It was that time of the day, Tunna and Chutki took their places behind the long curtains in the living room. Eyes twinkling with mischief and faces beaming with smiles, they waited for Jiji to arrive at the scene. The big grandfather clock on the wall struck 7 and Jiji came waddling into the room. She chanted her prayers in a murmur and grimaced as she walked; it was the arthritis. There was nobody in the room, she noticed as she squinted from behind her thick glasses. Jiji turned on the TV and slowly settled into her rocking chair.
The TV screen came alive with Jerry trying to run away from Tom; Tunna and Chutki burst into loud giggles. Jiji frowned and called after them. This was the daily prank they played on Jiji. Every evening just before Jiji came to watch her soaps, Tunna changed the channel setting to their favorite Cartoon channel; Chutki liked to play accomplice. They enjoyed seeing Jiji struggle to find her channel; the channel that played all the melodramatic soaps.
Tunna and Chutki were the youngest among Jiji’s pack of grandchildren. Jiji had three sons and they all lived together with their families. Ever since their father’s death 7 years ago, they had brought Jiji to stay with them. Jiji had never wanted to come to the city from Bagra….what did the city have??…she didn’t want to leave her home and her friends, but couldn’t resist her sons’ plea. Nobody really had time for Jiji and she met the family only at night during dinner.
Jiji punched the numbers on the remote and looked up at the TV screen to see if she had found her channel. She muttered something about how naughty Tunna and Chutki were getting and how their generation lacked respect for elders, as she went about this channel scanning exercise. Suddenly her jaw dropped as her gaze settled on the screen. She adjusted her glasses and looked at the screen one more time.
The same straight nose, the same white hair, combed back slickly and the same starched, pure white kurta and the same broad frame. Jiji couldn’t believe her eyes. The man on the screen looked just like Ramcharan, her husband who was no more. The man was speaking a language that was beyond Jiji’s comprehension, but when he smiled…she smiled back, because the smile too was just like Ramcharan’s. She called out for her sons, but no one answered. For an hour Jiji sat there glued.
The family was surprised to see Jiji chirpy and excited at the dinner table but nobody bothered to know why. Jiji’s evenings are no longer lonely. Her hour-long date with Ramcharan daily even keeps her arthritis at bay. Sharing her deepest thoughts…speaking her heart out…reprimanding him about his health…complaining about her sons and daughter-in-laws at times…sharing stories about the city and her grandchildren…the hour seems to fly for Jiji…