“Madamji,Madamji, Madamji! Is that all you think about, Alok? You haven’t been listening to a word I’ve said in the past ten minutes” Sudha angrily tucked away a lock of hair that had dared to escape from her messy bun. Smudges of white flour dotted her hair, adding to her weary expression. Her eyes, much older than those of her twenty five year old contemporaries, surveyed her husband of three years, who was sitting at their half-broken wooden table. A long sheet of paper in his hand, his brows were scrunched up as he tried to figure out where exactly his irate wife could be accommodated amidst his employer’s party planning.
“Sudha, love, you know the party’s tonight, right? It’s the biggest party in town, and Madamji has given me the responsibility of planning it. Now you tell me, how do I finish so much work if my beautiful wife is angry with me? I have to go to the other end of the city to get these special candles they want- the ones that don’t get extinguished. Then I have to make sure everything gets done here. Please understand?” Alok attempted a placating tone.
“Money makes such slaves of us that I can’t have my husband to myself on Diwali. If only…” Muttering to herself, Sudha went into the kitchen. Alok sighed and picked up his list and wallet. I’ll pick up a nice gift for her on the way back, that will make her happy, he thought to himself.
“Sudha,I’m leaving.” He called.
“Get some candles in the evening when you come. Of course that’s only if you don’t think the lights in Madamji’s house will illuminate our courtyard also.” Sudha remarked,somewhat caustically.
The moment he left, she collapsed on the bed and started weeping silently.
It was nearly ten when Alok entered the galli leading up to his tiny one room apartment. The house was in darkness as he entered- he switched the light on but it did not emit the familiar glow.
“There’s a power cut. I suppose they thought that on Diwali they needed to supply the rich enough for all their fancy bulbs.” His wife’s flat whisper floated across from the other end of the room. With practised ease,Alok navigated his way past the bed and table to where she was sitting on the floor.
He touched her on the shoulder, she jerked but didn’t move away.
“It’s Diwali. Why can’t we have some light in our lives, like everyone else?” Her voice broke as she half turned into his shoulder. He smiled in pain as the moisture percolated into his chest.
“My darling, yes, why shouldn’t we? You work so hard each day to bring light into my life. You deserve a lot of it in yours. I’m only sorry I can’t give you enough.”
He lit a match and held it in the air for a second, gazing at her tear stained beautiful face, before lighting up that which he had carefully secreted away from the party. The inextinguishable candle sparkled magically, as Sudha leaned into Alok’s warmth, the light in her eyes rekindled.