“The station is experiencing water shortage. Residents are requested not to irrigate their lawns,” Rinku scanned the notice board at the guard room, mentally telling herself to brief Santosh, their gardener. A busy teacher herself, she and her pilot husband had pretty much left their horticultural assets to him. He took the decisions on the variety and quantity of plants in their ground floor square.
And what a visual treat, their verdant patch was! Almost an eye sore as it sat smug amidst the surrounding lifelessness with its green trimming of Celosia and Kochia. Evening walkers would come upon it with a start, staring disbelievingly at the Zinnias and Ball Lilies. The mini-garden often came up in party conversations and the couple beamed with self-congratulation at sourcing such a prolific green thumb.
“That green chilli bed looks a bit odd there,” Rinku turned at her neighbour’s voice one evening. “Oh, it is a hardy plant, a good way to hold the soil and the water supply is restricted after all. Smart of Santosh to save some there, he rations the sprinklers,” she blithely dismissed the friendly observation. And the station life moved along, everyone gamely tolerant, even appreciative of Rinku’s magical gardener.
The nagging voice came back to her however, one dinnertime, “Listen Jo,” she called out to her husband, “the chillies growing in our garden, have they struck you odd ever?”
“These locals use a lot of that in their food, they scrimp on the vegetables,” came the reassuring reply, it was what Rinku wanted to hear. “Care for some ginger ale?” Jo poured them two goblets. The couple sat back after a hard day’s work, glad to be home for an evening; their average social attendance being high. Soon enough, they were at their meal, Jethro Tull’s voice winging over the cosy living room.
“Flying day tomorrow, where is my rolled up towel?” Jo turned in early on weekdays, his fatigued neck resting on support for the night. Rinku pattered around the kitchen before settling down with her portable Remington. Two hours later, she was pulling the typewritten sheet out and sliding the machine shut.
Air Force campuses are restful and it did not take her long to fall asleep besides her somnolent partner. They were a study in contrast, he slept faster but lighter of the two, she was a night bird who eventually settled down for good.
It was in the wee hours that Rinku stirred next. Jo was shaking her by the shoulder, his tousled hair falling over troubled eyes. “Come with me to the door,” he was speaking in a low tone. Rinku gathered herself sluggishly, limping on a half-worn night slipper. The front door was ajar, an inky sky outside. Jo beckoned her forward. She shuffled up and peered out, standing rooted to the spot.