Clutching the brush and dustpan she surveyed the sickly brown striations that patterned the linoleum floor. In a far corner of her mind she heard the phone ringing. Probably her mother-in-law checking to see if her darling son had had his dinner.
Tiny mustard seeds that had found the oil too hot had pole vaulted over the rim of the non-stick wok. She liked to think that they had been cheered on by their comrades ‘Don’t worry about us. Save yourselves’.
'Yes’ she thought ‘Save yourselves. We all have to save ourselves.’ Thin green stems, denuded of their pungent curry leaves lay like felled trees. A lone pea stood in the middle of the kitchen floor, searching for kith and kin. She nudged it towards two carrot tops with her toe, but they didn’t seem to have much in common.
She got down on her knees and with long strokes ran the harsh, black bristles of the brush across the floor. The phone was ringing again. ‘Call all you want Amma. No one's answering that phone tonight’. Creeping forward, each square inch of the floor was meticulously covered as she coaxed the errant pea, unfriendly carrot tops and eel like slithers of potato skin in to a tiny heap.
‘Some more subzi dear?’ she called out, wondering whether the words would reach her husband over the din of the quarter-final highlights.
When the usual grunt failed to reach her ears she made her way to the dining table and sat opposite him. He was slumped over his plate, face submerged in rice. His dark, bald head streaked with sambar.
‘Look at the mess you’ve made.’ She chided. ‘I suppose I have to clean up? For once your mother’s right . A woman’s work is never done.’