Mishti did throw up a little later. Renuka had left for the weekend. So Ria had to manage with all the household chores all by herself. Mayur assured her that he’d take care of Mishti while she cooked dinner. He got her changed into a fresh set of clothes, fed her some soup and put her to sleep. Ria felt blessed to have such a sweet man who was a wonderful husband and an even wonderful father.
They had a quiet dinner. Her husband looked at her, “You ok?”, he asked. “Me? Oh yes yes”, she replied. Her tears threatened to fall down any minute and she couldn’t get herself to look at him. “Hey”, he said pulling her close. “It’s ok baby”, he said. Her tears fell like an opened dam. He rocked her sympathetically until she regained herself. “Now, that is a good girl”, he said kissing her forehead. “Kids fall sick all the time. This is the beginning. We are going to see far worse things. If you aren’t going to be brave, you’ll make a coward of her too”, he said comforting her.
“I am such a terrible mother”, she sobbed. “I am not even here when my baby is sick”. “Shush..”, Mayur whispered and held her till she regained composure.
“You go to bed. I’ll clear up these things and join you”, she told him sniffing back her runny nose. “You sure? I’ll do the clearing if you want”, he offered. “No, I would like to be by myself for some time and these chores might distract me a bit”, she assured him. “Alright, if that is what you want. I will be up reading anyways. So if you need anything call me ok?’, he kissed her again and went to bed.
Ria cleared up the dinner things and boiled some water for Mishti. She then went into her bathroom. Her husband had left Mishti’s soiled clothes smelling in a pail of water. She tossed them into the machine and checked on Mishti. She was sleeping soundly. Her chest went up and down rhythmically. Her stuffed nose made her let out little snores that sounded like kitten purrs. She bent and kissed her tender warm forehead silently praying that the baby feel better soon.
She then went into the balcony in the living room. The winds were stronger now. Trees swayed menacingly. The wind howled. She thought she ought to close the windows in her daughter’s room lest she got scared. She tried closing the balcony door. Something seemed to have wedged the door. It refused to budge. She checked the hinges, they were fine. The stopper was off. She knelt down to check if there was something stuck beneath the door when she felt a breath near her neck reeking of alcohol and a whisper, “Ria come”. Ria turned sharply to see who it was. There was no one. She looked around the room. It was empty. Thunder clapped across the sky. She thought she might have imagined it again. She pulled the door with all her might and closed it. She went into Mishti’s room and closed the windows. The rain had started in torrents. It was a scary night and Ria didn’t want to leave Mishti alone in her room. She lay down beside her and fell asleep almost immediately.
She had a very disturbed sleep. She dreamt she was cycling on a lonely road. The road was very familiar. She hears another cyclist behind her ringing his bell. She turns behind, but there is nobody. The invisible cyclist is close to her, she can feel him but cannot see him. He passes her and then shouts out to her, “Ria come!” Ria woke up with a start. She was not one to have night mares. She had a drink of water and lay down again, but she couldn’t sleep. There was a niggling feeling within her, like a premonition. She didn’t know what it was. Perhaps she felt queasy because she was way too worried about Mishti.
She pulled out her laptop and decided to finish some pending work as she wasn’t sleepy. Soon as she turned it on, a chat window popped up with a single message – “Ria come.” She was a little startled. She didn’t remember logging into her chat site the entire day and who wanted to chat with her now at this hour of the night? She looked at the id and immediately got goose bumps. It was Sanjay. She didn’t want to talk to him, at least not now. She closed the window. Another one popped up with the same message. She closed that too. A hundred chat boxes popped up on her screen all baring the message, “Ria come.” Had her laptop been infected with some virus? She snapped her laptop shut and lay down again. A weird smell hung in the air. She assumed it must be because Mishti had thrown up. She tossed and turned for a bit and then fell asleep eventually.
Mayur had to run some errands the next day. Ria put the milk to boil on the stove. Mishti’s temperature had gone down since the morning. She took the straw cup, rinsed it under the tap in the sink and poured the milk into it. She added a spoonful of sugar into the cup, stirred it and debated if she ought to add some Horlicks into it as well. She decided to add it anyway. Mishti could use some nutrition.
She went to Mishti’s room and sat her on her lap. Mishti leaned against her mother’s shoulder and took a sip of the milk. “Mama, Mitti want Noddy”, she said looking at Ria with her big brown eyes between her sweeping eye lashes. Ria stroked her hair. “If Mitti drink milk, then Mitti can watch Noddy”, she said bribing the little 3 year old.
Mishti finished the milk after a lot of coaxing and cajoling. Ria then picked her daughter up and sat her on the couch in the living room. She switched on the television and tuned in her daughter’s favourite channel. “No Noddy?”, Mishti asked her. “Now Oswald, then Noddy”, said Ria sitting beside her daughter.
She looked at the clock. It was half past 11. She thought she had to start making lunch. Perhaps a little kichdi for Mishti and some daal and rice for her and Mayur. Maybe she should make some sambar today, it had been a while since she had made sambar and Mayur loved the sambar she made.
“Mishtu, will you sit here and watch TV? Mama will be in the kitchen, if you need anything, call me ok?” Mishti nodded in approval.
Ria set about preparing lunch. She first washed the rice and daal together for Mishti’s kichdi, put some tamarind in water and let it boil. She chopped some onions and carrots, some peas , a little turmeric added to the khichdi and the pressure pan was put on the other burner. She checked if there was enough water for Mishti to drink. She then chopped some Okhra for the sambar, some tomatoes and onions and kept them aside. She picked up another pressure pan and put some daal in it to cook for the sambar.
She heard Mishti cough and ran out with a glass of water. Mishti had thrown up again, all over her pyjamas and the carpet. “Ohh it’s alright baby, it’s alright”, she fussed and helped her drink the water. She bent down to pick up her little teddy that was soaked in puke when Mishti caught hold of her wrist. She had a cold look in his eyes, the kind Suresh had had. “Ria come”, she whispered, and her breath smelled stale. She wrenched her hand away from Mishti’s grasp too shocked to say or do anything. She was definitely not imagining this. She kept staring at her with those cold eyes and all of a sudden she fainted. Ria was scared to go near her daughter. She waited a couple of minutes and then she slowly touched her arm. No response. She patted her cheek. She called her husband and asked him to come over immediately. While she waited for him, she got Mishti’s clothes changed. It was very messy since she was out cold and she had to balance her limp body over herself while she took her clothes off and got some puke over her as well. She changed her clothes too and quickly vacuumed the couch and the rug.
Mayur came in along with Dr. Bhat. Ria didn’t want to tell them about what Mishti had told her, she didn’t want her husband and the doctor thinking she was raving mad. She just told them about how she heard Mishti cough and when she gave her some water she threw up and fainted.
“She is too weak Mrs. Shah. I think she has worms in her stomach. I’ll give her a deworming. Maybe you can take her on a little holiday when she feels a bit stronger”, the doctor filled a big syringe with a yellow liquid, turned Mishti over and injected the yellow liquid into her waist. He rubbed some surgical spirit over the puncture and turned her back. He covered her with a blanket and took her temperature again.
“Like I said earlier, it’s nothing to worry. She is just weak and dehydrated. Let’s see if she throws up again I’ll put her on saline. I am sure it won’t be necessary. I’ll check on her again tomorrow”, he said as he left.