Priya and Ranga finished their dinner early. Their son and daughter were away for a New Year party in the adjacent complex. The couple was before the TV watching some programme that failed to grab their attention.
Ranga asked" Priya, have you thought of any New Year resolution? I know you will laugh when I say I have three ready for me. May be I have failed in the past to adhere to them but this year it would be different"
"Ha ha ha, you and your resolutions!!The ones you resolve over booze, you forget the next day. Never mind, tell me what they are for the coming year. At least they reveal your intentions" Priya said with a giggle.
“Mark me this time. I am dead serious and do not intend to give up for they are important to me. I will tell you on condition you will tell me yours."
"Ok, I am all ears."
"Here they go. First one, I wish to go with you all on a long holiday that may include a Caribbean cruise and for this I will be careful with money and not splurge"
“This seems two resolutions in one. Never mind. Very ambitious, what next?"she prodded
"The second one would be to reduce drastically eating out and have healthy food made at home"
""Mmmm, what is the last?"
The last is not to lose my temper as frequently as I do now and be a little more demonstrative of my love for you" he concluded
"Fiddlesticks, your resolutions are as impossible for you as weeding out corruption in our country” Priya said with a loud laughter
“Can you be a little more specific instead of your usual vague ramblings?"
"I mean you are totally broke and poorer than a church mouse except for the paltry pittance you get each month as salary after all the deductions towards various loans. Where is the money for holiday? What Caribbean, are you day dreaming? As regards the second portion of your first resolution, you are already a miser. What splurge you are talking about? When did you buy for me anything worthwhile for me to show my people with pride? When did we eat out really except for the pani puri in road side shops and alu tikia in the market? We have never gone for ages to a restaurant where you book tables in advance. Have you ever visited a good Chinese, Mexican or Italian restaurant? All you take us to are cheap joints with dirty cutlery and dirtier China with waiters in rags."Priya said in a contemptuous voice.
"You filthy and ungrateful woman, don’t forget your roots. You were raised in a chawl born in a poor family going to free municipal schools. Despite my parents' reluctance I married you because I liked your face. I have given you everything that you would have never dreamt of. What cheek you have to call me a church mouse or a miser, you brat?"Ranga shouted.
"You have proved that you cannot control your mind or tongue and already failed in your third resolution. I have never expected any love, let alone the demonstrative part, from you. I am a drudge in this house out of a sense of duty” Priya said amidst sobbing and went away to the bedroom.
He switched off the TV, drank a glass of water and reclined on the sofa with closed eyes for a while before following her.
"Priya, sorry, I lost my wretched temper. I didn't mean to hurt you. I promise I will try my utmost to control myself, my dear. Please excuse me” he cringed
"It is ok.Nothing new to me. Shall I make a hot cup of drinking chocolate for you?" she asked
"No, no.I want you to tell me what your resolutions are. I assure you that I would not make fun of you" he pleaded
"My resolutions are more in the nature of prayers than any effort by me. I will pray daily for landing on a treasure trove that will fetch us enough money to send the boy and girl to US for further studies. Second one will be to curb my desires and expectations in day to day life. Thirdly, to do some voluntary work and help in finding resources for the orphanage from well to do" she said
"The last one is admirable and the second one is always desirable. Only the treasure trove part seems farfetched. No harm in praying of course .I am indeed blessed to have you" he said as he hugged her.
"Enough now of the demonstrative part of your third resolution” she said with a shy smile
The New Year came and Ranga was as short tempered as he was and the outings continued to be few and far between. The much expected annual raise also turned out to be meagre thanks to downturn in the economy. Life was a dull routine.
Three months later there was a registered letter addressed to Priya Rangan from a solicitor firm. Priya was afraid to open lest it be an ultimatum to pay back the any of the several loans her husband had taken. She had put her signature in many of the loan applications.
In the evening when Ranga read the letter, he jumped in joy.Bewildered; Priya asked him the reason for his exultation.
”Tell me first whether your mom had any brother in Malaysia “ he asked.
“My mom had one brother. He fought with his father over a minor matter and ran away now in his teens from the house. He went to Singapore initially and the family lost touch with him. After several years he had come to our house and I had seen him. I was a young girl then. By then my grandparents had died. Seeing his sister’s indigent circumstances he used to send mom frequent remittances and that was the thing that saw us through. After mom’s demise the contact was lost. Why, is it a letter from him?””
“The letter is from his lawyers. He has left 25% of his wealth to you as he had no children from the Malaysian woman he married. He had left her the balance setting aside some portion for charities. This bequest is a mind boggling amount for us as he was very wealthy” he said incoherently in unexpected joy.
“My mom used to say he was a loving brother but short tempered like you. So I hit a treasure trove thanks to the grace of God. Our dreams are now realizable” she said