They were lugging things down from the second floor to the road where the truck and the car were waiting. Jai huffed and puffed, taking large noisy strides down the stairs, carrying two plastic bags. Jaya Sharma, Jai’s mother, shouted, “Where is the bag of handkerchiefs? And the bag of socks? Are you carrying it Jai?”
Jai gritted his teeth and reluctantly answered in a low voice, “Yeah mom...I have them”.
“Everything taken?” Jai’s father asked his wife. “All the big stuff is in the truck. Just make sure all the trousseau and your make up kits and the “important little” things have been take care of,” he further ordered. “This is my fifth trip and I don’t want to make one again!”
“Don’t be such a control freak now!” Jaya retorted. “Everything has been done! Come mother, let’s go.” With this, she started escorting her mom-in-law out of her puja room.
“Wait...just let me check on a few things,” Jai’s grandmother peered into the empty rooms. “Oh you forgot this jug in the kitchen, Jaya!” she exclaimed, picking up an antique looking jug with JJ inscribed on the bottom face and tucking it beneath her armpits.
The ‘Sharmas’ had settled in their new abode. It had been a week since the final day of shifting. Relatives and guests had started pouring in.
On this particular day, Jaya was hurriedly frying some frozen potato wedges and corn fries for Mr. Sharma’s friends who had come to see the newly-built house.
“Get the glasses ready,” Jaya ordered her son.
Jai quickly put the glasses on the tray.
“Now just pour the juice in a jug,” she instructed.
Jai looked around, opened the cupboards and brought out his favourite jug- the antique one with a silverish patina and intricate designs carved on it. For Jai, the best part of it was the initials JJ artistically inscribed at the bottom face of the jug.
“Put that down, will you?” Jaya snapped at her son, snatching the ancient-looking urn from him and opened another closet to fetch a glass jug.
Jaya placed a plate of food in front of her mother-in-law.
“I wanted to ask about that old ceramic jug. Don’t you think we should give it to Omwati ?”
“Omwati ?!” the old woman’s pitch rose. “She hardly cleans properly! She always tries to shirk work. Every time I see her, she is standing with a broom, sweeping lazily. She doesn’t even bend while sweeping. What kind of a cleaning is that? No way should you give her anything!”
Her mother-in-law was vehement and totally in favor of keeping the urn.
“Besides, that jug is so pretty. It has been in our house for as long as I can remember. I think someone gifted it to you on your wedding day. Wasn’t it your classmate, Jaideep? I don’t think you should dispose of it like that. By the way, just get me a glass of water, Jaya.”
And thus ended Jaya’s hopes of getting rid of the antediluvian jug.
"Please come in."
They ushered in their neighbour, Mrs. Verma, who was an ebullient woman of about thirty. She came in with a little girl, who was an uncanny replica of her mother’s. “Hello! It’s very nice to have you here! My daughter will finally have someone to interact with in this building. She gets quite lonely. Also, there are some wonderful hobby classes in the next street! We could get them admitted, you know! Then we could chat and all while taking them there! I get bored at home all day,” Mrs. Verma gushed.
“Yeah...that would be great!” Jaya put on her most convivial demeanour. “Jai come here! Come and meet a new friend of yours.”
As Jai shyly shook hands with Preeti, the women started chatting and the kids went to play in the dining area. A while later, they saw Preeti whispering something in her mother’s ear.
“No! That is a most impolite thing to ask!” Mrs. Verma was heard chiding her little daughter. “You go play and don’t you dare behave like that!” After her mother’s admonition, Preeti’s face fell and she sat down.
“What happened, beta ?” Jaya called Preeti to her side. “What do you want? Tell me...Is Jai being naughty?”
Preeti glanced at her mother once but on insistent cajoling by the ‘new and nice’ aunty, she burst out, “I want that silver pitcher but Jai says he won’t give me.” And she started to sob a little.
“Very bad, Preeti. Very misbehaving of you.” Mrs. Verma tried to discourage her daughter. But Jaya had already got up.
Presently, she emerged from the dining area with the old faded urn and handed it to the little girl, who jumped in exhilaration.
“No, no, no Mrs. Sharma! You mustn’t do this! ” Mrs. Verma protested. But Jaya was hell bent on getting rid of the God awful jug, that was refusing to exit her life after having spent ten useless years in their house.
“Mom ! There is Verma aunty at the door!” Jai called. As Jaya proceeded to the door, Mrs. Verma started apologizing, “Actually this is about that jar. Preeti has gone to sleep now. And I came to return this. You know my husband; he is very particular about such things. He is slightly touchy about taking things, especially valuable stuff. Also, we have only just met. So, please don’t mind!”
Jaya couldn’t help but take it back.
Off went another chance of throwing away the damned jug.
The clattering noises from the kitchen meant that the dishes were being washed. As Jaya piled on dish after dish, an idea struck her. She saw the jug perched innocently on the kitchen slab. If she were to accidentally slide it over the edge or wave her hand in a moment of decided recklessness in a certain wayward manner, the jug would reach the destination she desired for it. Thus, while wiping the plate and before placing it on the rack, she touched the jug with a plate with amazing adroitness so that it teetered on the edge of the slab hanging on for dear life. She went on cleaning, hoping for the jug to fall but it held on fast. Then she dropped all subtlety and plunged into deliberate action. The old container would easily have fallen and shattered into a million pieces had it not been for the hero who saved it. Mr. Verma himself was much astonished at his heroic deed.
“Careful Jaya! Don’t be in such a hurry! We would have lost a beautiful receptacle if not for this fortunate accident.”
Jaya had decided now. She called the washerwoman in the evening one day.
“Rama, you were talking about that woman who collects old stuff, right? Clothes and utensils and the like? I have some really good things from my old home, things which I don’t need anymore. So, send her in whenever you can.”
“Madam, 300 is too much. I can only manage 200,” The scavenging woman had her own rules and conditions.
“Fine!” Jaya said. “Just take it.”
She was in a mad hurry to bid adieu to the ill fated jug.
“Look what I have got here!” exuded Jaya’s father-in-law as he took off his sandals at the doorstep.
“Give it to me! ME! ME! ME!” cried Jai in glee.
“What is it, baba ?” Jaya came with a glass of chilled water.
The old man gushed happily, “I bought this beautiful antique vase for just Rs. 500 from the Budh Bazaar. See!”
Jaya unwrapped the newspaper which enveloped the gift. She gasped in shock.
There it was- the jug she had gotten rid of a few days ago. The symbols JJ stared out at her.
She settled for the fact that Jaideep would probably never go away from her life. She should have realized as much when she named her son Jai. The jug would probably never leave her house as long as she lived, just like the memory of the man she had once loved.