[N.B. This story has been written at the request of Koushik Sarkar,]
The chatters became more audible than the chaos in her head. She checked her watch. It was 9am. She looked out of the window of the library. Droplets of red, yellow and orange were pouring down from the sun, touching the delicate foliage of the leaves, the lucidity of the green canvas, fading away into the approaching winter. Adjusting the pleat of her blue silk saree, she shivered a little. A sip of black coffee gave her the warmth she needed. Abashed at the thought of how she would look in that gigantic leather jacket, Basantalata grasped the coffee mug, seeking warmth from the hot black fluid. The alacrity of the students around her distanced her again from the two worlds, both of which defined her, yet, seemed to be so distant, known, yet so unknown, loved, yet so ignored, and perhaps betrayed.
Dialing a familiar number, she waited for a voice to respond from the other side.
‘Why are you awake so early?’ the old woman coughed.
‘Ma, time changed. Daylight savings. It’s 9am here!’ Basantalata replied, unapologetically.
‘I don’t care. I know you will not care too. A 60 year old woman trying to act like a 20 year old.’
‘Ma!!’ Basantalata tried to protest. Her deep sighs formed fogs of her changing life on the cold table.
Even before she could utter another word, her phone got disconnected. It was something she could apprehend; yet she had called; she was her mother after all. She looked at the arrays of books, stacked up against the brick walls of the Ablah Library. The world of letters, the unseen and the unknown swaddled towards her, and in the coldness, flickered the flame of a new life, a life which made her forget her early widowhood.
‘The fall colors will leave soon. Let’s have a walk in the woods,’ she overheard a twenty year something old girl telling a boy. Basantalata smiled at her own self. She had seen them in her class but never could get the courage to talk to them. The pedantic exchanges of ‘hi-hello’ have become common to her now that she has been living in this country for quite a sometime, having immigrated by her daughter. Dubiousness dwelled like the chilly wind of the variegated autumn, which drove young hearts into the glade and made them shiver in the sunshine, like an unexpected moment of happiness.
‘She didn’t talk to you today too, didn’t she?’ a familiar voice broke the reverie.
‘How do you know?’ Basantalata was curious.
‘It’s written on your face, ma,’ the woman asserted. Basantalata fell silent.
‘She can’t accept the fact that I am not behaving like a 60 year old widow.’
‘See the books in the library, ma? Even they get new covers to face the changing time.’
‘Like the fall colors who fade away, leaving the trees barren in winter. And flowers will bloom in spring.’ Basantalata affirmed.
‘You are a Graduate Teaching Assistant now, ma. Come on, you can’t stop brooding over who thinks what. You don’t have time. Now let’s go for class.’
Basantalata stared at her daughter’s face and beamed with confidence. She took the gigantic leather jacket from her daughter’s hands and shrugging off the cold, she walked towards the stairs. For the first time, she didn’t call back her mother, crying. She stopped to take one look at the window. A story would be written on a table each new day. Perhaps time would write the story of her mother understanding her situation. Perhaps the leaves will have a different color then and perhaps new books will gossip with the older ones, sometime, somewhere in some future.