The Veneer

Urmila Bendre

She looked at him curiously. This was a new one.

“Don’t look at me suspiciously, I mean it. You are busy with all the work – house, taking care of mom, your office, the kids. Let me do this.”

She grins, “Ok, go ahead”.

He takes the duster and starts on the furniture. Not that they have heavy-duty furniture. With two kids who want space to play in a two-bedroom apartment, they have tried to keep it to the minimum. Even then,the living room has the standard TV-set, the sofa, two chairs and a coffee table.

And of course the bookcase – one in the living room, another in the kid’s bedroom. Though the kids generally complained that it held more of her books than their own.

Her ma-in-law occupies the covered balcony, converted into a third room, with the mod cons – bed, spacious windows, and a/c. Yet she feels guilty every time, thinking that the eldest person in the house was in the balcony. Her suggestion that the elder son could occupy the balcony and ma-in-law share the second bedroom with the younger son, was vehemently opposed – by her husband.

Ma-in-law had smiled and said, “Let it be. I like to have some space to myself. This is good for me”. She had wondered at the putra prem. But by now, she was used to the household’s way.

She opens the Whatsapp group. The usual info on the the mahamari, with a newly arrived person from abroad quarantined, another checked to be +ve. A few comments of anxiety and depression, others angry at being put to extra danger.

Sympathy and appropriate information exchanged. This particular group was fairly supportive of each other, and polite.

The younger one screams, “Dada did it. He tore my book.”

The elder one shrugs, “Did not, just wanted to look, he pulled it, and it got torn. Not my fault.”

“You can allow dada to have a look at the book. He always allows you to play with his bat and ball”

“Where? We haven’t been to the ground”.

“But when you did, he does, doesn’t he? Now let him have a look and he will help you to put it together”.


“Ask Dada?”

“Give it to me, let me have a look.” They immediately are diverted.

She smiles. They got along – thank god. The elder one was the epitome of bade bhaiya. The younger one into the usual,my dada is the strongest way. She is amused and exasperated at the same time. Amused and happy that they had it going between them and exasperated, wondering when the younger one would learn to do things on his own.

She turns to the clothes, the trousers and shirts. She pulls out old bills, handkerchief and a note. Absentmindedly, she opens the note and reads through.

No, this is not happening – this must be a joke, some prank. But her husband has no sense of humor. And she knows a love chit when she reads one. This is too cinemaesque, and automatically puts the clothes for washing, and the note with other papers on the table.

In the evening, after the children’s home schooling, their play in the ground – just the two of them, ma-in-law’s chai and children’s early evening meal, she is tired. She barely eats anything, and fills in her husband’s plate with the extra rassa that he likes.

Then the cleaning, wiping of the table, food in the fridge, boiling of milk and cooling it for making of dahi, ma’s medicines, his office notes put into a pile on the table, children’s toys in their bedroom…

She is tired and she gets into the bed and pulls up the chadar. He is reading and the light is on. Just as she turns on the side and is about to slip into oblivion, he says, “Jara uthke light band kar do.” She does not turn.

Light band kar do.

She puts out her hand. The light switch is far off. She extends her hand, and as her husband watches with eyes gone wide and white, her hand stretches itself through the room and she switches off the light.