My husband is sad today. And I realise yet again how the departure of my own beloved parents has left a hole in his world, that will remain an open wound forever. Today is the day celebrated every year when his relationship with them did not involve me.
Today is Jamai Shashti, the Bengali celebration of the Jamai, or the son-in-law. An antiquated ritualistic marking on the calendar when fish prices soar to their highest. When elderly Bengali couples spend wild sums to feed their jamai, who aging himself, incongruously becomes the deity worshipped for the day.
As a family, we mocked this ritual! My father and I were both averse to anything that did not make sense to us and tended to shred it with scorn and pragmatism. Ma would join in nervously, in this collective derision, but also make a quiet point about wanting to celebrate her own jamai, who was more of a kindred spirit to her than her own children were. And in the same quiet way, she always had her own way.
Lightning ripped the night sky, followed by an explosive clap of thunder, as they drove in through the gates.
‘Come on honey, let’s run for it before the rain comes,’ he said, helping her out of the car.
Laughing happily, hands clasped tightly together, father and daughter made a dash towards the club house.
Suddenly she stopped in her tracks and turned her face up to the monsoon sky.
‘What is it, Pia?’ he asked, as fat drops of warm rain began to drum down upon them. ‘Come on, let’s go in, or we will both get drenched and mummy will be cross.’
‘Look up and smile daddy,’ she said, ignoring him. Pouting and dimpling just as another streak of lightning flashed, she added, ‘God is taking our photographs.’
Overcome by a stab of fierce love for his curly-haired moppet, he scooped her up, squeezed the little girl to his chest and ran into the club veranda. Where, as he had expected, his wife was waiting, with an expression darker than the thunder outside. Crossly berating him for getting their little girl soaked to the skin.
She looked out miserably at the storm gathering force. It had come out of nowhere, a day too soon. Positioning herself at the upstairs window, she stared out, willing them to appear on the horizon which was closing in fast. She could see other people scurrying past, rushing to get home. But not her lot.
‘Yet,’ she whispered to herself superstitiously.
Today was to have been the last nice day before the Beast from the East arrived. Again. He was getting to be quite a regular uninvited guest, this wretched beast. They had both groaned last night when the late-night weather had forecast more snow for Monday.
Allan swore aloud thinking of all the plans they had made.
‘Don’t worry,’ she said to him, ‘it’s still to be lovely sunshine tomorrow. And with Evie coming, let us make the most of it.’
He changed his mind as soon as he stepped out. What appeared to be a beautiful autumn day from indoors was indeed a beautiful autumn day outdoor as well. Oh, but it was cold!
‘You should have worn your blue jacket,’ he could hear her say. ‘This old thing needs to be retired now, for goodness’ sake’.
‘You’re always right,’ he muttered as he went in again, careful to remove his shoes before walking the short distance to the cupboard. He put away his beloved parka before donning the smart fleece lined jacket she had bought from M&S a few years ago. Lacing his brogues at the door, again, it occurred to him how he had started doing all the things she had nagged him to do for 34 years.
‘You trained me well, Dee,’ he grumbled as he double checked the doors before walking away.
She stirs in her sleep. Something disturbs her deep slumber, which is usually aided by the low dose of sleeping pills her GP insists she takes.
‘It’s time to go,’ whispers this breezy unknown voice. ‘Come on, wake up, it’s time to go’.
‘Who’s there?’ she calls out, scrambling to switch her bedside lamp on. ‘Who is it?’
Fearing the worst, she sits up in bed. Only last month, Mrs Linn in flat 2G, had had a break-in and still talks about the horror of it. Her sleepy eyes soon adjust to the light in the room, and for a moment she thinks she is still asleep, dreaming. For there, sitting in her rocking chair, is the strangest man she has ever seen. No one she knows, and she knows most of the people in the Asian community in Glasgow. Why, she is a regular every Sunday at the Hindu temple at Charing Cross, and never misses any of the local Indian functions.