Ria didn’t notice the time fly when she was caught in the whirlwind of her duties in the office. She finally got to breathe a little at around 3. She sat in her cabin and ordered a coffee. There was a little nagging voice at the back of her head. She couldn’t put a finger to it, it felt like there was something important she was forgetting. She then remembered with a gasp. Her daughter !
She checked her phone; no calls, no messages. That meant her daughter was fine. She decided to call home just to find out. Renuka answered the phone in her shy nasal voice. “Hello?”
“Hello Renuka, baby kaisi hai? (How is the baby?)”
“Theek hai medam. Thoda doodh piya, abhi so rahi hai. Fever kam ho gaya (She is ok, she’s had some milk and is sleeping now. The fever has gone down too).”
Ria let a sigh of relief sweep over her. She still felt impatient. She should be home, not in the office. She sat there drumming her fingers on the desk impatiently.
The office was getting a little stuffy. She went to the large sliding window and slid it open. Her office being on the 15th floor gave her a tremendous view. A fairly strong wind was blowing. Ria closed her eyes and took in the fresh air. Something flew in through the open window and stuck itself to her face. She opened her eyes and saw a withered leaf. She twisted it between her thumb and index finger. “Ha! A eucalyptus leaf. Wonder where that came from. Now is it an eucalyptus or a eucalyptus? God what a terrible mother I am going to be, if I don’t know, how will I teach Mishti?”
Her thoughts were interrupted by a soft knock on the door. “Come in”, she said.
Suresh, the office boy, set down a large mug of strong sweet smelling coffee on the table and a small plate of butter biscuits. She thanked him and took a sip of the coffee. It was just the way she liked it.
She finished her coffee and put the cup down and gestured for Suresh to clear the desk. He came to the desk and started to clear up the cup and he picked up the dried leaf that had flown in from the window and looked at her in a cold and eerie manner. She sensed a strong smell of liquor coming from Suresh. The kind of stale smell you’d get from someone who had drunk the previous night and thrown up. She looked back at him questioningly. He held the leaf in his hand and looked her in the eye. He had a cold unnerving gaze that gave her chills. He moved closer to her and said in a hoarse whisper, “Ria come!”
Ria was startled. “What?”, she asked.
“What mam?”, asked Suresh innocently moving back. The look in his eyes had changed to a soft, innocent warm look. “You said something now, didn’t you?”, she asked. “Me? No why?”, he asked. “Are you drunk?”, she demanded. “What? No ma’am”, he said looking offended. “Don’t lie. You are reeking of alcohol”, she said more angrily. “Ma’am I never ever drink. I swear on my mother”, he said almost in tears.
“You can leave now.”, she said. She was sure he was drunk. Drunk and talking non sense! She was debating if she should put him across to human resources.
She sent an email to her boss informing him about her daughter’s ill health, picked up her bag and came down. She waited as the valet brought her car to the entrance. It looked like it would rain. She wanted to get home before that. She didn’t want to be stranded in the rain. She remembered the monsoons last year, she was stranded on the road for over 6 hours.
She reached home in less than half an hour. She went in and found Mayur sitting on the sofa calling someone. She motioned to Renuka to get her some tea while she went into Mishti’s room to check on her. Her little face looked red. She touched her cheek and it was burning.
“Why didn’t you call me?”, she demanded of Renuka as she walked in with her tea. “Sir was already home in the afternoon medam”, she replied timidly. “So?”, demanded Ria. “So what if sir was already home? Mayur….”, she called out. “Mayur why didn’t you call me?”, she asked him furiously as he entered the room.
“I just came in some time ago, I checked on her and she was fine. About ten minutes ago, Renuka gave her some milk, she threw up. I called Dr. Bhat and was going to call you when you came in”, he said not knowing if he ought to feel guilty.
“This is entirely my fault”, she said feeling Mishti’s forehead. “I should have stayed back. What kind of a mother am I? “
Dr. Bhat was a man well into his 50s and had seen his fair share of sick children to know what was wrong with Mishti.
“Did she eat out or drink water from somewhere?”, he asked taking her temperature. He was a stout jolly looking guy with salt and pepper moustache and wisdom greys.
“She was playing in the fountain in Meghan Mall last evening”, Mayur said.
“Hmm… “, Dr. Bhat scribbled something on the prescription sheet , tore it off and held it in the air for either of the parents to take it from him. Ria reached for it and looked at it.
“She’s just caught a bout of infection. Give her bland food and lots of fluids. She’ll be fine in sometime. She might throw up, but there’s nothing to worry. It’s the monsoons, kids fall sick all the time in this season.”
Mayur took the prescription from Ria as he escorted the doctor to his car.
“Get me a face wash” , Ria texted Mayur.
She sat next to Mishti holding her hot little hand in hers. She kissed the flushed cheek. Mishti opened her eyes.
“Mama, Mitti fever”, she said feebly.
“Mitti will be fine soon”, said Ria, kissing her daughter’s hand as her eyes threatened to well up anytime.