There was a small house on the other side of her lawn.A pretty house -she thought one winter morning - painted light blue on the outside with a balcony facing the rising sun. There was an old wooden chair on the balcony and two pots growing "pudina" and Holy Basil.But the first thing that strikes your eye were the marigold flowers.Golden yellow, turmeric yellow, burnt yellow marigolds filling up the terrace, the small lawn,
& the balcony.Voluptuous marigolds.She had a name for the house in her mind " The marigold cottage" ..she called it.
The house belonged to a certain Mrs Banerjee who had terminal illness.She never saw Mrs Banerjee although she wanted to.She hoped she would find her basking in the sun one day on the balcony and she had rehearsed in her mind what she would say " such a pretty house ma'am...and lovely marigolds" And if the conversation moved ahead she would confess " I wish I would own a house like this when I grow old ...to live alone in a house like this with all time and all the books that I want to read...sitting on chair lust as you are sitting now".But as it happened Mrs Banerjee never sat on the chair and these words were never spoken.
All she could see were the servants and occasionally a doctor coming and going out.
With the arrival of January the winter was at its peak.It would remain foggy till noon and then for a few brief hours the sun came out .She would stay inside most of the time on holidays..asleep or cooking or talking over the phone to her boyfriend who seemed so distant now.Everything felt distant ...a distance intensified by the fog by the silence all around.At night she could even hear the mist gathering and falling from her tin roof house as if it were a light drizzle outside.Sometimes while returning from work she felt she had reached the end of the world.And how she wished a sunny morning ..to wake up and look at the marigold flowers glowing in the sun- the mist sparkling on the petals.
And then one morning Mrs. Banerjee died.She woke up to the sound of cars and people shouting.She rushed out in her sleeping gown and caught a glimpse of a frail old lady being put into a medical van.How frail were Mrs Banerjee's limbs with just the skin clinging to the bones ...eyes shrunk into holes.A bangle that seemed way too large for her hand -was still in her arms.The dead body was clad in a loose cotton night gown and wherever it touched the body -it gave the impression that it were a skeleton inside- not a human being.
She came back inside if only to avoid all those people staring at her. Lest she might seem callous to what was happening around her which she was glad to be though.All that she wanted to remember about her winter
recourse were the marigold flowers and the beautiful house and the hope of meeting a motherly old woman one day in the balcony.Selfish ..selfish she was she thought as she sipped into the black coffee she had made and so be it.
After an hour or so the commotion had died down.She opened the window to see the marigold cottage locked.
Remorse came suddenly.She should have talked to the lady..dying alone in an empty house.Should have talked or showed some concern when they took the dead body away.Now there was nothing to be done.Nothing could be done.How many times she had felt like that she din't know.She remembered a school incident when a boy had proposed and she had refused saying " OK thanks for the chocolates and flowers ...and stop shaking you idiot and get lost". Later when she saw the cherub faced boy all turned red and crying she had felt like she was feeling now.During the recess she went up to the boy and tried to say sorry(and she was quite conscious that she always looked ugly whenever she felt sorry) the boy had replied "fuck off you bitch".She smiled as she remembered it.Then she looked at the house again ..and remembered
"to live alone in a house like this with all the time and all the books that I want to read",...and then ......and then to die alone like Mrs Banerjee.
It was the coldest day of winter.She closed the window.
With Mrs Banerjee's death all the marigold flowers died within a month.Maybe due to the lack of care or the passing of winter. Spring came and then the summer rains.The lawn became covered with grass and weed . The wooden chair caught fungus.The blue paint of the house weathered into a bleak white.
The window that was closed that morning was never opened.She had left the house and went back to the city.
During autumn Mrs Banerjee's son moved in with his family into the house.They painted bright yellow and put on lights everywhere on the terrace ,the balcony the lawn.At night it felt like there was a festival going on.
The nearby house was again taken by a university student.
By the time of winter the Banerjee family had cleared the lawn and planted the marigold flowers again.
And in December the terraces were again full of flowers.
Even bigger and brighter than last year.