â€œI think I should introduce myself, I am Darika and used to live in a small fishing village an hours drive from here, well at that time I did not even know what a car was until Bimal came into my life and brought me hereâ€
She sipped from her cup as her gaze drifted up towards the mantelpiece which held pictures of a younger, much younger version of her standing alongside a dark skinned local, both wearing proper gentle folk clothes and posing in front of a decked out old white mahruti sedan.
â€œBimal was from Colombo and was a civil servant, he was always fond of exploring and thus he came to our village, we met at the temple. I was doing pooja and he was taking photographs of me, my hair was so long then, but the first time with him was longer
â€œAhemâ€ zarmina cleared her throat suddenly feeling awkward at the old ladies sudden foray into her personal life. â€œWe were kind of wonderingâ€
â€œHush zari, please darika jee go onâ€
Darika looked at the woman with this man and then smiled at Jalal nodding
â€œWell pretty soon we realized we would not be sustained with his rapid fire visits to the village so we decided to do the pheras after which he wanted me to move to colombo and I would have none of it so he bought this place and we built our house here, after a bit our labors bore fruit and I had a baby girlâ€
Zarmina was now sipping her tea and wondering how on earth the old woman kept her herbs this fresh as the tea tasted like it had just been pulled from the earth and poured into water.
â€œWe named her keshini as she had wonderful black hair like mine but damned be the horrible night that took them both from me, I shall curse it foreverâ€
Jalal almost recoiled like someone had broken a hypnotists spell on him with a snap of their fingers and he saw Zarmina clutch her cup a bit tighter
â€œOh my god we are so sorryâ€
â€œDonâ€™t be, for the sea shall one day pay for what it did to me, they loved fishing and Bimal took her out many times, well that night there was a storm and he came back alone at 3 am crying and dripping wet because their boat had overturned and my darling was swept away.
After that it may as well have been both of them that had died because while Keshini was no longer on this world, neither was Bimal and he left me six months later to return to Colomboâ€
Jalal nodding letting the weight of what Darika had just told them seep through him. As a writer he often wondered whether he was born to witness cruel fate or just write about it in his fiction, as life had brought him to this place.
â€œSo that is why Darika prefers to be alone, and watch the sea to curse it everyday both for its beauty and its crueltyâ€
â€œ Well that is very sad and thus a person like you should never be alone you knowâ€ Zarmina spoke a tad nervously.
â€œMy husband and I are looking for a place to stay in as I had mentionedâ€
â€œYes yes the upstairs portion is yours no fear, you can pay me for your share of food and take me to town once in a while, thatâ€™s all the rent I needâ€ finally Darika relented with a softer smile to her
â€œAre you seriousâ€ spluttered Jalal, we couldnâ€™t really, I mean you must accept some token rent.
â€œDo you like the place? Both of youâ€
â€œWell we havenâ€™t seen it yetâ€ muttered Zarmina
â€œOff course Of course we love it!!!â€ cried Jalal like a little boy as his wife gave him a look that could sink a ship on its own.
â€œWell thatâ€™s settled then, the upstairs has two bedrooms, and no there isnâ€™t a room ive kept in my daughters memory as a shrine rest assuredâ€ Darika chuckled as she patted Zarminas hand.
â€œ One is empty and used for storage and its open, while the other one can function as your room, its got a bed and all, was a guest room onceâ€
â€œJalal got up and hugged the old dame â€œGreat, this is so awesome We will accept your offer and only on the promise that you will let us pay for all of the groceries at least, after all how much can you eatâ€
Darika looked at both of them and smiled again â€œOh you would be surprised at how much this granny can put awayâ€
So there it was the three of them tenants and host, and then Jalal and Zarmina left to gather their stuff from back at the hotel they were staying in. Strangely enough they had to walk a bit before they found the odd tuk tuk and as they boarded Jalal gave his wife a tight squeeze
â€œSee what you can find when you keep lookingâ€ he cooed in her ear
â€œWell the way you are acting I hope darika’s is not very sound of hearingâ€ zarmina finally smiled
â€œAhem we will have to be a bit you know discreet and allâ€
â€œReally..discreet before the sea eh? Zarmina nipped his nose and then slid back in her seat as she saw the tuk tuk driver flash a beetlenut stained smile at them through the rearview. She looked out at the dense forests to her left and the roaring sea to her right and wondered could it be…
To be continued…