The scrawny little man has been sitting here since the morning and was desperately waiting to sell off his stock and head home. Due to consistent rain there has been a rise in the water level which took the fishes from the nearby fishery to the small streamlets around that were formed on the roads. He had an unusually busy day in the market and this monsoon season marked a productive business after a long dry spell in the preceding summer. A man in his mid-fifties approaches him. He checks the fishes, turning left and right, poking its belly to check if it is bloated. Being bloated is the mark of a stale fish.
The customer purchases two kilos and gets in his car. He switches on the music system. Soft tunes of music, while driving, is a failed attempt at creating a soothing atmosphere when one is trying to nullify the cacophony of a vibrant fish market. As his car picks up the acceleration, he hums along, trying to lip-sync the lyrics. There is another one hour’s drive before he reaches home. His son-in-law is returning from a workshop tour to another city.
The day had been cloudy since morning and it wouldn’t be long before it rains. The old man took a left turn in the next diversion. This road led towards an old settlement of pale yellow quarters, which looked like they had been abandoned long before. Tropical shrubs, grasses, wild ferns and arum plants grew in wild medley. The road grew narrower as it branched off to a much wider and smoother road which looked like the main connecting street around here.
His phone’s ringtone breaks the silence. He parks the car.
Female voice- Hello. Did you get the fishes?
Man- Yes, my dear, I got the fishes. I bought some sweets for Arun. How is his fever? Did you check the temperature?
Female voice- Yes, I did. His temperature is stable now. I made him some rice and curry. He is taking a nap now. Where have you reached?
Man- I am nearing the old bridge in another five minutes.
There was no reply to that. Repeated “Hello-es” rang in the air. The line was dead.
The clouds gave a loud thunderous roar and the droplets started pouring. The strong breeze following the thunder sent an earthy smell of rain and the sudden drop in temperature calmed the old man’s mind yet it alarmed him to hurry home soon. He raised the window glasses and slowly sped off. The growing darkness of the evening made it nearly impossible to spot anything on the road and the incessant rain added to the blurriness of everything. Moreover, he hadn’t replaced the broken windscreen wiper blade of the right side. He navigated his way depending on the left wiper blade and the front headlights for clarity in vision.
He was about to overtake the Old Bridge when the wheels got stuck. He increased the gears but couldn’t force the vehicle to move ahead. He grudgingly got off the vehicle, thanking his wife who put an umbrella in the car without his knowledge. As he got off, his attention was caught by a white moving form. The view troubled the man. He rang the local emergency number and alerted the police. He waited for their arrival.
Date:- dd/mm/yyyy time:00:00
Today I encountered the dead body of a young girl who could have been of my daughter’s age if she was alive. Her death had shattered us both and if it wasn’t for Arun and Arun’s father I don’t know how we would have lived for the rest of the days of our lives. I wish she had lived to see her son grow. He retains her curious mind and fascination for colours. We have decided to enrol him in an Arts school very soon.
I wonder what circumstances that girl might have gone through and I wish the police could give justice to her family and may her soul rest in peace. I know the pain of losing one’s child. Arun’s mother rebelled against our decision and married Alam because they were in love. Arun came to our lives a year later and it couldn’t have been happier for us all. Until the darkness sipped into our lives- that night when her soul was stolen and the other day when her body left us. Our beloved Vinita decided to kill herself. She committed suicide. . .
But was she to be blamed for all that happened to her? Thinking as a father and a man, does our society really respect women for who they are? All men leech at women as objects. I am shameful to say this but man has failed as a gender to stay human and in their lust for power and pleasure they have lost their humanity too. My daughter gave up her life because she couldn’t bear the psychological trauma of being raped. That night she was returning home late from work in her scooty. Those beasts abducted her and tortured for days, taking turns to kill my child. We took a week to find her and all of Alam and our love and support couldn’t revive her back to life. Mentally she was already dead; physically she lived for only another year. Arun was only four years old when he lost his mother and his sibling. She was two months pregnant when the incident happened.
My child, I shall see you soon, this old bones wouldn’t last longer in this inhumane world.
Gautum- Stop crying!
He slaps the woman hard who lands on the floor. The crying gets louder.
Gautum- Didn’t you hear me? I said, stop that fucking noise! I can’t bear these tears and crying bitches. Such sentimental and emotional beings!
The crying is replaced by quieter sobs. A tear stained face is visible.
Gautum- Now, get out of that corner. Come near the bed and sit. We can’t keep postponing this discussion.
The figure slowly moves towards the bed and positions itself far from the guy.
Gautum- Look, Sana, we can’t continue this anymore. My family wouldn’t accept our match. You know, the obvious, our communities won’t let our marriage happen. I mean, our this love won’t be accepted. And I can’t support your demands of a luxurious life after marriage.
Sana shot an angry glance at him.
Sana- How could you just dismiss and say it can’t happen? So, you suddenly recall the community differences between us? Since when did you grow this narrow minded?
Gautum- Come on, I maybe poor but my forefathers are from a traditionally high reputed community unlike your’s. Your family became rich only recently, you people can’t boast of a history.
Sana- Gautum, please don’t leave me! I have defied my parent’s wishes. I have trusted you. I loved you so much that I let you use my body. Did you forget all those times when you professed your undying love for me?
Gautum- If you were a girl from a reputed family you wouldn’t have let a man touch you. However a man forces a woman if she isn’t from a respectable family her character is always questionable.
Sana- How could you malign my family and judge me because of my past? How dare you question my character when you are being so cheap yourself? I had loved my ex but he took advantage of me. Now, you too?
Gautum- I can’t marry you. You are a filth left by some goddamn dirt.
Sana charges on Gautum. There is a scuffle. Sana grabs the knife on the bedside table and tries to stab Gautum. He ducks back and grabs hold of her wrist. Hits it twice or thrice on the wall until her hold loosens and the knife falls. Gautum pushes her body off the wall and throws on the floor. He kicks her on the stomach, face, knee, thigh wherever his Woodland shoes, gifted by her could hit. After few minutes of struggle, Sana’s loud screams became quiet. She stopped struggling.
Gautum removed his pants and fucked the woman’s body. After he was done, he picks the body and carries it to the car parked outside the house.
He speeds the car for the next three hours as far away as he could. Sana isn’t dead yet and he needs an isolated place to dispose her off. It’s early twilight and the growing darkness could be a good cover. He gets down at the Old Bridge and carries the unconscious body under the bridge. He takes out the knife, makes her hands hold the knife and slits both the wrist to pass it off as a self-attempted murder. He leaves the knives beside her and race off.
. . . my body lay as a confused bundle of pain and shame.
I was trying to pump as much air into my lungs as my breath could hold but every drag was painful and apart from this, I could feel a lump on my nostrils that was making it hard for me to inhale. I tried to drag my body but my hands refused to feel the weight. I wanted to call out to my limbs that run, run for your life! I spill my voice out as screams in the air but an icy door rebound my call. I am curling back inside my skin, my soul, like a retreating truth from your lips. I am trying to pick my things and console the broken rage inside which has managed to tear a thousand pieces of my ‘self’.
The evening is dark beyond recognition. The cloud is gathering fast high up in the horizon and streaks of thunderstorm is visible in the distant dark sky; it will rain for hours once it breaks into a down pour. I should get up and see if I am familiar with this dreary looking location. I fear to think that we are stranded in some unknown place. We should try to seek some help before it gets any further delayed. I should return. I need to return. I need to amend things before it is too late.
Will somebody hear my shout? My throat has almost gone hoarse with repeated shouts. I am slowly losing strength and I doubt if I can surge out of this miserable ordeal. Will the ocean accept me into its depths never seen through my mortal self? Will I be able to swim through its fire of penance before I feel the air of release? Meanwhile I wait, worried and impatient at the delay.
She lay motionless. It has been hours since we waited for any help to come our way. I extended my hands towards the humanity as a last resort to rescue my friend but there doesn’t seem to be any mark of living around. Lost in a puddle of mud her blood is racing fast through her veins to the stream as if they are desperate to touch the waters and be mingled in its immortality.
Delayed. There had been too many delays in life and one more, positively the last one, would not be too long or excruciatingly painful. There is no need to complain as delays never really stand in an affirmation of anything being complete or coming to a closure in a parallel curvature of life where gains are weighed against losses and pains are pushed under the carpet to look brave. . .
The heavy downpour has finally hit the earth, dampened mosses are turning slippery. The touch-me-nots/ shameplants have shut themselves as the rain drops touch their leaves and petal fragments, like a retreating hand, a gesture both suggestive of denial to the other or being protective to oneself. As I was lost admiring these natural mysteries, I see a trail of red streak in the stream and her body is slowly visible through the heavy fog of the rain floating through the water. Her pale and bloody body glided on like a dead fish in a fish vendor’s basket. I failed her. I failed myself.
I lay hard trusting the ocean to be gentle because my energy is draining fast and I can feel a slow numbness swimming through my veins. My head explodes as I inhale strong tides and although pain no more troubles the flesh the feeling of this sudden lightness is too overwhelming. I float in this rare ecstasy never wanting to come back. . .
I was nervous, and panicked at the thought of being lost and losing her too, for once, and all, in this lifetime. I tried picking my broken and tired soul from the bottom where I had hurled myself in this fear of failure. I decided to give one last try before I give up and surrender ourselves to the impending fate. With much struggle I rise from the culvert and look out in the road again. My weary eyes can finally see a man in an approaching car. I wait for him to draw near. I look in the eye at the stranger. . .
The vehicle comes to a halt.
Through the incessant rain it was hard for the man in the driving seat to see the form of the girl looking at him. He grabs his umbrella and positioned himself to open it before he slams the door open. He pushes the door hard and steps grudgingly on the muddy road sending a strong waft of fish smell from the car. The glowing headlights make the road clearer. The stream here has overflowed and a white form is floating by. One can picture Ophelia drowning through the river. Only Ophelia committed suicide because her beloved had plotted to kill her brother. Not her. She was plotted against. Brutally raped and butchered. And left to die in confusion if pained killed me or the shame.
The ecstasy of giving up when you know that the end can’t inflict any hurt on you anymore is an empowerment I never mastered to experience while living. Letting go has its cons and pros to count with coins of love and forgiveness. Now that I have given in it feels relieving to not be defensive anymore. Not when leaving is so much easier than holding on.