Summer is coming.
When grandchildren are scheduled to visit, the grandparents wish to make the best of arrangements to make their short stay memorable. This needs funds, which, unfortunately, are not available to people with courage of conviction.
Summer is coming.
Swamy viewed the screen in front of him closely and jumped in his chair. The much awaited e-mail had finally arrived. “The grandchildren are coming. It’s now confirmed,” he shouted.
His wife of forty five years heard it in the kitchen and rushed into the study room tapping the floor with her stick. Bending and leaning on her stick, she adjusted her glasses and looked at the screen, which showed the itinerary and details of the flights. She counted the number of days and said, “After sixty days, our house will come alive again with grandchildren laughing, fighting and playing with us. I’m so thrilled.” She turned around in what might have been a dance in her younger days.
“First it’s not sixty days, but fifty nine days. April has only thirty. One more thing, read the e-mail fully.”
“Why can’t you tell me, my eyes are getting weak?”
“It’s special this year. First, both our sons are coming together with their families. It seems they planned it carefully. Second, they will stay for three weeks instead of two, this year.”
“That’s even great. First time after ten years, we’ll have the full family together. Imagine two sons with their wives and six grand children all in our house and a bonus of one week. The house will reverberate with peals of laughter. What more can we ask for? Thanks for the excellent news.” She planted a kiss on her husband’s cheek. The rough stubble upset her. “Shave regularly as you’ll scare the kids, otherwise.”
“You don’t have to tell me,” Swamy said.
“OK, don’t get upset, but let us check our cash position as we have a lot to do.”
“Give me a minute for me to log in.”
The bank balance didn’t look encouraging. Swamy clutched the monitor, as if it were a demon that swallowed his funds, and sighed. “What to do, with this recession, my Mutual Funds paid nothing this year.”
“OK, check your pension account.”
The pension account was no better.
His wife frowned. “Look at your pension, it could have been more if you’d kept your mouth shut and retired after promotion. No, you opened your loud mouth and spoke of courage of conviction. Now how do we get funds? I need money, plenty of it. I want the best of everything for my children and grandchildren.” She slumped on the sofa and clutched her head.
“Why you bring it now? It is history. It’s my job to arrange the cash, but first you tell me how much you want, OK?”
“You call us women, vain. You don’t know how vain you men could be.”
“Stop grumbling and make a list of items instead. I can’t put the clock back, can I?”
His wife didn’t answer but picked a pen and a pad and started listing. A thorough cleaning of the house, she wrote first, put the pen away and sighed. It meant bringing the house up to American standards. An additional maid would be needed, but getting a maid was getting difficult and expensive too. She picked up the pen and continued to list: painting the whole house, dry washing of carpets and curtains, extra bed linen, more towels, additional geysers for hot water. When the list ran to two pages, she paused. A rough estimate had already come to a figure more than what was in the pension account.
She started recollecting the days when the grandchildren visited them last. The scenes of her grandchildren running around playing, jumping up and down the sofas and laughing all the time flashed before her eyes. She could see the girls singing and dancing. The elder girl was taking ballet lessons and the younger one Indian dancing. She remembered her sons had invited their old friends and class mates with their families. She added additional crockery, cutlery to the list.
Swamy went around the backyard. The rusty hoops needed replacement. His eldest grandson spoke about baseball, which needed more space than basketball. He looked around once again. The guava tree in the center would have to go, but the kids loved it during their last visit. They enjoyed climbing the tree and plucking the fruits. They enjoyed eating the fruits fresh, sitting on the branches. He remembered how they laughed when he talked of cleaning them and the possibility of their falling sick otherwise. Cutting the tree didn’t seem to be a beneficial option. The tree occupied little space on the ground anyway. They would have to make do with basketball. One more ring on the wall along the kitchen, should be enough, he thought.
He could have afforded a bigger house if he had kept his mouth shut when his superior was doing something wrong. No, he’d made a song and dance about it. What did he get? No awards for honesty, but a taste of the ire of the powers that be and a premature retirement in a lower position with a lesser pension, he thought.
No point in brooding about now, he told himself and returned to the study. He found his wife lost in her thoughts. He shook her and said, “Stop dreaming and make your list. Add computer games. I’ll have to get the latest games from the book store. Incidentally, we need to buy at least two laptops; otherwise the children might fight among themselves for computer games.”
“Two laptops will cost a fortune. Why can’t you hire them for three weeks or a month? ”
“It’s a good idea. I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me?”
“You leave the economy of the house to women, OK?”
“Stop the bragging. If you’d been economical in running the house, my bank balance would have been healthy.”
“Now you stop complaining. I can speak of your drinking and smoking.”
She suppressed her anger, went into another room, returned with a small box and handed it over to him. It had a pearl necklace resting on a cushion of blue velvet cloth.
“You want to part with it, are you sure? Why don’t you wait for me to arrange funds?”
“I know jolly well you can’t. We never borrowed money, and we are not going to start now, are we? This is the best answer.”
“Isn’t it the same I gave you on our silver wedding anniversary?”
“Yes, let’s not get sentimental about it. I can see your eyes moist already.”
“OK, let us start our preparations.”
“Leave it to me. The auspicious day is after three days. We don’t want to start on a wrong day; something may go wrong.”
“As you wish, my dear wife. Although I don’t believe in these things, I want to err on the right side.”
The preparations started in right earnest. The house got a thorough cleaning, especially the three bathrooms. They looked bright and shining with modern fittings and sanitary ware.
Swamy got the car serviced, its upholstery changed and hired an extra car to cater for two families. The gold standard was high and the pearl necklace fetched enough funds for all works.
When the scheduled day finally arrived, the house looked immaculate and all spruced up. He changed into his best clothes and got ready to go to the airport. He found his wife late as usual and taking her own time.
“My dear wife, it’s time to go to the airport. You never get ready in time.”
“Stop whining and check the taxis.”
The taxis were late, but before he called, the taxi company informed the taxis were on their way. The airlines confirmed the flight was on the time. He kept looking at the clock in the living room and heaved a sigh of relief when he found the taxis in the driveway. His wife was not ready.
“Look, it takes forty five minutes to get to the airport. The flight is on time, and it is time we started.”
“I need a few more minutes. I must also look my best before my grandchildren. They made fun of me last time and called me old granny.”
The five minutes seemed to stretch to fifty, but Swamy took pains to keep his cool. Finally, when his wife made her way to the living room, he felt immensely happy. She looked gorgeous belying her age. He gathered her in his arms and kissed her tenderly.
“Now, it’s you holding up things,” she protested meekly.
Swamy released her and made his way to the porch, held the door for his wife, got in after her and asked the driver to start. The second taxi followed. Swamy looked at the watch. There was only half an hour before the arrival of the flight. He asked the driver to step on the gas. The driver said it would take at least half an hour for the baggage to be off loaded. “Stop teaching me and step on the gas, will you? We don’t want to be late even by a minute.”
The driver stepped on the gas. At the junction near the airport, he crossed when the light changed to amber. “Watch out,” Swamy shouted. He was a trifle late.