Portrait of a single woman

"So when do you want a treat?" she asks, eyes twinkling in a chubby face. The reason? "My book on cultural anecdotes is finally published!" At seventy years of age, this is indeed an achievement for Susheela. Mild mannered, multi-faceted, and proud as a mouse, her seventy years sit lightly on her diminutive frame.  

I first met her when we moved to our current residence. In the usual run of things, a woman over sixty would have been addressed as Aunty at least. None of that for Susheela. What is age between two friends? And really, our friendship had rapidly evolved, what with common interests of books, art, gardening, philosophy, and a zillion other topics that two women can talk about irrespective of the vast gap in their ages.

Slowly her story unfolded. With a father who had a transferable job, Susheela had a varied and interesting childhood, getting to know different towns and villages of India, meeting people from all walks of life, observing the local customs and traditions. Then came graduation, a job, and singlehood. To stave off the inevitable loneliness she took up painting. Colors and lines rule her world even now. Drop in at her place and she will show you her latest series of sketches or paintings.

But there was one more thing that Susheela had in mind. It was spurred by memories of the different cultures she had come across as a young girl. After her retirement she enrolled for a course in ancient Indian culture. She was one of the few in her batch to complete her post-graduation with honors. Then came the idea of a book. Hectic research followed. Then it was about finding a publisher, and chasing the one who agreed to publish her book.

And finally here we were with the book. I browse through a copy, crisp and fresh from the printing press. “God has given each of us a different set of talents and abilities. Do your best with them and happiness will frequent your doorstep.” she says.  I nod my head in agreement as I bite into the dry fruit chikki made by her. 

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