She walked into her room and inhaled deeply. She loved this fresh early morning smell typical of her room. It was an odd mixture of the fragrance of incense sticks lit in front of Lord Krishna’s statue, the pungent smell of phenyl that the maid mixed with water to mop the floor, and the mild sweetness of the morning air that blew outside the window of her room. This happened to be the most relaxing time of the day for her. The maid had just left after finishing the daily chores, Rohit and Surbhi were both at work and kids were not due from school for another three hours. She loved spending time with the kids but one had to admit, they were quite a handful. She needed a few quiet hours by herself to maintain her saneness.

She pulled a chair close to the window overlooking the neem tree and sat down. She had found a very old issue of Women’s Era from the big trunk while hunting for her brown Kanjeevaram sari yesterday. She used to enjoy reading Women’s Era back in 80’s. In fact, she had been a regular subscriber of the magazine. Today, she flipped through the yellowing pages of this old issue and smiled fondly every time she recognized some ad from the old days. She flipped the page that bore a smiling woman and an energetic boy with a glass of Ruhafzah in their hands and then, she stopped. Her lips first tightened and then slowly curved upwards until they formed a smile but her eyes became moist. Her hand quivered as she reached out to touch the moldy photograph lying between the pages of the old magazine. She picked it up with utmost care, as if she was scared of impairing it by a sudden quick movement.

She felt a tear run down her cheek and saw it fall on her cream-colored cotton sari, missing the photograph by a centimeter. Although the photograph was black and white, she clearly remembered the colors. How long back was it taken? 42 years, no 43 years had passed since that day. She had been a chirpy young maiden of 20 that day.

Yes, it was her birthday and her parents had taken her to the photo studio to get this photograph taken. She had known that the photograph had a special purpose the minute her mother had insisted that she wore her new sari. It was chiffon sari; pale blue with tiny yellow flowers spread all over it. Her mother had also insisted that she braided her hair. Nice girls did not roam around with their hair open, mother had said. She had put a line of kohl under her eyes but had not dared to use the pink lipstick that sat on her dressing table.

The photo studio was in the local market and she had walked down to the studio with her parents and younger brother. Father had asked the photographer to take three different photos. Everyone wanted to make sure that the output was good. They all gave their two bits about how she should stand, how wide she should smile or not smile, how her head should be turned to one side until the photographer lost patience and asked everyone to leave the little room. He had assured them that he would do a good job with the photographs. And he had been right. All three photographs, taken in different poses, had come out well but the one in her hand right now had come out the best.

This was how her husband, Rohit’s papa, had first seen her. A slim shy girl, draped in blue, smiling coyly; she had not looked directly at the camera. And he had fallen in love with her. Yes, he had always claimed that it was love at first sight for him. He had said yes for the match as soon as he saw the photograph. She had seen him for the first time two months later, when he along with his parents had come to her town for the engagement ceremony. Her parents, of course, had seen his photograph before they agreed to the match. Yes, she had been a simple woman back then as well. Although it was four decades ago, people were becoming more and more open. Many of her friends had met their prospective grooms and even visited the movie halls with them before they got married; but not her. She had trusted her parent’s choice and why not? They had been proven right.

He had always been good to her. He was the one who taught her to cook Chinese and Italian food. He was the one who insisted she did her post graduation studies. He had strongly supported her decision to have only one child despite the displeasure of the family. He had always considered her opinion while making any important decision of his life. Yes, blue was her lucky color. It had got her the best husband. She glanced at the black and white photograph again. When she smiled this time, it reached her crinkly eyes.


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