The wake-up tune rang for the third time in the deafening silence of his deep sown loneliness. This time, Megha decided not hit the snooze button again. Half asleep, she waited for Saurabh to turn it off. He didn’t. The phone alarm kept ringing in its shrilly tone.
“Oh, come on man! I have had enough,” she screamed.
Saurabh was up in an instant. The alarm was envious of Megha. She has snatched the only job the snooze-able alarm has ever known.
“What happened Megha?”
“Seriously? Why do you even set up this alarm? I can’t have a peaceful sleep even on a Sunday?”
In the faint light that had crept from the sides of their royal blue, heavy curtains, Megha looked sleek and sober. Her definition of sober the kind which pops out soon after the last night’s booze gets neutralised. The kind which is tough to be argued with and hence Saurabh sat still. His eyes followed her blurred animated outline.
“I am so done with your lost sensitivity. You have changed into this horrible, heartless husband whose only aim is to ensure that his wife is devoid of any traces of rest. Everything has changed…”
Megha opened the door of the almirah which sits just next to their bed. The doors flung opened like a broken dam and out came a rolled-up pair of jeans and a shirt.
“Damn! This is a very wrong time for this.” Saurabh thought to himself.
Megha sighed. Her tirade stopped as she clenched her fists to absorb her irritation. She had told him a million times not to treat the closet like a dumpster. The deafening silence hung around in the room. Just then, the snooze-able alarm rang again. This time Saurabh jumped hastily to swipe it off, but he already knew that the time was very very wrong for this.
Megha took a deep breath. She brushed her golden-brown loreal coloured hair with both hands and tucked them behind her sensitive years. The kind of ears which heard far better than Saurabh ever did.
She took out her tote bag from the silver hook on the left door of the almirah. Stuffed a pair of casual T-shirts and jeans into it.
Saurabh saw her right hand grabbing a few other things from the closet. Her strong, opaque flesh further hindered the already blurry view. “She is looking like a bizarre combination of 10 newspaper cartoon columns coming alive.” This thought amused Saurabh and he wanted to share his witty thought with his wife.
“Maybe later,” he thought.
Leaving the closet door open, Megha walked out of the bedroom. He followed her. He could not afford to leave her all alone when she was this mad. Last time, when she was mad, she had flung the leftover cheese pizza out of the balcony. It landed right on the bald head of a man who was enjoying his walk until then. Three big slices, which Saurabh had left on the shelf of the kitchen last night. There was no leftover pizza on the kitchen shelf today, but he was worried about the bowl of caramel popcorns. The one she had asked him to empty up into a container last night.
As Megha picked up her lens case from a neatly arranged rack in the TV unit, Saurabh forgot about the caramel popcorns. He rushed towards her and embraced her.
“No, no, no, I am sorry. Please don’t go. Nothing has changed.”
“Leave me. I said, leave me right now!”
“Please babe, it was just an alarm. Let’s not ruin the weekend.”
She pushed him away.
“What did you say? I am ruining your weekend. Really?”
“I didn’t mean it that way.”
“Sure, you don’t.”
“It was just an alarm for god sake Megha!” Saurabh shouted.
“It is always just something. The alarm, the un-informed invitation to your friends last night, the recent dinners you have stood me up on, blah, blah, blah! The clatter and dings of your apple watch telling you to breathe are more important than my relentless reminders of time we need to spend time together. I am just done. I need a breather. I am off to my mother’s place for a couple of days. The maid will come at 9:30 am today. There is leftover food in the fridge and a cup of milk in the red mug for your tea.”
She picked up her laptop bag and left, leaving the front door of their apartment open. Like he always does.
Saurabh watched her smooth, swaying, golden-brown hair dancing. He closed the door, went back to the bedroom and picked up his thick spectacles. When he wore them, the sharper edges around, pricked him. He was sitting on her side of the bed. The one closer to the curtained glass door which opened in the balcony. There were no cartoons, no jokes and no thoughts rolling in his mind now.
The snooze-able alarm rang again. While snoozing it, her memory crossed his mind. She was not Megha. She was his grandmother.
“Babu, can you tell me what’s the time?” He heard her voice and without a thought, looked uponthe antique clock hanging on the wall, next to the glass door. It was 7 am. It’s been a few years since he has looked for the time on a wall clock. Usually, the expensive, smart apple watch tells him all his important times. The strap felt tight at this moment. He took it out and stretched himself on the bed.
His eyes were closed. Memories took over. Before moving to Bangalore, he lived with his parents and grandmother, Abharani. As a kid, he had a habit of calling everyone by their first name.
He could have never imagined at that tender age that his mother’s first name was not Maa. And dad, was pa-pa.
One day, Saurabh heard someone call his grandmother “Abha”. He quickly picked it up. Abha was amused when her toddler grandson called her by her first name. It took constant rebukes by maa to learn the word amma.
Back then, when Saurabh was preparing for his senior secondary board examinations he neither had an alarm clock or a mobile phone. The exams had arrived. He found mornings to be the best time for revisions. However, getting up early was not so easy. He was very close to his amma. He relied on her to wake him up early morning at four on exam days.
Every night before the exam, he would remind amma to give him a wake-up call. Amma was good at that. She would lie next to him the entire night without sleeping. As she didn’t know how to read the time on the wall clock, she devised a method to track time.
Every exam morning, she waited to hear the first sound of birds on the terrace. Amma had a habit of keeping a handful of millet in an earthen plate for them every day. They flocked early for the leftovers of the previous day. Nothing was ever wasted. As soon as the commotion of the words would set in, she would gently nudge her grandson.
“Babu, babu can you tell me what’s the time?” She kept gently asking until Saurabh would wake up to glance at the clock, tell her the time and go back to sleep. “It’s 3 in the morning, Amma. ”
After a few minutes, she would again nudge him gently. This cycle would go on till sleep would finally give up. He would often complain to her of breaking his sleep earlier than expected. Amma never reacted. She just smiled, having done her job, without fail. Although it was a pain to be up earlier than he thought, after every exam, he came smiling back to her. After a couple of exams, he even thanked her for waking him up early. Those extra 15-20 minutes gave him time to touch on some leftover topics he had forgotten to cover up the day before.
The snooze-able alarm rang again. This was the last one. Saurabh got up quickly. He took the car keys. Before leaving, he emptied the bowl of caramel popcorns in a container. Seven years after amma, this was the first time he had found a way to smile while memories of her came flooding back. Seven years later, her memories were not painful anymore. Next morning, the wake-up tune rang for the first time in the deafening satisfaction of his newly found true companionship.
Megha nudged him gently. “Hey, get up, you have to finish the story you started last night,” she mumbled in sleep. Saurabh turned around, turned off the alarm, kissed his wife on the forehead and tip-toed out of the bedroom. He smiled as he reached the end of his story. He titled it: “Amma, my snooze-able alarm”.