Mr. Senthil met his wife, Mrs. Senthil, on the day of their marriage. It was a union that resulted after a vigorous process of matching astrological charts, personalities, professions, and ambitions, conducted and determined by the family units of the bride and groom. Mr. and Mrs. Senthil quietly obliged to the protocol, offering nary an objection, resigning themselves to fate, or their parents’ selection, as it were. Numerous years of bucolic matrimony passed, during which Mrs. Senthil birthed four girls. Mr. Senthil worked hard, earning enough money and amassing enough land to wed each daughter off to respectable sons-in-law, each opting to move out of the village swiftly upon marriage.
Before long, only Mr. and Mrs. Senthil remained. As days passed, Mr. Senthil grew tired and resentful of Mrs. Senthil. One night after an arduous day harvesting crop, Mr. Senthil came home hungry. “What are we having?”
“I’ve prepared dosas with tomato chutney.”
Mr. Senthil made a retching sound. “Again? Every week dosas and chutney, every week for the last forty years! Why didn’t that mother of yours teach you anything else? She was too concerned inquiring about my income, is that it?”
“I make dosas and chutney every week because one month after our marriage you said it was your favorite meal. If you do not like it, why did you say otherwise?”
“At least I was able to choose my meals. Everything else was already chosen: my wife, my life, everything.”
“After all this time, have you not loved me at all? You despise me like you despise my dosas?”
“I accepted my fate. That is all. Love was not a choice given to me.”
That night Mrs. Senthil packed a small suitcase and left the village. In the morning, Mr. Senthil found a note in his shed, which read in a neat scrawl, “I will not return. Go and choose love.”
So at the tender age of sixty-two, Mr. Senthil went to London, fulfilling his life-long dream to travel abroad. A short visit turned into a permanent residence, and before long, Mr. Senthil found work as a custodian in a local library. Through his children, Mr. Senthil learned that Mrs. Senthil was hale and hearty, working as a primary school teacher in Chennai, her hometown.
A year later, Mr. Senthil married a frequent patron of the library he cleaned, making her the new Mrs. Senthil, only she went by the name Mrs. Tammy Harris-Senthil. One night, after returning to their one-bedroom apartment, he asked Mrs. Harris-Senthil about dinner.
“I don’t know. But whatever you make, make enough for me, too. I’m so hungry,” she answered.
“Have you ever eaten dosas before?”
“Dosas? What is that?”
“It’s a thin pancake, similar to a crepe, made with batter which must ferment for hours.”
“Ugh. It sounds like a pain in the ass to make. Pick something else.”
“I haven’t eaten it in years. It tastes especially good with tomato chutney.”
RENUKA RAGHAVAN focuses on brief, dramatic narratives. Her previous works have appeared in The Rio Review, Boston Literary Magazine, and Flash Fiction Magazine, among others. She writes and lives in Massachusetts. Visit her at www.renukaraghavan.com