“The Plan”

It was a plain not at all exciting morning. Mrs. Shukla was trying hard to gulp down the Green Tea suggested by her elder sister who now looked like the youngest of the three siblings. The To-Do list of “the day” had cobwebs growing on them, she had no more excuses left, it was time to clean up that list. Mrs. Shukla had always been the organized one in the family but she lacked the enthusiasm to actually do the tasks. That way, Mrs. & Mr. Shukla were a perfect match because he was always ready with new taunts each time she slacked. A little motivational push hiding behind the title of ‘Husband’. With the last sip came the excitement for the real ‘desi masala chai’. And as she looked for the newspaper, she was going to read with her ‘masala chai’, just for a brief moment she missed Mr. Shukla so much that she could feel knots forming in her stomach. And like always her eyes welled up but tears did not dare come out; ten years was a long time to learn the art of not actually crying.

The masala chai was finally ready and so was Mrs. Shukla, to drink it and crib about the world situation. All along reading & fussing, wondering if today will be ‘that day’ when her daughter would have breakfast at “breakfast time”.

Kaavya was only 15 years old when Mr. Shukla suffered a sudden heart attack and passed away without any warning or long illness. His last day alive was like any other day, the only difference was he did not come home from work that day. Instead, there was that dreadful phone call at 7 pm when Mrs. Shukla was just about to pick the phone to call him, the phone rang. It was the hospital calling to inform her about Mr. Shukla’s cardiac arrest and how even with all their efforts they could not revive him. According to the doctors, he was gone within minutes of the Heart-attack. She now hated if anyone used, “within minutes” in front of her. Her whole life was shattered into little pieces within seconds to be precise. It is really strange how our brain and heart cope with sudden loss of a loved one, you are time-tunneled to that one memory when you were truly happy. And for Mrs. Shukla it was that walk to the Photo studio to pick her passport size photographs for her college admission form. When Mr. Shukla had insisted on walking with her. To her that was their first official date and also the day she knew she wanted to walk with just him for the rest of her life. So, when the Doctors were trying to give her details of Mr. Shukla’s heart attack, Mrs. Shukla was actually thinking of that date and nothing else. He was the only one she had loved with all her heart and now he had left her alone in this world to raise their daughter. And so now every time the phone rang especially in the evening, Mrs. Shukla said a small prayer picking up the phone.

Along with taking care of her daughter, she had finished her Ph.D. with the highest marks in her class. After years of teaching History and motivating kids to read more, she was being considered for the position of the Principal at the college. Then, of course, she had the support and love of her wonderful family and friends. Kaavya had turned into this smart, kind, intelligent and confident girl. Her honesty was well known in the family, bordering on the lines of being brutal at times. She was perfect, thought Mrs. Shukla to herself; just never had breakfast at “breakfast time”.

And then it happened. She heard it. The sound she had been longing to hear for months now. It was Kaavya running down the stairs, screaming, “Ma, is there anything to eat? I am late for a meeting with my editor and I am really hungry”. But before Mrs. Shukla could even say a word, Kaavya picked up her teacup and took a sip, “mmm…delicious tea ma. I am taking this one, please make more for yourself.” She grabbed an apple and pack of cookies as she transferred the masala chai into her travel mug and just like that she was gone and so was the dull morning. It was now the most eventful morning.

“She actually has a meeting with her editor. Ya ya that is what she said.” Mrs. Shukla spent the rest of the morning calling up her siblings giving them the big news. Kaavya had finally stepped out of the house; after months of sitting on her ‘behind’ watching trashy TV shows, listening to loud music and eating junk food. She had gotten dressed and gone out. And this called for a celebration or so Mrs. Shukla decided. And celebration in Shukla Household meant elaborate and yummy dinner to commemorate the day.

Now started the marathon of delicious Punjabi dishes. Dal makhanai, shahi paneer and paranthas with cucumber yogurt and Mrs. Shukla’s famous, Mutton curry. After a long time, she was happy to inform Mr. Shukla in their daily updates that Kaavya looked better. “You wait and watch, our daughter is finally going to live her life her way without any inhibitions. THAT BOY WAS NEVER GOOD FOR HER anyways. Our daughter finally has a plan.” Mrs. Shukla always kept Mr. Shukla updated with their daughter’s life.

Just then Kaavya opened the door, screaming, “Ma, where are you?” When she saw the table set up for dinner with her favorite dishes and her mom sitting on her chair leaving a place setting for Mr. Shukla like always, Kaavya knew she won’t get any sleep until she told her Ma about her big plan.

And so, she started, “Ma, I quit my job today.” Mrs. Shukla just sat there giving no reaction than a simple, “And?” Kaavya continued, “And I will be writing for this magazine along with working on my book. So, I will be working from home, from now on.” Mrs. Shukla smiled and this time she let her fiercely guarded tears slip out of her eyes. She finally understood her perfect daughter’s perfect Plan. The plan was always very clear, to be by her mom’s side.

Dinner was now over and Kaavya was explaining why she no longer wanted to work long hours and travel so much for a job that did not push her to achieve more and just then her phone rang. It was her friends calling to take her out to celebrate her new venture. And so, Kaavya hugged her Ma kissing her good night, a subtle way of informing that she will be late coming home tonight.

And as she opened the door to step out, Kaavya turned around and called out to Mrs. Shukla one more time, “Another thing Ma, you and I will be sharing dad’s office now. So we will need to redecorate that room accordingly. Night night! I love u.” And just like that Mrs. Shukla’s smile turned into a frown. Sharing the office was a bit too much.

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