Before and After

The morning breeze wafted through the sun-dappled kitchen. A few dust motes twirled giddily before coming to rest on the worn floor. The room was large, a few feet shy of enormous. Every corner of the room- every nook and every cranny was utilized. This was a space where memories had been made, where laughter had been served, with a side of mischief.

Right there by the ancient fridge, Mohana’s granddaughter, Mini had taken her first steps. Behind the ugly-brown sideboard, Mini had spoken her first sentence and then 19 years later rehearsed her graduation speech. Grandma and girl had played many a game of chase around the rickety dining table and then later on had sat at those same mismatched chairs and talked about science and history and boys. 

The kitchen waiting patiently like an old friend, listening carefully for the sounds of Mohana’s anklets. The assortment of ladles and pans looked around, confused by their sudden loss of purpose. The spice rack peered down at them from a high shelf, shrugging with growing concern. The air hung empty and noiseless, heavy with the absence of Mohana’s prayer chants. A small beetle crawled along the floor, chirping loudly before meeting the stony glare of the food mixer. It continued the rest of its journey in absolute silence. The ancient fridge wept tears, wheezing and spitting, little droplets of condensation from the freezer drawers.

As afternoon approached, the kitchen worried more. The gas stove made a fair point – Mohana had never been this late, not even when she’d had pneumonia 3 winters ago. The microwave (the only shining appliance in a room full of relics) suggested that maybe she’d gone on vacation? This ludicrous statement was met with a loud snort from the Fridge as it leaked more water on the ground. The little coffee maker skittered excitedly. It was almost time for Mohana’s evening cup. Surely, she would come now? 

As another slow hour crept by, the kitchen seemed to shrink. The old walls looked forlorn and the dining table sagged even more. A sense of despair had settled on the entire space. Every single object, from the mighty fridge to the tiniest teaspoon felt the first twinges of grief. Mohana wasn’t coming back anymore. That was certain. The magic, the meals, the messes and the marvelousness of the past 60 years. All gone into the mists of the past. The sink made a hollow, groaning sound, and that deep sorrow reverberated throughout the now dusty kitchen. That night, even the moonlight didn’t venture in through the open windows, respectful of their need to mourn in private.

The next morning, dawned the same. Newer identical dust motes swam lazily through the still air. The kitchen looked older, and somehow smaller. Even the fridge sat silent. The entire space looked dull and abandoned. Being objects of a material world, they knew the house would be sold or foreclosed by the bank.
At a quarter past twelve, the front doors jiggled and opened. A rather striking young woman, hands heavy with bags, came in and shut them behind her. She made a wide turn around the living room and marched straight to the dining table where she unloaded. For the next few minutes, she looked around, touching this and that, smiling to herself as she heard voices from a million reminiscences. Everything looked the same, but somehow emptier. She sat down and cried for a long time.

By late afternoon, she felt braver. So she walked into the kitchen and fixed herself some coffee. Two cups later and she felt up to talking. Standing in the middle of the kitchen, she spoke in a clear voice.
 “Grandma died two days ago. A long, happy life ended rather prematurely by a heart attack when she was sleeping. She lived every second, knowing love surrounded her in many forms- her family, her friends. And her kitchen. See, she often told me, growing up, that she would talk to you. I thought she was being silly. But now, I’m not so sure. I believe she lives on, here in her kitchen. Her words, her laughter, her prayers, her music – they are all still right here. Etched on every wall and snuggled in every crevice.”

She paused for a second and continued, “I am not my grandma. I don’t sing as well and I am nowhere as accomplished as she was, culinary wise. But I believe in magic and I believe in laughter. I believe in the power of words and how they can transform an ordinary cook space into a cozy, happy kitchen like this one. Where everyone gets a meal, with a song and a smile. So if you will have me, we can make some of our own memories for the next fifty years.”

A long silence followed this. Then the fridge sputtered and started up again. The kitchen creaked- a soft and comforting sound. The spoons twinkled, bright and shiny, next to the sink. The coffee machine gurgled happily, spitting out another few drops. Mini blinked and laughed. She took a cleansing, deep breath and went back to the table. To the property title and transfer papers. And humming an old tune she’d just remembered, Mini (short for Mohana) signed her name and accepted the house her grandma always wanted her to have.

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