Saramma kochamma had a green thumb. She had always nurtured dreams of having a patch of green and a beautiful garden in front of her house. For years, the dream did not materialise because her husband, Joyichan, an engineer in the steel plant in the north Indian town, was only entitled to a flat for most part of his career. She had, however, kept her interest alive by having potted plants in the balcony.
Ten years before his retirement, Joyichan was promoted to the next cadre which entitled him to a bungalow. For Saramma kochamma, the fact that she could now have a proper garden was more interesting that the position or the pelf the elevation would bring. And she made most of the opportunity. In less than six months of shifting to the bungalow, there were daisies and lilies, chrysanthemums and begonias and sunflowers in the garden in front. The birthday gift Saramma kochamma would value most, the children and Joyichan knew, was a packet of seeds of astorias or gladioli bulbs.
On winter Sunday afternoons, the entire family would be out in the garden, basking in the sun, the patriarch catching up with the reading and the children Susanmol and Sunnykutty engaged in a game of Scrabble. Saramma kochamma would be there too, of course, talking to her plants. The neighbourhood envied the well-manicured lawn and the vegetation and the blossoms.
In course of time, Susan was married off to a doctor in Canada and Sunny got a good job in a reputed software firm in Bangalore. Joyichan was retiring in a few months and Saramma kochamma could not bear to part from her plants. She was delighted that her husband changed his earlier decision to settle down in their flat on the Marine Drive in Cochin. They would let out the flat and move in to Joyichan’s ancestral property in the village near Kottayam, he had said. Saramma kochamma’s joy knew no bounds: after roughing it out for decades in the dry steel city, she would get back to the pastoral life. She decided that in the fairly large parcel of land that was theirs, she would have a kitchen garden behind the house and a good garden in front.
The sprawling house got a fresh coat of paint, the furniture a good polish. A cousin who lived nearby helped her landscape the compound and prepared a layout for the flower beds and the lawn, the perennials and the annuals, the creepers and the bushes. Soon enough, the hitherto neglected habitat was the cynosure of all eyes. The aging couple was enjoying their new-found loneliness in the new ambience.
Sunny soon found himself a bride in Molly, a research scholar. After a wedding in the church in May, they were soon off to Ooty for their honeymoon. The Queen of the Hill Stations was at her colourful best, getting ready for the Rose Day. Molly had been told of her mother-in-law’s love for the flora and bought packets of seeds of flowering plants and put them in a medium sized envelope made of kraft paper.
Sunny, a career boy, had decided what the future would be for his wife and him. She would let Molly complete her research, and armed with a Ph D, she would be in a better position to find a job in the Silicon Valley where he planned to migrate to. So, it was no children, no pregnancy till the Ph D was awarded. Sunny, an ecology-conscious youth, was averse to flushing the used condoms down the toilet. He put them in an envelope to be thrown out discreetly.
A fortnight after the wedding, the couple returned to the parents. As soon as they reached, Molly, in a bid to please the mother-in-law, pulled out the envelope from the pocket of the soft baggage and presented it with a flourish to her with the words, “These are some seeds we brought for you from Ooty.”
That evening, the young couple took an evening walk in the countryside when they planned to dispose of the prophylactics. Sunny felt that the feel and the weight of the packet seemed different from what he expected. Further probe revealed sachets marked ‘carnation’ ‘azalea’, ‘peony’ and ‘aster’ in the envelope.