I am fortunate to reside in a residential colony adjacent to a park. Every morning, I made it a part of my routine to walk along the periphery of the park five times, before settling down on a wooden bench. I enjoy the cool morning breeze and the sweet fragrance of the flowers in the garden. The songs of the birds and the cacophony of children playing hide-and-seek in the bush, rejuvenate me. I am not the only person to experience these thrills. Three ladies and a dog, kept me company on all days. They are neighbours in a residential complex opposite the park and always came together.
Rita Sarin is a middle aged lady who projects an ebullience reminiscent of her adolescent years. She graduated in English literature and is very particular about the proper usage of English words, phrases in written work and during conversation. She worked as a journalist in several leading periodicals and has now settled down to being an English tutor in a local college.
Susan Das embodies a typical, middle aged housewife, short and rotund. Her main concerns are the rising prices of the essential items needed for the household. She is forthright in her views and minces no words in expressing it.
Sheetal Singh retired from government service and her last posting was in the Foreign office. She is proud of her regal ancestry and never tires in eulogizing the old times when the states were ruled by the kings. She remained a spinster and portrays a dignified presence worthy of her distinctive post and ancestry. Her constant companion is her fox-terrier dog, Ron, whom she walks daily inside the park.
On one occasion, I was sitting on the bench adjacent to the one on which the three ladies sat. I was within hearing range of their conversations. This is how it went.
Susan: Today the weather is better. Last two days it was raining cats and dogs.
Rita( frowning in disgust): What do you mean raining ‘cats and dogs’. I don’t understand why some people want to murder the English language. Have you ever heard of ‘cats and dogs’ coming down with rain?
Susan: Oh! Rita, why are you getting so angry? I am only telling the way everybody describes heavy rain. Now, let us not talk about cats and dogs. Did you notice the steep rise in the prices of vegetables, because of the rains?
Sheetal: Why should we not talk about cats and dogs? They are much better and more faithful than human beings. My grandfather, who was the ruler of the state of Miraj, had eight pedigreed dogs. They guarded his palace more efficiently than the human sentries, who were mostly sleeping.
Susan: Sheetal, how can you compare humans with dogs? You can give instructions to the human sentries and they will follow it. You cannot give instructions to a dog! Can
you? It will only bark at unknown people without distinguishing their identities.
Rita: Sheetal, you seem to be a man-hater. Is that the reason why you never married?
Sheetal: True, all men are flirts. They always want to exploit women. I would prefer to have a cat or a dog sleep next to me in bed, rather than a man.
Susan (giggling loudly): But Sheetal, you cannot do those things with a cat or a dog, which you can do with a man sleeping next to you. You understood my point, no!
Sheetal (annoyed): Shut up! Susan. You can think only of that three letter word and nothing else. There are many things one can do, if one wishes to. I like to read a good novel late into the night, before going to sleep.
Just at that moment, a frisbee landed close to the ladies and a beautiful teenage girl rushed to collect it. The dog started barking at her, eliciting the following comment from Susan.
Susan: See! Sheetal, your dog is barking at that lovely girl. If it were a man, he would have tried to make friendship with her and helped her to retrieve the frisbee. Rita, don’t you think she would make a good match with your son, Sandy?
Rita: I never thought about it. Sandy has his own choices and I never interfere with it.
Susan: Sandy is lucky. He won’t have the same problem which Mrs. G’s son faced after marriage. You know! He was not allowed by his mother, to share the bed with his wife. As a result, his wife sought a divorce, just one year after marriage.
Sheetal: Susan, your head seems to be a bin for all such gossip in the society. How do you get these stuffs?
Susan (looking pleased): People come and confide in me themselves. I give them advice and they are grateful to me.
Rita: Susan, why don’t you apply your immense knowledge to get your daughters married?
Susan: Oh! I got some excellent proposals for my elder daughter, Sunita, but she did not like them. Nowadays, these girls want their grooms to be tall and very handsome, very qualified, having a very high-paid job, everything in the superlative. How is it possible to get such a boy? You know, Mrs. K’s son Rahul, was keen to marry Sunita, but she said he was a bit short! He comes from a respected family and has a good job. I tried to explain to her these points, but she blatantly refused to reconsider. What can I do?
Sheetal: When I hear your woes, I feel myself lucky not to have married. My Ron obeys my commands and I never have to explore the possibilities of forging an alliance. Is it not the best way to spend the evening of my life?
Rita: Indeed! You are lucky. I saw you last night at Mrs. Kapoor’s party, changing your dance partners like we used to change our baby’s napkins! The best part is that no eyebrows were raised, because it is known that you are independent and unattached. I surely envy you!
Sheetal (smiles): Yes, I do enjoy certain liberties in lieu of my loneliness at home.
Susan (looking at her watch): It is time to go home. Our washer man will come with the clothes and I have to receive it and give the payment.
The other two ladies also got up to walk back home. A delightful morning came to an end, as I got up to walk homewards in the opposite direction.