It was the same subtle scent again. Mildly spicy, slightly nutty, aromatic and sweet, a little woody even. He started sniffing the thick, cold air, his wrinkled nose going up and down, trying to capture it into his nostrils. He walked all over the house, holding his nose high, almost like he could see the smell with it. His shaky, crinkled fingers were tugging at his sagging ears. Only he knew what he wanted to hear. He wanted to hear the “clang, clang” sounds made by her faded red glass bangles. They always bumped into each other when she poured the water into the scratched vessel. Her hands shook furiously too; they were no longer soft and young. He wanted to overlook her thin, frail shoulders and keep his hand over them to show how much he loved her. He wanted to hear the water boil. Once the bubbles began their dance in the vessel, the piping, odourless steam would envelop her face, making her look so beautiful. It never mattered to her, how she looked though. She would push back the thin, wires of her grey hair from her face before she quickly threw the tea leaves into the water. The naked, crushed, tiny black pieces peeled off the dull green cardamom skin would soon join in. It would spread its flavour into the tea and fill the room with its aroma. The role that the cardamom played in the tea was similar to what she did to his life. Sharing his life with her was the best thing that happened to him ever. Only after their marriage, did he really begin to enjoy his life. She added the flavour of happiness by her simple acts of thoughtfulness like running after him with an umbrella on a rainy day, even though they just had one umbrella at home. On the days that she knew that the packed lunch was not wholesome enough, because they had run out of vegetables, she slipped a small note in his lunch box telling him how much she loved him. An empty stomach did not mean an empty heart! She always bragged about him to her friends and family, though he knew that he had not been able to fulfil a lot of things that she had on her wish list. In fact, she did not have a wish list at all. Despite his meagre income, she never ran out of cardamom to add to his tea because she knew how much he relished it.
After so many fruitful years of togetherness, she had left him alone. She had gone so far, never to return again. The brown rocking chair whose wood was tearing away from the sides, the tattered black umbrella, her broken red glass bangles sitting next to the mirror, her grey and white saree which was lying on the bed with unwashed stains of tea, the dull beige curtains, which had never been touched after her death. Everything he saw around him reminded him of her and the time they spent together. He never cried after she left. So stubborn were his tears that they refused to flow out. He never believed that she could leave him. He could still smell the cheap detergent on her saree, the scent emerging from the layers of her favourite talcum powder caked on her aging skin, the fragrance of the incense sticks she lit everyday as she prayed for his good health.
She was there, beside him, watching him, holding his old hand in hers. He could not see her. But he could feel her presence like a mother feels her unborn child in her womb. He waited impatiently to join her, wrapped in her aroma.