Friday, June 7, 2019

The Two Women

They were two women. Who would have thought of comparing them if they were not living in the same house, eating the same food, breathing in the same air?

The younger one was prettier. Wasn't it always so? Besides, she had style, an air of sophistication. Long-limbed and graceful, her dancing eyes and gay laughter filled the house. She had not a care in the world.

The older woman was the serious one. She had a boniness about her which was etched into her very personality...as if it were going to haunt her for the rest of her life, no matter if she decided to gorge on sweets and cream (as if she would).

The eyes were deeper-set and the hollows in her cheeks lent her...what was it? A hidden depth, perhaps? Surely, her lack of good looks gave her an individuality that she would never have had if she had been pretty? Perhaps the responsibilities weighed her down and made her that way.

Photo from Pixabay
It was certainly not the baby. The baby, in fact, seemed to lift her spirits, carrying her into a different world. Caring for him was hard work, what with the countless nappies to be changed, innumerable feeds and nights of disturbed sleep. Yet, she seemed to enjoy it all. I could see that when I visited their house. It was she who let me in, the baby clinging to her, both very much a part of each other. Like a mother and her baby should be.

I went there to meet the younger one. She was out so I sat in the hall and waited. As I waited, I could not help watching the woman and the child. They laughed together, speaking a language I could not understand. Their words, gestures and expressions seemed perfectly synchronised. She responded to every inflection in the baby's voice, every cry, every smile. Surely, this was love. The baby was secure, free from fears and anxieties.

Lucky baby, I thought, as I gave him my key-chain to play with. The baby looked up at me with his trusting eyes and said 'Dadaada.' The woman smiled proudly at this achievement.

At that moment the key turned in the lock. The younger woman stepped in, her presence filling the room, changing it. The baby looked up briefly from the key-chain in his hand before becoming engrossed in it again.

'I've been admiring your baby, Sheila,' I said to the newcomer. 'He's such a happy baby. You are lucky to have such a good helper.'

(This was published in Deccan Herald, Bangalore)

Related Reading: A Real Lady (Flash Fiction).

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