Silver Lining

Pramila was going to be late for Art Class. Second time this week, and no one to blame but herself. Well…. and Raj. Mmm Raj! 
With an impish smile, she adjusted her Kurta and locked the door behind her. Oh wait! Her paint brushes?!! She would look like a proper fool if she showed up tardy AND without her tools. Slipping back into her room, she looked around frantically for the supplies. Not on the sofa (Hey, Pramila), not under the table (Pramila, listen) and unsurprisingly, not in her Art Corner (I think I’m falling for you, Pramila).
Where were the damn brushes?!!
On a sudden whim, she peeked into the bedroom. A cozy bed blinked merrily back at her. The sheets were in absolute disarray (whose fault is that, now?) and two pillows peeked from under the thick quilt.
(Prami, will you marry me?)
(Shut up, Raj, you cannot be serious!)
(I’m as serious as a heart attack, darling).
Raj’s aftershave lingered in her bedroom – heady and tantalizing. A mental image of his broad back, those burning eyes when he looked at her- pools of passion with little ripples of lust. In the middle of November Snow, Pramila fanned herself, all flushed and hot. Ok, Focus. Don’t think about Raj, don’t imagine kissing him again.
Aha! She spotted her brushes hiding behind the candles on the windowsill.
(Marry me Prami!)
Tools in tow, she locked her room again and rushed down the stairs. Two corridors and one wing over, she reached the classroom. Breathless and still a little red, Pramila pulled her sweater close.
Whoa! A packed classroom today. Several new heads bobbed between familiar faces and she had to pause a few times before reaching her corner of the class.
Setting down her tools, she nudged her friend, Madhu.
“What’s with so many new faces today?”
Madhu shrugged. “Maybe some of them are touring the campus? The Art Class is on the brochure.”
“Yeah, you may be right.”
She was setting up her easel when Madhu whispered.
“Who’s the hot guy making eyes at you?”
“What? Where?”
“Over there, at the very back of the class? Blue Sweater, Tan Pants?”
Pramila craned her neck and saw him. Raj? Wait her Raj?
What was he doing here in Art Class?
Madhu leaned over and muttered unhelpfully.
“He’s smiling now and heading our way! Whoa, what a Cutie!”
Half a head taller than anyone else, Raj ambled towards them with a naughty smile.
Her heart stopped, then started again, stumbling over a few beats.
(Raj, we met a month ago.)
(And that’s a month too late. Marry me Prami!)
(But our pasts? My daughter?)
“Hey Ladies, I’m Raj Aiyyar. Such a pleasure to meet you both.”
Madhu simpered and flashed her pearly whites like an awkward teenager. Rolling her eyes, Pramila said, “Raj, are you new to Art Class? We haven’t seen you here before?”
Raj held her gaze for an extra second. Then winked.
The cheek of the man!
“Actually, I’ve been here for a good, long time. My friend is touring the Campus, so I thought I’d come check out the artsy folk! And trust me, this class has not disappointed!”
Another wink.
A sudden image of Raj lounging on her bed popped into her head. Had she really spent the night with this handsome, wonderful man?
The intercom cleared its throat with a phlegmy buzz.
“Mrs. Pramila Rao. Kindly report to the Office. You have a visitor.”
“Prami, who’s visiting you today?”
Confused, Pramila shrugged. She wasn’t expecting anyone for at least another two weeks.
“Hey, let me walk you. Headed that way myself.” Raj offered.
Nodding absently, she excused herself from class and left the bustle of a hundred brushes swishing against paper.
“Are you ok?”
“Me? Yeah, sure.”
“Alrighty then.”
She loved that about him. He treated her with respect and not like a 5-year-old who needed constant support. Refreshing!
Without meaning to, she asked,
“Raj? Do you like it here? This place?”
“Well, I wasn’t too sure at first. I had a good life in the City. Never married, no commitments. But after a while, the sameness got to me. I wanted a change. And here, I get to work my own hours and I absolutely adore the company. Especially Art Class,” he beamed. “How about you, Prami?”
“I am happy!” she said. It was as simple as that.
“This place is nothing like what they show in the movies right?”
“That’s exactly why I came here. We’re independent and we live life on our own terms. Isn’t that liberating?!”
Raj nodded, as they reached the main office.
In the lobby, waited a tall woman with her little toddler. Both wearing, Pramilaesque expressions of mild impatience.
“Ma! There you are!” exclaimed the woman, as Pramila held out her arms to hug her and the little girl.
“Na-nee!” “Na-nee”, chanted the toddler, in excitement.
“Prachi, how are you, darling? And Sia, you little bug, when did you get so big?”
Prachi looked at Raj, suspicious to see a handsome stranger by her mom’s side.
“This is my friend, Rajesh Aiyyar. He lives here too.”
“I see. Now Ma, we need to talk. In private, please?”
“Is this ‘Talk’ about me living here?”
Prachi reddened and looked at Raj. Then nodded imperceptibly.
“I had to come, Ma. Since you weren’t responding to my messages about… well.. you living here.”
“Well, in that case, why don’t we sit down on those nice couches by the window. And Raj, come along too!”
“But MA-”
“Prami if this is a family conver-”
“No Raj! Prachi, trust me. I have something to say, which concerns the both of you.”
They walked over and sat on the couches, Sia bouncing on her grandma’s lap. Above their heads, the large logo of ‘Grace Senior Residences’ flashed brightly in the late afternoon sun.
Prachi cleared her throat and began,
“Ma, I will say this one last time. You shouldn’t be living here. You have me, your adult daughter who owns a large house in Bangalore. Sia loves you and asks for you often! We miss you, MA and I think it’s idiotic that you want to live by yourself in an old age home. Come on Ma! You’re not an orphan with no place to call your own!”
As Raj winced and covered his face, Pramila placed a palm on his back. The gesture did not go unnoticed, especially by little Sia, who planted a big kiss on Raj’s knee. “Na-na,” she announced brightly.
“Oh, my darling, darling girl. I have announcements to make.So take a deep breath and listen like an adult. Ok?”
Prachi nodded, as did Raj who was now dangling the determined toddler on his legs.
“Firstly, I love you. I love the woman you’ve become – unafraid, assertive. Just like I raised you to be. But let go, darling. There’s more strength in acceptance than in fighting a pointless battle. See, for a while after your dad died, I was lonely. 35 years of marriage can do that to you. He was my soulmate and my best friend, and everything was so colorless when he left. Back then, I needed the warmth of a daughter’s love, a corner of her bright house; so I could mourn him my way and find myself beyond the life we built together. 35 years, darling. That’s a lot of memories.”
Pramila took a shaky breath and continued.
“I have healed from that loss. Girish was a wonderful, wonderful man and possibly the love of my life. But as the past 3 years have taught me, I am something more than his wife. Something more than a lonely widow, a dutiful mother, a loving Nani.”
“I am happy here. Very much so. My finances are in order, I pay to live comfortably here and I have a surprisingly busy life. Did you know, I have always wanted to paint? Now,after decades of flirting with a paintbrush, I’ve enrolled in an Art class? That is the absolute favorite part of my day, darling. Dabbling around in colors, easy conversations with friends. I have my identity here, Prachi!”
“But Ma, what about me? And Sia? Don’t you miss us?”
“Of course, I do my love! I miss all of you, every single day. But you’re busy with work and Sia is content at her playschool. You have a very involved husband, and, I am not needed there. I raised you to be independent, so grant me the courtesy of wanting the same.
Now, I will visit as much as you want me to. You mean the world to me.But honey, that is not my home. This place is.”
Sia looked up at her Grandma, confused by the somber faces around her.
Pramila looked down at her and exclaimed, “Guess what Miss. Sia? If your mom is ok with it, you can come and stay with Nani for the summer vacations? We can have ice cream for dessert every day! That sound like a plan?”
Sia nodded, her mind blown by images of scoops in every color of the rainbow.
Prachi sat there for a while. Processing. Understanding. Her mother’s daughter, she was a realist.
Then standing up, she hugged Pramila and whispered, “I love you ma. I’m sorry I tried to trample on your choice. If you ever change your mind, we’ll be just a phone call away.”
She glanced at Raj, who was tickling Sia’s toes.
“But something tells me you’ll be just fine here!”
After warm hugs and promises of Video Chats (Na-na AND Na-nee call me!), Pramila bade her little family adieu.
“They’re special women, Prami! Come from good stock, obviously!” Raj murmured in her ear.
“Now, Rajesh Aiyyar?”
“Yes, Pramila Rao?”
” About your Marriage Proposal this morning.”
“Wait, are you saying yes? Prami?!! Are you saying yes?!”
Pramila laughed at the tall, 62-year-old man, gushing before her.Oh, he was delightful!
“I love you Rajesh Aiyyar. But I cannot marry you just yet. This… this single life? It’s a novelty. Marriage and all that goes with it? Been there and done that.
For a little while, I want to be Pramila. Fly solo, unfettered and carefree. Staying up late, acting like a fool, cheating at our Evening Card games. Oh, there’s a whole bucket list of idiotic things I’ve always wanted to do.
Now I understand if this makes little sense to you. You’re a catch Mr.Aiyyar. I don’t expect you to wait for me.”
Raj looked away, brow furrowed and jaw set.
“Yeah, Raj?”
“Can I be honest?”
“This bucket list? How late does it say you have to stay up? Because I have some naughty ideas. And I’d like to start tonight.”
Pramila burst out laughing, the years falling away from her beautiful face. She went up on her toes and kissed his nose.
Then holding slightly wrinkled hands, the two sweethearts walked back to Art Class, their whole lives ahead of them. Behind them, evening fell and the Logo Lit up in Large, Bright Letters.
“GRACE Senior Residences” 

Welcome to your Silver Lining.

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