‘I will keep an eye on the milk, aunty,’ Ritika assures.
‘Are you sure? I can boil it once we are back,’ Madhavi says. Any mother-in-law would be happy to give her daughter-in-law some responsibility in kitchen. But Madhavi appears reluctant in this department.
Three days after Soham and Ritika’s wedding, the newly wedded bride was supposed to prepare a sweet dish for her in-laws. To Madhavi’s surprise, Ritika was scared to even switch on the gas. It was Madhavi who finally did the entire preparation. All Ritika did was to stir the milk occasionally. She held the ladle as if it was a pen.
Soham and Ritika fell in love with each other in college. Ritika is beautiful, soft-spoken, works as a software engineer in a reputed MNC and comes from a well-off family. Madhavi was too impressed to ask any typical question. And cooking? Well, even boys can cook some dish or other these days. Then why should a twenty-eight year old woman like Ritika be asked do you know cooking?In Madhavi Sen’s opinion, periods and cooking are the two things that come naturally to women.
However, Madhavi has a different opinion now. She is confident that given a chance, Ritika can even burn water. So, will it be a good idea to trust Ritika with a vessel filled with milk on the gas?
‘You don’t worry,’ Ritika says. ‘I will boil it nicely.’
‘Okay…but be careful,’ Madhavi replies. It can be a matter of grave discussion though whom she was more concerned about – Ritika or the milk. Anyway, Madhavi needs to visit her best friend who is lying in the hospital bed with a fractured leg. Domestic stuffs can be dealt later on.
‘Are we good to go, Mummy?’ Soham asks swirling the car keys around his index finger. He looks at Ritika with love in his eyes. But Madhavi’s presence makes him to hold a control on his emotions.
‘Papa is waiting outside,’ he says.
‘Lock the door, Ritika. We won’t take much time,’ Madhavi says while taking out her purple flats from the shoe rack.
Standing behind his mother, Soham was making naughty expressions at Ritika. The moment Madhavi turned towards Soham, he straightened his face like an innocent kid. Ritika somehow suppresses a laugh and says, ‘It’s okay. Take your time. I will be fine, aunty.’
When will this girl understand that Madhavi is not her aunty now? Madhavi thinks and steps out of the house. Soham follows his mother’s footsteps after giving a flying kiss to a blushing Ritika.
Who wrote those words in his car’s backseat? Only Neha can do this. She has done it in past too. But how is that possible? Neha is dead. Anirban himself killed her last night and buried the body in her backyard. Then? Lost in thoughts, Anirban drives his car. Suddenly the driving mirror catches his attention. Neha !! She is sitting on the backseat of his car. His heart comes to mouth. He looks back. No, Neha is not there. Suddenly he loses control and the car hits a tree. Anirban’s head is now resting on the steering wheel as blood oozes out of his forehead.
End of episode four.
Ritika scrolls down to click the next episode. But to her utter dismay, she realises the next episode is yet to be released. She was waiting eagerly to watch the second season of this web series, which was out last week. The wedding kept her busy. She found some lone time today and decided to watch the series. But what a pity! Why do they always end an episode with a twist that keeps you restless until you see the next one? Ritika shuts down her laptop and enters the kitchen to fetch a glass of water. A chill runs down her spine. The milk !
Soon after Madhavi left the house, Ritika lit the gas and put the stainless steel vessel on a low flame. She thought of checking the milk after a few minutes, went inside her bedroom and the web series engrossed her entire mind. Few minutes have become three hours.
Ritika comes near the gas and peeps inside. An entire vessel full of cow’s milk is now reduced to a miserable quantity. Madhavi has invited few guests at home this evening and planned to prepare rice pudding for them. Ritika’s legs are shaking. She switches off the gas, covers her mistake with a lid and sits on a chair. Madhavi has never criticised the fact that Ritika is not good in kitchen. Still, that does not give Ritika any liberty to mess with simple chores like boiling milk.
An idea strikes her. What if she goes to the nearby store and buys milk packets before anyone comes back? Madhavi is not a fan of milk sold in markets though. A milkman, who is serving the Sen family for a long time, brings fresh milk in the morning. But now, Ritika can’t waste anymore time. She adjusts her dupatta, takes her purse, proceeds towards the door and suddenly the door bell rings. A glance through the eyehole makes her numb.
‘We were stuck in traffic. Hence got late,’ Shuvendu apologises to his daughter-in-law unnecessarily after she opens the door. ‘Hope you didn’t feel bored.’
‘No, uncle,’ Ritika says softly and looks at Madhavi from the corner of her eyes. Soham is parking the car in the garage.
‘Let me freshen up. Then I will show you the rice pudding recipe. It’s very easy,’ Madhavi says enthusiastically. ‘Oh! You have boiled the milk. Great. I was thinking if…..’ she ends her sentence midway after removing the lid. Madhavi’s enthusiastic face turns into a question mark.
‘I put the milk on low flame. But forgot to check……..I am sorry,’Ritika says with tears in her eyes.
In Ritika, Madhavi sees a twenty-two year old girl. That girl, whom her parents pampered so much, was married off to a big joint family. As the girl was not an expert in kitchen, she became a matter of joke in front of her mother-in-law and rest of the sister-in-laws. It took immense patience and humiliation for her to learn the craft and gain respect in the family. She knows how it feels to be judged and never wanted the same for her own daughter-in-law.
Madhavi comes closer to Ritika.
‘Why are you crying?It’s only some milk,’ she pats Ritika’s cheeks gently. ‘Silly girl. How will you learn new things if you don’t make mistakes? And don’t feel so scared. You are in your own home.’
‘But what about the rice pudding?’ Ritika asks.
‘Rice pudding !’ Madhavi laughs. ‘Don’t worry. I will prepare something else.’
‘Please forgive me, aunty.’
‘Only on one condition,’ Madhavi says.
‘Start calling me Mummy, my child and cheer up.’
Madhavi brings out sugar and some more ingredients from the cupboard. Probably to prepare another sweet dish. Ritika heaves a sigh of relief inside. Mistakes too play an important role in building a beautiful bond sometimes. Today’s situation has taught her this lesson.
‘Why don’t we check some recipes from internet, Mummy?’ she stands beside her mother-in-law. Madhavi keeps the milk aside, puts another vessel of sugar on the gas and continues listening to Ritika’s culinary tips with a smile.