How can I amuse you?

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The Empty Pots

It was a bright sunny afternoon of May and the temperature was hovering around forty degrees. Outdoors, not a single person was in sight. Everyone snuggled up inside their houses to avoid facing the wrath of this unbearable heat. As the old woman watched from the window, a light breeze blew the ground dust on the windowpane. She looked for a while and then got up, heading towards the kitchen. The pots were empty and dry. She picked up a couple of those pots and took them with her. Just when she was about to leave, she saw a man on a motorcycle, pulling up in the front of the verandah of the house. The man got down from the bike and gently knocked on the front door.

"Mother?"

The old woman opened the door.

"What happened?", she inquired suspiciously.

"Well, nothing. I was just passing by here and I thought I should visit you."

She looked at him momentarily.

"Okay, come on in.", she said and the man entered the house and sat on the creaky bed.

"I can't offer you water since there's no water to drink. The pots are empty. I was just going to get the water from the neighbouring village well.", the old woman spoke.

"This water issue is getting terrible these days. Summers are the worst here.", he replied nervously.

There was a silent pause for a while.

"So, how's your stomach now? Does it still hurt?"

"It hurts ocassionally."

"Okay, I hope you're taking your medicines on time."

"I am."

"Please let me know if you require anything. And you know it goes without saying that you can come to stay with us anytime, if you're facing any problems here. The kids love to be around you and constantly keep asking for you."

There was an uncomfortable silence again.

"I must go now, it's getting late. Sheela must be worried."

"Okay."

The man got up and reached for his wallet. He waded through the 2000 rupee notes for some time and then stopped abruptly.

"Well, I don't have any change right now. But I'll surely get you the money for the medicines, the next time I visit.", he spoke hesitantly.

"Oh, please don't bother. I've already got my this month's pension. I'll get my medicines", she replied in a wry manner.

"Okay then.", he came forward and hugged the old woman. The old woman just stoically stood there.

The man put his helmet back on and started the motorcycle. He nodded at the old woman who was now leaning on the doorstep and then he left, his sillhoutte disappering in a cloud of dust blown over by the exhaust of the motorcycle.

She closed the door and stared at the photograph hanging on the wall. A man standing beside a woman, a beautiful farmland in the backdrop with a little kid sitting on a tricycle. Their faces in the photograph lit up in a cheerful glee! How happy she was in that photograph. She pondered how cruel time had been to her over the past decade. The man standing beside her in was now having his own separate photo hanging from the wall, with a garland of plastic flowers around it. She wondered why did he have to leave her so early. She remembered the time when he used to play his guitar and sing to her in the evening, out there in the fields, after a long tiring day of plucking cotton;

You'll be older too
And if you say the word
I could stay with you
I could be handy, mending a fuse
When your lights have gone
You can knit a sweater by the fireside
Sunday mornings go for a ride
Doing the garden, digging the weeds
Who could ask for more
Will you still need me, will you still feed me
When I'm sixty-four

The old woman stood watching the photograph as hot tears started trickling down her face. The burning tear droplets fell to the ground and evaporated in thin air. She went inside to get the empty pots, which were now as empty as her heart and her forsaken existence.

“You have to die a few times before you can really
live.” ~ Charles Bukowski (The People Look Like Flowers At Last)
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Location: Mumbai, Maharashtra, India

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