Delhi shivered in the late December cold. She curled deeper into her worn out, old woollens, layered to cover her frail body. The second-hand heater donated by an NGO seeing her pitiable condition, glowed dimly, emanating a faint warmth. From the nearby church, she heard the faint echoes of bells on Christmas Eve. She sighed as memories came alive of the past when she had celebrated the merry feast, with a home full of warmth and laughter.
Now she was alone; utterly lonely with no one to call her own. Her married daughters were abroad. Husband dead and she was told she was too old to bear the Canadian cold or travel abroad.
But this Christmas she had received the letter that her grandson would come to visit her on Christmas Eve. She waited with bated breath for him. Her excitement knew no bounds. At last, she would have someone to call her own to celebrate Christmas with, after all these years.
Her old fingers knitted a sweater, a cap of bright colours and she felt dissatisfied. Doubts assailed her as each knot tied, tightened, and unravelled in her mind with confusion; will the size fit him? Will he like the colours. Would he be disdainful or happy with her gifts? She had no clue but with love and care she wove her dream to gift her precious creations.
The veins on her hands stood out like dried roots clinging to a banyan tree.
The body trembled as she got up and collected the knitting box and her heart was beating fast. She looked at the clock by the bed side table and tried hard to focus on the blurred clock face.
Long ago she was the most talented and skilled person who could knit unique designs and sweaters belts, caps, booties for babies and her work was much in demand. She made money by selling them at Christmas fairs and to the parish congregation.
He would come to visit her today and there was so little time to complete what she started.
Her body had aged, her sight faded but her fingers never forgot. In the flailing light the heart was full of love as she clinked the knots, the needles dancing to-gather with great panache like young ones as she secured the last knot, stretched the long soft warm muffler in satisfaction.
She waited for the door to open and hear his voice fill the room. She did not know how long she waited. No one came. All the lovely warm clothes she had laid out brought tears to her eyes. No knock or greeting welcomed her. No human being stepped forward. She had kept the door unlatched. Time ticked away and as she waited for foot falls.
There were scratching sounds and strange short hiccups. She frowned and tried hard to follow the sounds.
‘Who is it’, she cried out querulously; there was no answer. Gasping in the cold air, she struggled to the door, supported by her walking stick.
As she pushed open the door, a strange, curled bundle almost made her stumble.
She bent down to discover a shivering young pup, shivering and trembling as he felt her touch. He had no strength to bark. The wet fur rippled in fear and the dog leaned into her hand, as if he craved her touch.
She felt her heart breaking as she looked at the homeless animal and struggled to drag it in.
The flattened ears and the thumping tail told a grateful story. She felt the warmth fill the room and blood coursing up her body as energy of caring for another living creature, made her forget her sadness and pain.
She gathered him to her and wrapped him in the woollens she had knotted for her grandson. She felt the warm light glow in the doggy eyes as he licked her fingers. With tears in her eyes, she placed some milk and bread in front of him and watched him lap up the food hungrily.
Nirmala Pillai is an ex-Civil Service officer and now a full-time writer and painter. She has published three book of poems and one collection of short stories. Her novel is with a literary agent. Her works have appeared in various anthologies and print and internet magazines.
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