids idea of life. He was too young and innocent to understand its complexities. I was lost in my thoughts when I saw him sitting right beside me, with a really confused expression. With his large round eyes buried on me he said,
“Dadu don’t eat this pan and betelnut. You know today our teacher said that its not good for health.”
Touched by his concern I added,
“Dadubhai you don’t have to worry, I won’t get sick, because I don’t eat it” and gestured him to go play.
He got up to join his friends but stopped, this time looking more baffled than before he asked,
“If you don’t eat it, then why do you make me ground it everyday?”
Putting up a smiling face I replied, “Because I like it.”
“But how can you like it? You said you don’t eat it.”
“This stubborn kid just would not give up”. Trying to compose my raging anger I retorted,
“I make you do it because I like it, now go play your stupid games.”
In tears and sobs he left my room. He curled up on the adjoining varandah and started whimpering.
I sat there agitated by the blunder I created in my sudden dash of anger. He was a good kid, though a bit pedantic at times but in noway did he deserve to be scolded this badly.
With the mortar in one hand I reached out for my cane with the other. I sluggishly made my way towards the varandah to elate his spirits..
Without lifting up his head he yelped, “I don’t want to talk to you, go away.”
Adjusting my cane I slowly sat beside him. As worried and perplexed as I was for whether he would understand what I was going to say, I still began…
“Dadubhai can you keep a secret?”
He lifted his head for the first time and nodded in approval.
I smiled and held him in my arms,
“But you must cross your heart and never tell it anyone. Now can you do it?”
He nodded, this time more excitedly.
“Dadubhai do you remember the time when your mother stayed with your sick aunt?”
“And do you remember how you missed her and never slept without clinging onto one of her Sarees.”
He nodded again.
“Well! Why did you do so?”
“Because I don’t like sleeping without Maa, and her sarees smelled like her.”
I was amused by his quick reply..
“Well! Then Dadubhai you answered so yourself.”
For sometime he didn’t move his eyes from me and then with a really thoughtful expression he finally spoke, “I think I get it Dadu.”
“What did you get Dadubhai?”, I asked in wonder.
Almost like an adult he answered, “Like I miss my Maa whenever she is gone and cling on to her saree because it reminds me of her. You too make me ground this pan and betelnut because it reminds you of someone.”
I was awed by his witty answer. He was indeed a really smart kid, I just never took the time to notice. With this thought I patted his forehead and told him to join his friends. He stood up, started walking and as I was waving him goodbye he shouted,
“I cross my heart Dadu.”
I smiled as I watched him running towards his friends.
I looked at the mortar filled with the pan and betelnut paste… I never liked this menace of a habit, but since she loved it so much I too took a keen on it just like that.
The memory of her stained blood red lips and the aroma emanating from the mortar engulfed my senses and almost in a frenzy I put the paste in my mouth.
I moaned in ecstasy….I could finally taste my darling….