Varsha 2020 Issue, Stories - Maitreyee Joshi


The Spa

By Maitreyee Joshi


Shashi sat on a bench at one side of the swimming pool watching Amu holding the sidebar of the pool anxiously; the flare of her swimming costume ballooning up and floating on the water. Amu's troubled expressions were visible in spite of the dark swimming goggles.


It was 15 days since Shashi had to accompany Amu for her swimming lessons. On the first day, Amu howled so loudly that Shashi felt that the whole lot of parents started looking at Amu and her. She had felt embarrassed as if all her insides had turned into some dirty gooey liquid. At least after all these 15 days she had stopped hollering.


After the swimming lessons Amu came out of the pool and Shashi unfolded the towel she was holding to wrap Amu and take her to the changing room.


“I didn't cry today Dadi, “Amu said as they walked to the changing room. Her dancing gait making the relief from the stress of the swimming lessons, obvious.


“Amu has turned so brave now! In no time she will dive in the pool, right?"


“Yes, Dadi, I will dive and swim to the other end."


Water had dripped all over the swimming pool floor from every child's wet costume. Shashi and Amu stood in the line to get into the cubicle. As their turn came, Shashi brought out her frock and hung it over the hook. She removed Amu's costume and started the shower. Her Punjabi dress would get wet everyday and her back would ache when she bent to apply soap to Amu's little body. She bathed Amu and as she straightened, she winced due to the pain and stiffness.


Amu asked," Back pain Dadi?"


Shashi answered under her breath," Yes, Amu, Dadi is getting really old."


Amu stood watching Shashi putting her wet costume into the plastic bag, and the bag into another sports bag. She asked," And after some days, will you die, Dadi?"


Shashi looked at her startled. She said," Everyone dies Amu, so will I."


“Then who will take me swimming, and who will take me to the park, and…"


Shashi did not answer her; she just held Amu's hand and started walking towards the gate of the sports club. There was a long corridor leading to a cosy terrace, and turning left it led to the entrance. All through the corridor, chairs were laid for people to sit and watch tennis or skating as it overlooked a tennis court and a skating rink. On the right side facing the terrace was a spa.


Shashi gazed at the spa board everyday as she entered the club and when she left with Amu. She had heard a lot about its massages, steam and sauna baths from her friends, but she had no time for spa and massage, she thought.


As they stood on the edge of the road looking out for an auto rickshaw, Shashi's thoughts trailed towards her having no time. She never had any time to spare until today. First the kids were young, and then as they grew up, they had hobby classes and tuition classes and multiple tiffins needed to be made all day long. When they got married and her elder daughter in law had Amu, her responsibility came over to Shashi because her daughter in law Kirti worked full time. Shashi still spent all her time in the kitchen and in taking care of Amu. Her older son still stayed with them in the same house.


The other day one of her friends Shama rang up. She asked," Shashi, we are going to Sinhagadh for a day out this Saturday. Will you make it this time? You always have excuses."


Shashi indeed had an excuse. She told Shama," This Saturday there is a pooja at my brother in law's place. Kirti doesn't have leave, so I will have to take Amu with me."


Shama sighed and said," Thank God, my daughter in law does not work. You are also right, if you don't look after her kid now, she will abandon you when you are really old."


Shashi had kept quiet. She remembered Kirti saying," No one takes care of a kid as the kid's granny does."


She had taken Amu for the pooja, and what a day it had been. Amu started throwing a tantrum in front of the guests because she did not like the food. She rolled on the floor howling and wouldn't stop. Shashi somehow managed to lift her up and carried her home.


Amu and Shashi entered the house and Amu ran to her playroom. Shashi was just about to flop on the sofa, when she passed out and fell down. Anant, her husband came running. In no time Shashi was shifted to the hospital where she was diagnosed to have suffered a massive heart attack.


Kirti commented," I knew this would happen one day, she never takes care of her diabetes. "


Anant sighed and added," I had told her to go for a walk so many times but she never listens."


Abir, her son just looked on with a sullen expression. After a minute he asked," Kirti, I cannot take a leave. It has to be you this time."


Kirti opened her mouth to argue, as Shashi lay amidst a monitor and tubes going into her mouth, and nose, and needles poking her veins, but shut it back.


Behind her closed eyes, she found herself in the spa. It's walls were painted with shimmery silver and had Om painted all over. She was sitting in a lotus shaped tub with rose petals in the warm water, and had her torso wrapped in a soft Turkish towel. Every muscle of her body felt relaxed. Steam filled the room like white feathers, and as she gazed with hooded eyes, the steam took the shape of a lady with a white gown. It was exactly like a WhatsApp message where a waterfall had taken the shape of a lady with a white gown.


The steam lady remarked," You look so tired."


Shashi accepted," I am tired, I can't go on being a mother of a child of 21/2 at 70."


The steam lady laughed and said," You have to say it ...Shashi you have to speak out..only if you speak your mind out, you will heal.."


Shashi closed her eyes as she felt the warmth of the water in the pond and the aroma of the rose petals filled her nostrils. When she opened her eyes, surrounded by tubes, she saw Anant peering down at her. She tried to talk and tell him that she wished to say something. But he just went on saying again and again," So good that you are conscious..we will talk when you come home."


And Shashi closed her eyes and resolved to have that chat ...


Dr Maitreyee Joshi is an Ophthalmologist by profession and an enthusiastic writer. She has a book of poems published by the name "Shells and Melodies" and "Insight." She has a book of prose published by the name "Pinhole - A bit clearer". Her flash fiction “An Antithesis” and “The Last Ritual” was published in The Cigale Literary Magazine in 2015 and The Creativity Webzine in 2016. Her poem "Knots" was published in the web magazine "Indian Ruminations." Her short stories, Adil and Losers, have been published in Ashwamegh Literary Journal June 2016 and December 2017 respectively. She is currently practicing Ophthalmology and has done Masters in Clinical Psychology. She is influenced by her acquaintance with Psychology, the science of the mind.


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