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Parvathi, standing in the kitchen, placed four pieces of chapatis on a steel plate. She hastened to add the capsicum curry and brinjal chutney on the plate as her husband, Manohar, was seated at the table in the dining room. He must have been hungry because he hadn't eaten any food from that morning. I hope he will like the specially prepared dinner and sleep well tonight.
When she approached her husband, he glared at her. Parvathi knew he was angry because she was a bit late serving the food. She rushed to place the plate in front of him. The smell of spicy curries should calm him. She forced a smile as Manohar continued to look into her eyes.
He shifted his stare towards the plate. Parvathi hoped the smell of the food had lessened his anger.
Manohar cleared his throat and took a bite of chapatti mixed with curry.
Parvathi's chest lightened as her husband continued to relish the food. He had been working hard on their farm ever since the onset of the monsoon twenty days ago. She hoped they would reap a good harvest that season. It had been drought for the past three years without any income from agriculture.
Parvathi needed to talk to her husband about a couple of matters. She cleared her throat. "How did the work at the farm go?"
Manohar finished chewing the food. "Going good. Plowing of the land is over and I need to buy the seeds tomorrow so that we can start the sowing work soon. We should do it before it starts raining again." He took another bite of chapatti, chewed it and then went on: "I need to borrow some more money from the king. I've already gotten enough money from him and hope he'll pay some more money." He paused. "By the way, how is the construction work in the backyard going?"
Parvathi wanted an outbuilding in the backyard to store grains and other agricultural products. Even though Manohar had insisted she take up the work in summer, Parvathi wanted it without delay as the existing rooms were already crammed with the household utilities. She had been facing difficulties in sleeping as most of the space was occupied with grain-filled jute bags. "It went well today," she said. "But the mason wanted some more money as they want to buy bricks to start constructing the walls."
"Did they finish digging the foundation?" her husband asked.
Parvathi served some more Chapathis to him along with the curries. "They'll finish the digging work tomorrow. Half of the work has been done. I've told the mason to assign a couple more workers as there was only one man on the job today."
"It'll take more than a week if only one man works on digging the foundation." Manohar took a bite of food and chewed. When he finished, he went on: "I'll pay the next installment of money to the mason after they complete the current work."
"But the mason wanted -"
"You tell him what I've said. If he refuses to work, let him stop working. I'll look for someone else to finish." Manohar's face flushed and his eyes became red. His lips slightly trembled as he finished eating the chapattis.
Parvathi hastened to get rice and sambhar from the kitchen. She had a couple of more domestic matters to discuss with him. Even though he had eaten half of the dinner, his anger had not subsided. Parvathi hoped that he would listen to her needs with patience. She served rice and sambhar and waited for him to chew a couple of bites. When he seemed content, she said, "The household groceries might last for another two to three days. We need to buy more soon."
Manohar stopped chewing. "What? Didn't we buy them a fortnight ago? We'd thought they'd last for two more weeks, right?"
Parvathi's chest constricted. She had thought the tasty food would bring her husband's anger down and he would listen to her demands with patience. But Manohar continued to grimace making her shiver. Whatever, she needed to convince him somehow. "You know there was a festival last week and our parents visited us and they spent five days here. Their visit made the groceries last for only two weeks. I know you were busy with your agricultural activities and don't know much about the kitchen related matters, but that's a fact."
"Parvathi," said Manohar. "I'm fed up with all these expenses. If we don't get a good harvest this season, we'll be ruined and that is for sure. I don't know from where and all I need to arrange the money if this situation continues." He rose, leaving the half-eaten food on the plate. "I've had enough and I don't want to hear anything from you."
"But we can-"
"No, don't talk." He hurried towards the bathroom to wash his hands.
Parvathi took the plate. Did she make a mistake telling him while he ate? I made a mistake this time. I should've spoken to him once we went to bed.
What her son, Krishna, had told her that afternoon worried her. Krishna's mentor, Panditji, had told him to bring a Guru Dakshina (school fees) before the end of that semester. He had asked for a calf this time. Their only cow had given birth to a calf last year, and that had made the Panditji ask for it.
Parvathi gave two glasses of milk to Manohar and Krishna, who were in the bedroom, which was nestled within the congested living room. Krishna, seated on the carpet, was doing his homework. She decided not to talk about Panditji's demand as Manohra was already upset.
Krishna took a sip. "Mommy, have you told papa about what Panditji wants me to bring this week?"