It was pitch black all around her. She instinctively closed her eyes and opened them again, making sure she hadn’t gone blind. She hadn’t. That was a relief. She felt disoriented even in her haven. She was surprised how her own home felt so alien when the lights were out. I have to tell Ani to get that inverter no matter how expensive, she decided. The dark still unnerved her, like it had when she was a child.

She put the lid back on the box she was opening and turned around, hands outstretched, to go back to the hall and get the emergency lamp. She took two tentative steps forward, hands waving around to make sure she didn’t collide with anything in the room. She had an idea how far the door would be from where she was standing. She tried feeling out for the familiar contours of her microwave oven. Two steps to the right of that was the door. She now felt the rough wood and stopped for a moment to get a bearing on which way she has to move next.

There was a faint light outside the curtained windows. Feeling emboldened, her next few steps were more confident around the dining hall. There were no obstructions on the path to the hall, she knew. They had left it like that so Chinnu could play around in her small tricycle. Her heart skipped a beat, ‘Chinnu!’. She realized a moment later that her baby was out with her father. She smiled to herself, it was one of those things about being a mother. She wondered if her own mother was this protective of her when she was a child. No, she decided, no one would be as protective as her.

The showcase glass glinted in the feeble light from the window. Reminding herself to be careful not to knock over the trinkets kept in the glass shelves, she felt around for the edge of the showcase and moved further. She would hit the recliner any time now. And she did. She bent down a little and felt her way towards the table in the corner. Why the heck did I keep the emergency lamp in such an inaccessible place, she chided herself.

She stepped on Chinnu’s Pooh, left on the carpet – it gave a feeble ‘peeep’, as if in protest at being walked over. Their life had changed so much after Chinnu was born. And Ani wanted another child. Her stomach turned over when she thought about that. Ani would want to talk about it tonight and she was still not ready to tell him. She was running out of excuses to not talk about it just yet. He would not understand why she did it. No one would.

Lamp forgotten, she sank down on the couch. She had always wanted to be a mother. But the doctor had said Ani would not be able to give her that joy. Tears were now streaming down her face. She loved him too much to let him know the truth. And Chinnu! He wouldn’t love Chinnu the same if he knew. Or would he? He wouldn’t, said a little voice in her heart. Remember, he didn’t want to go for adoption. He wanted the child to be his own. But Chinnu wasn’t his own. How would he ever understand? She didn’t love Hari, she never did. But she always wanted to be a mother.

The lights came on, momentarily blinding her. She would not tell Ani the truth, he didn’t have to know. She walked over to the table and absent-mindedly switched on the emergency lamp.