Three days to “doomsday” and Mom turns into this zealot baba follower who refuses to do anything but watch Baba ka Darbar all day long. Remote in one hand, phone in another. Ordering a thali the moment a new prayer service goes live.
“How come he’s live?” I say, munching on crackers with toppings of ketchup and mustard sauce, our gourmet lunch for today. “Shouldn’t he be hiding somewhere, performing some ‘yugya-shagya’ in secret?”
Mom shudders at this and looks about fearfully, as if waiting for lightning to strike and smite us all out of existence. When that doesn’t happen, she finally speaks. “Baba has his ways,” she says mystically, “and don’t be disrespectful, Rinku. I have taught you better than that.”
That’s the most I have gotten out of her in recent days. Nothing I do gets her attention.
The milk boils over and she doesn’t care.
I point out lone mainas wailing on the clothes line and neither I nor Sunny is ordered to shoo them away.
I leave slipper on slipper, the broomstick standing, tear down the garland of chillies and lemons dangling out front, much to our relief. It practically screams superstitious. I even make us double back into the house before catching the school bus, always a no-no, especially if you are sitting for a class test or trying out for the school cricket team.
When Mishra aunty scans the street up and down for any sign of the ominous cat before venturing out, most likely to go for a dinner party, decked up as she is in her dazzling gold jewelry and Kanjiwaram best, I ask her where she’s heading (no, I’ve got no pity, I’m heartless when it comes to her). She throws me a sharp, accusatory look, curses under her breath, stamps her foot, and heads back into her home.
“Look, we’ve got a litter of black kittens in our garden,” I tell Mom as I clip my fingernails, and it’s a Wednesday, and she waves me off with a careless flick of her hand. “No problem,” she says. “We are protected by the grace of Maharishi baba, don’t you know?” her eyes never leaving the screen. Yes, that and the thousand and one thalis that she’s been buying every second and a half!
Her hair’s all oily and slick and I think she’s still in the Maxi she went to bed in last to last night. And I wish Dad was here to put a stop to this once and for all.
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