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It started as a joke. On a bright Sunday morning, under the clear blue sky amidst the bustling crowd, when, trying to pick the reddest tomatoes and greenest capsicums, I nudged my husband and asked "how come you never ask me out on a date anymore?" Totally engrossed in finger picking the finest ladyfingers, he was visibly startled and gave me an amused look.
"Yes honey,you heard it right! Don't you remember how you used to beg me to meet you when we were dating?"
Obviously he didn't know how to react.He sheepishly looked to his left and right to make sure no one else had heard my flirtatious remarks.There was a blush on his face, a sight I enjoyed devouring after ages.
After the brief exchange of looks, both of us went back to the task of hand picking our weekly dose of vitamins and minerals.
We drove back in silence listening to the Jagjit Singh ghazals that played in the background, filling up the silence with appropriate words.
Something was different, I don't know exactly what...the closest I can relate it to, is the feeling of sharing a ride with your first crush.
The car stopped at our gate and I was suddenly pulled out from my reverie by Anya's loud scream, " MOM !! What took you so long? I am famished! What are we having for lunch?"
It was already past noon and I did not have the faintest idea of what I would cook. I rushed inside and darted straight to the kitchen, leaving my poor husband behind to carry the loaded bags of grocery.
He stacked the refrigerator while I spun around and quickly fixed lunch, pushing the fleeting conversation that had stirred some strange emotions,once again into oblivion.
While most people complain about the Monday morning blues,I am one from the species that suffers from the Sunday evening blues. Anxiety about the working week ahead officially starts at 4.13pm on a Sunday for me. This was also the month of February with no holidays to look forward to .... err wait .... wasn't Valentine's Day just around the corner... Saturday! I was amazed that the thought could still make my heart flutter. How could I act and think like a teenager, I reprimanded myself and jerking myself out of the thought went back to ironing uniforms for the next morning.
I jump started the dreaded Monday by making hot parathas and 'Egg Bhurjee'for breakfast, something all four of us loved and with that got the much needed push to start the week.
Having a peaceful Monday is a major feat and fortunately all of us were blessed with one.
Somewhere around midweek while I was just wrapping my day at school, my phone vibrated, and a message flashed. It was from him.
"Hey, are you available Saturday night at 8:30pm?"
My heart skipped a beat...actually a couple of beats.
I replied, "Possibly, why?"
Looks like he had all the time. Prompt came his reply, "Will you go out with me? I have made a reservation at your favourite restaurant. "
Now this was getting interesting. I could feel my palms getting moist with nervous sweat.
Thinking for a moment I texted :"I'm in. You're paying? ;)"
Though he was not in front of me, I could read his expressions from the words that flashed in front of me: "Great. I'll be counting down the hours until we get to dance the night away."
"Really?? You are a crazy romantic, and a little over-the-top, but I kind of like it."I blushed as I wrote.
"Well then, I'll see you on Saturday...actually, I'll see you tonight. :) xoxo " he replied.
A pat on my shoulder startled me and I hastily snugged my phone inside my purse. "Let's call it a day. " I smiled as my colleague carefully observed the quirky look on my face. I held her hand and dragged her out with me.
There was spring in the air and a definite spring in my gait. The drive back home, on the same route, with the same traffic and potholes seemed pleasantly shorter and smoother as I hum along the melodies that played on my favourite radio station 94.3. "Mirchi sunne wale always khush " well I don't know about always but today I was mighty" khush!"
As I stepped inside the house I was greeted, as usual by my two hungry monsters.
"Mom can we have something for snacks?Lunch at school sucked!!"
"Sure guys, how about a pizza? Dominos will deliver by the time we freshen up."
Rahul and Anya looked towards each other puzzled, wondering if they had heard me right.
Saturday night. That was all I could think about right now...and if that meant one day of junk, so be it.
As I splashed water on my face and peered at my reflection in the mirror, I saw a stranger staring back at me...someone I hadn't met for years. I had been married for 17 years. I was blessed with two lovely kids, now 15 and 12, had juggled with taking care of families and a career, but somewhere in the rut of the routine had forgotten to acknowledge the presence of the person staring back at me from the mirror.
I carefully examined my reflection...had I changed? My skin perhaps needed some pampering, but my eyes, they still had the same twinkle. I liked them. I had been thinking of coloring my hair, I guess it was time to do it! Maybe I could take a day off and book an appointment at the beauty parlour. Let me do it now I thought, Saturday is not too far. I dialed the number for the beauty parlour and quickly made an appointment.
My husband came back from work earlier than usual. Anya raced to open the door and hugged her dad . "Dad guess what's for dinner tonight?? PIZZA!!!"
Raj and I exchanged looks. No words were spoken, but our eyes conversed in a language that only our hearts could comprehend .
Though his stubble had turned salt and pepper he still had the same boyish charm that had made me fall head over heals in love with him years ago.
Somewhere down the years, our duties and responsibilities had occupied every minute of the limited 24 hours that God has bestowed unbiasedly on every living being.
Like two excited teenagers we had planned this rendezvous. Now the question was how were we going to explain it to the kids. Wouldn't they laugh at us when we tell them that mom and dad were going out on a date that too on Valentine's Day. Would they feel embarrassed ? Or would they feel hurt if we tell them that we want to go to dinner alone,after all,eating out was something they always looked forward to. Were we being selfish ??
Raj read my mind by the look on my face and spoke with a touching candour, "we need this honey...we do !! I want to spend time with you and you alone. There is nothing wrong in it. You deserve it ...both of us deserve it !! It's time for us to get ready for the second innings and this Valentine's Day is a perfect day to start " His words effortlessly removed the clouds of doubt and guilt from my mind. Yes I was ready, ready to play the second innings .
The next morning at the dining table amidst the usual banter we mentioned our plan of going out for dinner on Saturday and to our amazement kids were pretty cool about it. "Mom what are you going to wear? " Anya winked and asked. " let me pick a dress for you "
"Dad ! You must try this new Italian place which has opened recently, heard its really cool ! They play the retro music from the 70's & 80's, the ones you and mom love " Rahul said excitedly.
Raj and I exchanged looks. Yes it was time we prepare for the second innings !!!
I spent the next day at the parlour, grooming myself for my date. Later that day, Anya enthusiastically pulled out the dresses lying in the remotest corners of my closet and made me parade in them before finalising the the deep red dress I had worn some 10 years ago, thankfully my figure supported it .
Saturday morning Raj disappeared only to return with a crisp crew cut (the hair cut I loved) and a red rose in his hands.Bending down on his knees he asked "Will you be my valentine ?"
I blushed as I said "yes!!"
This day marked a new beginning in our lives. Valentine's Day had brought home an important lesson-
"If you love your kids - and I know we all do, then the best thing you can do for them is take care of the relationship between their Mum & Dad." And yes, this definitely means some time out without the kids - you need to connect as two adults who love and are interested in each other, not just as "mum & dad."