Wednesday, April 29, 2009

On the brink of death

It was hot and sultry inside her room on the 7th floor. It was unbearable and Kalyani wanted to be in open air amidst cool breeze. The irony was that she had been harbouring thoughts of putting an end to her life since two days. She climbed the stairs to the top terrace just two floors above. Cool wind blew across her face and she stood inhaling it feeling some relief from the oppressive thoughts. She looked down at the road, the moving cars and the home returning people looked tiny like ants moving on the wall into a crevice. She hated all people after the bitter experience in the last few days. She found everyone wicked, greedy and lustful. She had run away from her home in a village after her parents insisted on her getting married to a farmer owning lands. A B.Sc. in computer science she longed to work in a city. She hated the village houses reeking the smell of cow dung, long lines of stacked gunny bags with grains, the bullock carts, the agricultural implements and the lack of sophistication in village life. He was just 10th passed. She just would not agree to be tied to this guy and came away to the city where her good friend lived.
Kalyani sent applications to several companies, and met people concerned but all she could get was foolish grins, lewd remarks, jobs are scarce and existing employees were themselves given pink slips. Her friend suggested that since Kalyani had very good looks and a beautiful figure, she could try modelling.When she went to a studio, the guy seemed pleased with her and took several pictures of her. He complimented her on her photogenic face and fine body and promised her a very bright future. But Kalyani was not amused at the guy repeatedly touching her cheeks, shoulders and having his hands on her constantly longer than needed under the pretext of adjusting. She however kept quiet. The photographer gave her Rs500 and asked her to come the next day for another photographic session. He suggested obliquely that she should be a little daring and accommodative if she were to succeed in her career and if she were compliant she could see lot of money. When she asked whether she should come in salwar khameez or sari, he shocked her saying with his lewd smile that the next day’s session would be sans clothes. Her dreams of a modeling career crashed with that and she never went back to that wretched place. She had exhausted the money in the next few days and wondered how long she could strain her friend’s hospitality. She got only regret letters with wishes for better luck .She could not even dream of going back to the village where tongues would be wagging about the girl “who ran away”. She was also determined that she would not live by letting her soul die and leading a life of shame.
It was with such melancholy thoughts that she was contemplating to put an end to her misery by one jump from the top floor. Though the thoughts of her mother and her affectionate younger brother tormented her, there was no going back on her decision. She was not afraid of the height nor did the fear of death deter her. In another five minutes, she thought her story would become history. She was now sitting on the ledge and as final prayers reciting her favourite sloka praying for happiness and long life!
“Kalyani? What are you doing here sitting alone dangerously on the ledge? Come away here” inquired her friend very softly. When Kalyani turned her head and replied “Yes, Amudha.It was very hot down there. The breeze is cool here.”
“I know that but people don’t sit in precarious positions to enjoy the breeze. You shouldn’t be doing what you are contemplating. I have promised you that I can take care of you till you get a job, may be even in six months. Why then this rash step when hardly three weeks had passed since you came? Remember life is precious and should not be lost by thoughtless action in a despondent mood” She brought down Kalyani safely from the ledge and sat by her side clasping her arms affectionately.Kalyani was silent for a long while after she heard her buddy’s impassioned plea. Taking advantage of her wavering, Amudha pulled her up telling “I am famished. Come along. Let us eat a masala dosa in the opposite hotel after you have a wash.”
When Amudha opened the door of her room, she found to her surprise an envelope addressed to Kalyani on the floor slid through the door.It was not there a short while ago. Kalyani grabbed it and tore it open in a hurry. Tears flowed from her eyes as she read the line loudly “Dear Madam, We are pleased to offer you a position in our………….” Amudha hugged her letting out a hysterical cry of joy and telling “Let us celebrate on two counts. You were brought back from the verge of death and you have a nice job. The celebration will be on your depleted account today.”
Suicide is a permanent solution to temporary problems that get resolved in due course

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The nomad's prediction

Ramalingam was a worried man these days. The condition of his wife who was ailing with a serious heart complaint for some years had deteriorated suddenly. She had difficulty in breathing and was unable to exert even a little. The doctors had said that nothing could be done to arrest her progressively worsening condition and that she should just manage with medicines and rest as long as possible.Ramalingam and his wife were aware though they never spoke about it that the end was not very far, may be a year or two or even less. They were living alone in their flat with their sons living abroad. Ramalingam spent long hours daily praying to God to give her long life. They were a loving couple and were averse to living with their sons in foreign countries.
It was one early morning around 5am they heard a kudukudupandi (a gypsy like tribe) at some distance on the road making a loud noise with his rattle (udukkai). These gypsies are generally attired in black coat like a sherwani often tattered and stitched at several places with dozens of small bits of clothes in different colours on their shoulder. They have a big red dot above a black line drawn with a khajal between the eyes. They generally sport a long mustache. They follow the rattling with predictions of the events likely to befall to some of the residents of the small street. He invoked frequently the names of Demi goddesses “Oh Jakkamma, Oh Makkali, Oh Bhagwati.”.The couple who were fully awake trembled with fear as they heard the approaching kudukudupandi.They pretended however to be asleep with their eyes closed each wanting the other not to hear the forecast. Although afraid of any adverse tidings, they still could not resist the temptation to listen. They waited for him to approach near their apartment. They sharpened their ears to listen to the predictions with rapt attention. As he came near, there was a brief silence followed by a long rattling of the udukkai before making general statements of good times to come (Nalla kalam pirakkudhu) for the residents before turning to specifics. He said one prince will be born to a girl within a week, one man will turn a sanyasin and runaway from the house and one death of a female will occur within three days in the vicinity. Usually superstitious people were afraid of this tribe as what they said usually occurred. Their life style was shrouded in mystery and what they did during the day was unknown. It was believed they spent the nights in burial grounds doing occult practices to gain the skill to predict correctly. They usually come again after the day break and collect alms from the households. Most people out of fear that he would curse never refuse and even turn generous giving away old clothes beside rice and money.
Ramalingam and his wife unknown to each other listened to the prediction of the imminent death of a female. Both never spoke about it to the other though anxiety and fear was writ large on their faces.Ramalingam did puja that day for longer period and went to a Ganesh temple nearby. The old lady knew that her end was near but was unwilling to leave her husband alone. She knew his adamant nature and aversion to stay with sons. That night she heard dogs bark incessantly, not a good sign, as dogs have the powers to see Yamadhuthas and ghosts. This accentuated her fear. Ramalingam made discreet enquiries about an old woman in the adjacent complex who was unwell with typhoid. To his dismay he heard that she had recovered well.The second night the lady had a dream of ugly and grotesque faces that were scary. She remembered her grandma telling that such faces appear prior to death signifying the awaiting hell. She also spent the day in silence and prayer very much like her husband. In the evening she gently told him that if anything were to happen to her, he must not stand on false prestige and live alone. He chided her asking her not to talk rubbish and that she would live longer than him. She fell silent thereafter.
It was the third night. Both could not sleep. He put his arm around her as they were sleeping. She snuggled close to him. There was an amalgam of apprehension love, concern, warmth, and gratitude in those moments. The night passed away smoothly with nothing untoward happening.
It was 6 am. A greatly relieved Ramalingam hurried to get milk from the milkman in the adjacent compound to make hot coffee for his dear wife. When he neared the shed, he heard a loud wail of the milkman’s wife and milkman. It transpired that one of the cows had died the previous night while giving delivery to a calf. The nomad’s prediction has after all come true.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Castle in the air

Vijay was always there at 8-30am in front of his apartment’s elevator. He was on the fifteenth floor, the topmost floor of the building. There was another young woman whom he found most of the days, waiting for the elevator around the same time. There were many apartments in each floor and he did not know in which apartment she lived. She must be around 25, smart looking, attractive, a bit dusky and wore her dress well to enhance her charm. He has never been able to strike any conversation with her as a few other residents invariably joined to take the elevator. He had seen her casting furtive glances at him. Vijay was a tall and handsome young man with curly hairs that any woman would be happy to have a second look at..
The elevators were taking long time to reach the top floor. It was drizzling heavily and the sky was overcast. The morning paper had forecast a heavy downpour with thunder storm. She looked at her watch restively and repeatedly looked at the display panel. There were none around. Vijay smiled at her and said “Should be here anytime. The weather is scary.” She did not reply but with a faint smile nodded her head in agreement. Emboldened Vijay asked “I see you quite often here. I am Vijay in apartment 1516.” She just said that she was also residing in the same floor but did not indicate the number. Meanwhile the elevator came. They were the only two occupants and he pressed 0. .As the elevator started sliding down he heard a roll of thunder. The lift was going thirteenth floor, twelfth floor, eleventh floor…..
Vijay said “I am always scared to travel by lift during rain. This thunder is scaring me. I am somewhat relieved that I have some company.”
Just as she replied, “I am also averse to use the lift in such circumstances, but I am in a hurry today.” Even as she was speaking, there was a loud thunderclap and the lift came to a sudden halt. As Vijay swore “dammit’, the girl said softly the power must have been cut and acting coolly pressed the call button and asked for help.
She was told that the power had gone in the entire area by the rain and thunder and that they may have to wait for a while. Looking agitated at the reply, she said that she had an important meeting to attend to and that all the papers were with her. Vijay replied “There is nothing we can do except to pray God for the resumption of power. It can take an hour or more depending on our luck, Miss, er. . .” Viji “, she replied.
They sat down on the floor at two corners and were silent for a while.Viji was afraid to be alone with this young man whom she had seen several times but drew comfort with the thought that he was after all a co- tenant in the complex and appeared decent.. Vijay on the other hand was inwardly happy at the power break down and the prospect of spending an hour or more with this attractive woman alone in the small confined space. He had always watched her with romantic interest though he had no occasion to cultivate her. He saw from the corner of his eye Viji casting stealthy glances at him. Vijay started fantasizing how nice it would be if she were Mrs. Vijay. He told her that he was an IIT/IIM product, a vice president in a MNC bank, that he owned the apartment and that his parents were pressing him to marry soon. She looked at him with wide eyes and congratulated him on his bright career. She hoped a girl of his choice would materialize soon. Vijay took this as a subtle hint and was thrilled. He asked her what she was doing and was told that she had a PG Diploma from Xavier’s in HR Management and that she was with a reputed company. Vijay was doubly happy that if she agreed his would be partner would also be equally highly qualified. He had already started building castles in the air. He moved slightly near her and asked in a whisper what she thought of him as an eligible groom. She broke into a sweet smile and said “Which girl would refuse you? You are a talented and handsome hunk with a very nice position. She will grab you at the first opportunity.” Vijay concluded that this was an oblique remark to indicate her interest in him. He was in cloud nine. He decided to ask her out in the evening to take the matters to logical end.
Even as he was rehearsing the sentence in his mind, the elevator became alive and started sliding down fast. When he finally made bold to ask her “Viji, would you come out with me….’the doors opened at the ground floor with many waiting there.”She said “Certainly why not? How long do you think we should be confined in this sultry rat hole? Meet my husband Ravi” she pointed out to a young man waiting at the entrance and waving his hands at her.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Indirect answer

Jana watched Naresh smiling at her in the photo hanging on the wall as she lay in the bed. Tears trickled from her eyes. She loved him dearly in the three years of her married life. She was just 28 and needed him with her very much. But fate had been cruel to her. A reckless truck driver had smashed all her hopes of a happy life one evening when he dashed against Naresh’s car from behind. It was a lonely life for her without Naresh. The photo was on the wall above the dressing table showing him in his casual kurta with his broad smile. They were a loving couple and each one anticipated the other’s wishes. They were planning to have a child when the cruel destiny took him away from her forever.
Life would have been unbearable but for Sanjeev, his colleague and buddy, who had been very protective and supportive in the months that followed the tragedy. He got her a job in Naresh’s office, had the financial matters settled and spent a lot of time daily in lifting her from her moods of melancholy. Though a bachelor, he behaved with her as a gentleman and never took advantage of her leaning on him totally. He took her often to malls or on different errands that she could not avoid. It was one Sunday evening. He had not seen her for a week as he was away on tour. There were also no calls from her. He dropped in at her place unannounced. The house was dark with no lights on in the front side. The door was slightly open. He heard some sound from the kitchen. When he went there, he saw the maid cleaning the vessels. She told him that Jana was in bedroom and had not taken food since morning. He told her to get the supper and that he would ensure that she took it. When he went to the bed room, he saw her curled up in a sofa with unkempt hair and crumpled dress. Evidently, she had been crying. He saw the photo of Naresh removed from the wall and lying by her side. He took it and hung it on the peg. He coughed twice to announce his presence. When she did not get up, he gently touched her shoulder and nudged it. She woke up with a start and muttered her apologies. He sat by her side and pushed the hair from her face backwards. He gently caressed her arm and asked in a sharp tone” What is all this foolishness of remaining hungry all through the day? I have asked the maid to bring your supper and I will see to it that you finish it before my eyes.” When she protested saying that she was not hungry, he silenced her saying he will have none of such nonsense. When the supper was brought, he himself fed her initially making her eat. He kept on nudging her to eat when she slowed down. He asked her to wash her face, change the dress and come for a drive. After strolling down the sandy beach, they sat down on a bench. There were not many in the beach as it was past 8pm.
After some pleasantries, he remonstrated with her gently telling ” Naresh is not going to come back. There is no point in hurting yourself like this. True you are unlucky to miss him. But you will have to move along with your life”. She sobbed and told him “True I miss Naresh. More than that, this lonely atmosphere is killing me. I cannot enter the house with none to look forward to. It is scary to be alone sometimes.” When they walked back to the car, Sanjeev put his arm around her shoulder and said, “I was hesitant to talk to you about this so soon after the tragedy. I think you need a male company. This just cannot go on. I like you immensely. If you too are attached to me, we can get married. I can wait for your answer as long as you wish to take. I will not talk about this again till you broach upon it yourself”
As she lay in the bed recalling the incident in the evening, kindly face of Sanjeev, his immense help to her during her dark days and how he had always been decent to her, she knew that she was drawn to him. Still the memories of Naresh were fresh in her mind that she refused to think along romantic lines towards Sanjeev. .But she knew, she had to move away from Naresh and get a new life for her. The warmth of Sanjeev’s hand on her shoulder and his gentle caressing her in the afternoon and feeding her the supper made her yearn for him. He had also expressed his love for her and willingness to marry her. She was in two minds. After tossing in the bed restlessly, she prayed to God to show her the way. She looked at Naresh’s photo hanging on the wall for a long time and muttered “Naresh, please suggest me a way. I know in your abundant love you would wish me to marry Sanjeev.Please leave some clue that you really wish it so.”
The sun light broke into her room as she woke up a bit late. She instantly looked at the wall. The photo was missing. She searched for it and found it lying on the dresser with face downwards. She was startled and jumped with joy telling ”How sweet of you Naresh in giving the answer to my query. I can never forget you and you will always be in my heart ever.” She rang up Sanjeev and asked him to come home immediately telling she had an important matter to discuss. When he came soon thereafter and found her standing at the door wreathed in broad smile in a fine dress, he knew the answer. He pulled her into his arms sighing in happiness “I knew you would marry me.” He however forgot to mention about his asking the maid on his way back the previous evening to remove the photo of Naresh, after Jana slept, from the wall for hanging it elsewhere.

Friday, April 17, 2009

A lucky intervention

I was warned about the traffic jams with the fly over coming up and was advised to leave sufficiently early. I had come to the railway station ninety minutes ahead of the departure time and found a vacant bench on the platform under a fan. I was to present a paper on parenting at a conference the second day. I was in charge of destitute and orphan section of a well-known institution in the city. As a temporary measure I was also looking after the adoption center. With so much time to while away, I took out the draft of my speech and skimmed through for changes if need be. I felt I heard some one sob or the sound of a hiccup. I turned around and saw in the adjacent bench a middle-aged woman obese with a big sticker on her forehead and chewing paan. She wore gaudy clothes and had cheap glittering tinsel around her neck and hands. There was a young girl of thirteen by her side in a salwar suit made of good cloth. She was petite in structure, slim, beautiful, and had long hair. Her mannerisms, the way she wiped her face, the movement of her hands and the costly slippers she wore showed that she came from a decent family. It was evident she was crying and the sob came from her. One look at her showed she did not belong to the class of the fat woman. I could notice from the corner of my eyes this girl was furtively looking at me. There was a pleading look in her eyes. I decided to investigate. I am myself a big built woman with a stentorian voice and the bearing of one accustomed to get things done her way.
I went to the woman and asked where she was bound for. She looked at me and mumbled something that was not audible. When I persisted with the query, she turned her head the other side. I asked her loudly “Where are you going? Who is this girl? Is she your daughter?” She replied defiantly in a mix of Hindi and Urdu “Why should I tell you? How does it bother you?” and asked the girl to get up and follow her. I held the girl’s hand and asked her in Tamil ’Do you know her? Is she related to you? You don’t seem to belong to her class.” Meanwhile two rough looking men appeared from nowhere on the scene and the middle aged woman said something to them in a language that was not intelligible. The men with glowering eyes advanced towards me to release the girl from my grip. I raised my voice and shouted, “Stay away. If you touch the girl, I will call the police.” Already the other passengers and a few porters started collecting around us. The woman suddenly came near the girl and nudged her and said ”Are you mute. Why don’t you speak out? Tell that woman who you are.” The trembling girl started talking in Tamil when the woman gave her a slap. The sobbing girl in smattering Hindi said possibly as tutored to her in advance “She is my aunt and I am going to Mumbai with her.” I asked the girl “You are a Tamil girl. Why do you have to speak in Hindi to me? Does she not know Tamil?” Even as the girl faintly nodded her head in affirmative, the two men wrenched her away from my hands and started dragging her. I shouted at the top of my voice? “These men and woman are kidnapping that young girl. Save her immediately from their clutches.” Several young men chased them. The men left the girl and fled. The woman was caught and the girl rescued.
The interrogation of the woman and questioning of the girl brought out a sad and heart rending tale. The girl’s father an alcoholic was married to a second wife when the first one died. This girl was disliked by the stepmother from day one and made to stop school and work as a domestic at the home all day long. Underfed and overworked, she was mercilessly beaten. When the father broached about marrying this girl to a boy from his first wife side, she decided to drive away this girl. Having herself come from shady background, she had no difficulty in finding someone willing to buy the girl. She sold the girl for a paltry few thousands with the intention to tell the alcoholic that the girl had eloped with a neighborhood boy. The girl was taken under false promises of a better life in another town as a help to an aged lady with handsome remuneration. It was while she was being taken, this lucky intervention took place.
I had another thirty minutes to board the train. I did not know what to do with this girl. I did not want her left in police station. I was not willing to trust anyone. I thought for a moment the relative priorities of reading my paper at the conference or securing for the hapless girl a safe haven. It took a trice for me to decide to cancel the journey. I told the girl to accompany me and that she would be safe with me. I told a few decent looking men in the crowd about me and about my intention to have her taken in my destitute home. There was a sense of satisfaction and appreciation from one and all. When I turned to look at the girl, she smiled at me and clasped my fingers. All my maternal instincts swelled in my heart even as I wondered how many such girls would be fortunate to meet with such fortuitous circumstances. There is a lesson in this story that all persons should be alert and watchful in railway stations and bus stands of such happenings.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Dirty trick

I saw her for the first first time in the Chairman’s office when I went to his office to attend a meeting. She stood out amidst the many women working there. Tall at 5’.5” with a glowing skin, a silken hair, well aligned sparkling teeth and in an elegant salwar suit, she stole my heart at the first sight. When Mrs. Agnes introduced her as Ranjana from a reputed B school and the new technical assistant to Chairman, my jaw fell down in admiration. She made a shy smile at me and accepted my hand for a handshake when I proffered it. I made it a regular habit to drop in at Mrs. Agnes office thereafter on some pretext to cultivate Ranjana.I could discern from her shy looks and smiling eyes that she also had fallen for me. We soon became fast friends and things began to change from mere friendship to passionate lovers. We decided that we were made for each other and wished to marry soon.
I knew she was from a very affluent family while I was from a family of modest circumstances though I had a string of academic achievements and marked for a quick rise in official rungs. She dropped the oblique hint about her parents’ cool response to her expression of love for me. It appeared that thereafter whenever she wanted an evening out with me, they maneuvered some work or reason making her cancel her date with me. She stood steadfast in her decision to marry only me and this infuriated her parents who indulged often in emotional blackmail. Her meetings outside office practically came to an end. We could only exchange information during lunchtime at my cabin. She was not willing to antagonize them by marrying me without their blessings. She was insistent on their approval. She assured that she would talk to them again telling them that she would remain unmarried if they were not to concede.
I was in my room that evening listening to some old Hindi songs in my bedroom at the first floor thinking of Ranjana and how she would convince her parents. All of a sudden to my great surprise Ranjana barged into the room. It was the first time she visited my place. Without uttering one word she gave me a big hug and started smothering me with kisses. When I struggled to get free of her embrace, she laughed hysterically and would not leave me and held me in tight clasp. I was flustered with happiness at the thought that she must have won over her parents. Even before I could ask her the reason for happiness, the phone in the hall on the ground floor rang. I wrenched myself away and rushed to answer the call.
"Hello Rohit here.” I said. It was Ranjana’s dad on the other side. ”Rohit, I am unable to talk. Please come home immediately. This is an emergency,” he said in a choked voice. I asked him “Uncle, why what happened? Is everything ok? Tell me. Does Ranjana know?” He replied, “It is only about her. She has a left a note early in the morning that she is giving up her life, as we did not agree to her marrying you. She had asked us not to search for her as she would have drowned in the sea within a hour. We have alerted the police and they are all fishing out the sea and its shore to trace her body. Aunt is devastated. She is crying hoarse that she should have allowed her to marry you. It is too late now. Please rush at once.”
Shocked, I looked at my watch. It was 6.30pm and it was already dark.She could have killed herself by this time. Suddenly a fear ran through my spine. Who is this woman at the first floor? It was unlike Ranjana to have hugged me that tightly and kissed me non-stop.She had never done that. I was hesitant to go up. I thought of her hysterical laughter and that made me panic. There was none around. Should I run away I was pondering when I heard her loud voice”Rohit, what are you doing so long at the ground floor. I am waiting for you to tell you how I have solved this intractable problem. I know you wouldn’t approve of it. Come here. I will explain.” I was fear struck and stood statue like at the bottom of the staircase. When I heard her coming out and again with her hysterical laughter, I turned deadly pale ready to run out. ”Have you seen a ghost? Why are you terror stricken? “She asked.
Convinced it was her ghost, I began to tremble when she ran down the stairs and warmly hugged me. “Don’t worry I am no ghost. I am your Ranjana hale and hearty. Pinch me hard. I played a trick on my parents. I am sure it will work. I have left a note that I am committing suicide by drowning. I think this will bring them round. Who was that on the phone and why are you ashen?” Recovering somewhat from the fear, I asked her to show some evidence that she was real and not an apparition. She laughed hysterically again and said she can kiss me more to prove her being alive. I knew now that Ranjana was mine for ever having won over her mother by this subterfuge. “I think hundred kisses not one more or one less would convince me that you are in blood and flesh” I told her as I closed my arms around her.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

An encounter with a young woman

Ashwin was held up in the city till late night. He had expected the work to be over by 9pm.But the deal could not be clinched easily as negotiations proved tough and long drawn. It was only when Ashwin told that he would return back as it was getting late and his home is far away in the suburb, the other party relented. It was already 11pm and it would take an hour or more to reach home. He was feeling very hungry and felt he cannot drive his motorbike without eating something. He went to a small way side joint and had Chole Bhauture with a large cup of strong tea. When he started the bike it was nearing 12. His wife would remain awake waiting for him without eating her dinner. It was a long stretch of lonely load after some distance. The road was also not amenable to good speed due to its poor condition. There were trees lined up on both sides hiding the moon and making the night appear darker. It struck him only then that he could have brought his son along with him. The boy was pleading with him in the morning to take him along for him to see the town. He had travelled many times even after 10pm on this road and found it safe. There were a few hamlets on the way side with stray light from occasional hurricane lamps. It started drizzling very mildly though. For the first time there was a strange feeling of unknown fear coming over him. A strong man with muscular body, he started humming his favourite tune as the bike roared its way in the still night.
It was then he saw at a distance a woman standing outside her lone hut on the road side frantically waving her hand to stop. He saw a man sitting on a cot outside the hut. Both appeared young. He was in two minds whether to stop the vehicle or rush past. Being a kind hearted man, he felt there must have been an emergency as otherwise a young woman would not come out of her house at this hour and wave a vehicle to stop. As soon as he stopped the bike by her side, she asked Ashwin whether he would allow her to travel on the pillion up to his village town. When he looked at the man, he signaled with his hands to refuse. .Puzzled Ashwin turned to her and said “I do not mind but your husband is not agreeable. Get his permission. I am in a hurry.” She replied “Who is he to give me permission? I told him yesterday I am leaving him once and for all. He is a drunkard and always suspecting me of having an affair with every passerby. Living with him is a torture as not a day passed without his beating me mercilessly each night on his return and falling on me shamelessly when the influence of the alcohol faded. Please take me now so that I can live with my mom peacefully. I hate to be on the same ground with this wretch.”
The man ambled his way towards Ashwin with the help of a heavy stick and said “Don’t trust her. She is a common whore and will seduce you. I have been putting up with her in my compassion and have no mind to part with her. I like her immensely. Leave her alone and proceed on your way. If you don’t listen to me, I will break your backbone with this rod.”
Ashwin could easily see the threatening tone and understood the intent to harm him were he to go against the man’s instructions. He started the bike and the woman came rushing to get on the pillion. The man swinging the stick came rushing and drew the woman away from the bike even as he was raining blows on her.Ashwin felt sorry for the woman and decided that it was not proper to interfere with quarrel between spouses. Ashwin told the drunkard to stop beating her as he was not giving her the lift. That inebriated man without understanding what Ashwin was telling came rushing towards him. Ashwin sped away at full speed not turning his head even once. He saw from the rear view mirror she was pushing her husband away from his clasp.
When Ashwin’s wife asked him why he was held up that late, he could not help but narrate about the incident of the unfortunate woman and her cruel husband. It was then she said ‘Did you not know that our servant Arul’s sister Shanthi was living with her alcoholic husband in the exact spot you mentioned and that she committed suicide by having poisonous weeds yesterday. Her husband was always suspicious and assaulting her. She tried in vain to change him from his drinking ways and when she failed to mend him, she put an end to her miserable life. I heard stricken by remorse the fellow had also followed suit by eating the same weeds. People are advised not to travel in that stretch after midnight lest they bump into the couple”