10 May, 2007

How to achieve domestic well-being

by Anand Thakore

The last thing I said to Shakti was: 'Don't worry, I'll brush my teeth.' I was seeing her and Jeet to a cab outside my house where they had been staying for a couple of days. Shakti had spent an hour in the morning dictating to me a list of items that 'needed doing': Cut your hair, use cockroach repellant, brush your teeth (of course...), get rid at once of old old flowers ('dead flowers are a favourable breeding ground for mosquitoes...'), decide which clothes you want to keep, etc. I took her instructions down in a large black notebook. Few people have been able to make me do this sort of thing. Shakti could.

She had a way of disarming people that made even things like instruction-lists and advice sound like fun; though I bet she was dead serious about every one of her numerous commandments, her 'suggestions' towards more evolved forms of domestic well-being. She insisted on tipping the servants, though I had warned her not to spoil them.

Shakti was vibrant, caring and serious about having fun. When she learned that I like flowers and tea she brought me tea and flowers. I sang verses for her from old Gujarati folk-songs, which she seemed to remember better than I did. We danced garba in my living room, spinning with the abandon of dervishes on every fifth beat. We talked about plays and books and, of course, people: primarily how they looked, walked and dressed, but also how they seemed to think, and, if they were writers, how they wrote.

She was my friend. I will miss her.

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