Karma Calling

She was running to save her life. She was gasping for air and felt a tug at her chest. She could not run any further, and finally took a few seconds to gather her wasted breath. She was about to hold her stomach to stop that cramp from engulfing her completely, but her hand got pulled. ‘Run! We have to run if we want to live. We cannot stop. The beast is closer than you think.’ The voice beckoned. ‘I can’t,’ she replied. Everything went blank.

At this point, Veena got up trying to control her muffled scream. The dream…this dream had been coming since she was seventeen. Initially the dreams came infrequently, but after her marriage to Prakash, it had increased multi-folds. And every single time, the dream stopped at this point. She could not see who the person was. But the voice… it never left her mind.

She suddenly felt hot and thirsty. She watched the man lying next to her. The man everyone called her husband. Husband. She gave a wry laugh. She stood up and felt an uncomfortable twinge between her legs. It made her fall back into the bed. Veena wondered when her body would get used to this. After all she was married for eight years and every time it was the same. It is not rape when the man who has tied a thin gold chain around your neck, makes you lie, bend, twist and turn to his whims. It does not matter that all you want to do is lose consciousness because of the pain or the stench of body odour and cheap liquor or sometimes both.

The morning after was usual. The reminiscence of the dream and discomfort between her legs seemed a distant memory. She walked up to the adjacent room and saw her seven year old snoring peacefully. The faint sound coming from his nose calmed her every time the demons came fighting with her. Arun was the thin ray of sunlight trying to illuminate her soul between the dark clouds that this sham called marriage was. She slowly touched his cheeks and stroked his head. Her son opened his eyes slowly and sat up. He hugged her neck tightly. Arun’s hands always made her secure. It gave an inexplicable sense of well being which Veena felt nowhere else.

Veena’s job was something the Gods had bestowed upon her a year back. Her neighbour, Mrs. Gupta had quietly walked up to her house and told her about the vacancy of a secretary to the principal of the convent school nearby. “Some people haunt us. We have to be strong enough to free ourselves.” Mrs. Gupta’s voice had been warm and eyes moist. Had she seen the black eye three days back? Or had she heard the scream that had come out unexpectedly when Prakash had precariously held the burning cigarette butt towards her face after a bad day at work.

Veena waited for Monday mornings. The week would begin and with that five days of work and school. It was a getaway. “Come, let’s get ready for school.” Veena said twirling her son around. The little boy giggled and tried to catch his breath.

“WHAT DOES A MAN HAVE TO DO TO GET SOME PEACE OF MIND IN THIS DAMN HOUSE!” The sound made Veena and Arun stop abruptly. She put her son down immediately and pointed towards the bathroom. It was a cue for Arun to enter the toilet and let his mother ‘handle it’.

Arun loved to see his mother smile. It brightened up his day. His mother, his beautiful mother. He had caught her crying silently many a times, when she thought no one saw her. He knew how Veena trembled lightly when his father entered the house. She would give Arun a quick glance, it was a moment when he was no more a seven year old. At that moment, he wanted to just hold her and tell her that he would be the one who will protect her and take her far, very far from terror. 

But night came and with that came terror. Some nights he would not be drunk. But she never left herself unwary. She would be very conscious during each moment of his presence in the house. She would not over-boil the tea or under-cook the tomatoes. She would ensure that all windows were closed when Prakash was at home. He disliked any kind of openness within the house. There were times when she would smugly walk towards a window, open it slightly just to let a little breeze come in. She would then close her eyes and inhale the freshness as much as she could before closing it.

She was sitting nearby a sprawling green paddy field. She looked beautiful. Long hair, fair skinned. A few gold bangles adorned her hands. And she was laughing. A man was talking to her. The man made her happy, very happy. She could feel that he was young. They both were young. Then suddenly, she fell quiet. Her chest tensed up and she could feel fear brewing up inside her. ‘Run! The beast will kill us.’ Veena started running. This time she was in front and the young man behind her. Her legs seemed weak and tiredness seemed to engulf her. ‘Don’t stop! Keep running!!’ Another voice came screaming through, which made her feel breathless. “I WILL KILL YOU BOTH!” Right in front of her stood a man with a black turban. His face was unclear.

Blankness….

A breezy Wednesday evening. Veena walked back home from work, Arun in tow. They sang a new song today. She turned the key to open the door. It was latched from inside. Her heart sank and every inch of her body froze. Prakash lay sprawled on the sofa, drunk.

“Did you break the fixed deposit? The one which we had started three years back?” He asked coldly. His voice was so calm that Veena could feel the storm arriving. It would hit her badly today. She knew it.

The fixed deposit was never started by ‘we’. The money had been gifted by her mother on Arun’s first birthday. She died a week later in her sleep. Her father had died when she was twenty. She felt cheated by destiny. Having to deal with what life had thrown at her all by herself was something she abhorred at times. Prakash’s parents were what she called ‘the living dead’. They had given up on their son. They knew how Veena was treated, but for them there was no problem because they never acknowledged it.

“Yes, some for Arun’s school fees and some for the payment of the gold loan. We had discussed about it, Prakash.” Veena spoke, trying to find her voice.

“Bitch! Liar!”

He removed his belt and hit her, and then finally the last resort. He forced himself on her. Hitting gave her physical pain, while the rape took her soul away. She felt vacant from within, when the ordeal was over.

Veena came out of the room and saw Arun crouched in a corner. His pants were wet and he was trembling with fear. She silently fed him and laid down next to him on his bed.

‘If you want to live, you have to run! Run from the beast. He will kill both of us.’ A voice said to her. They were in hiding. It was dark and the smell of stale air was nauseous. ‘I want some fresh air. I can’t breathe.’ She said. ‘Not now. He is there. Shhhh.’

Blank.

She looked back and saw him lying there. He was pleading for life. The black turbaned man had evilness written all over them. The knife, screams and shrieks. Red all over…. flowing redness.

She could not breathe anymore. She was gasping for air. A pair of hands were on her neck. She could taste bile. She wanted to cough but was unable to. Tears fell effortlessly, and she could taste blood now.

Over. It’s over.

Veena woke up startled, drenched in sweat. Arun’s puny hands were around his stuff toy. But his eyes were open.

“Didn’t you sleep, Arun?” Veena asked him.

Suddenly Arun sat up straight and looked into Veena’s eyes.

“Mamma, If you want to live, you have to run! Run from the beast. He will kill both of us.”

“What….what did you say?”

“The beast, Mamma, he will kill us both! We must run as far as we can.”

Flash.

The young man. Veena. The black turban. The evil eyes. The young man’s love. The beast’s hands. Red.

Another Flash.

Arun. She. Prakash’s hands. Breathlessness. Arun’s tiny hands around her. Prakash pulling her away.

Veena gasped for air. She freed herself from Arun’s hug and ran to the balcony. She gulped as much air as she could. Tears flowed incessantly.

Was Arun….?

Was Prakash….?

Some people haunt us. We have to be strong and free ourselves…

Questions haunted Veena. There was no time for answers.

The next morning Prakash left earlier than usual. Veena made a few phone calls. She didn’t pack much. She held on to Arun’s hands as they bought two tickets at the railway station. The train moved slowly at first and then with a rhythm.

“Where are we going Mamma?”

“Arun, a place where we can breathe and laugh.”

The beast will not be near us anymore. I am making us free.

 

Einstein, yeh kya kar daala?

While browsing through Facebook. .. I came across a man staring at me with a huge smile on his no- nonsense kinda face. He said: My son has improved dramatically in Science and Math. I am relieved. It obviously is an advertisement for online tuitions.
But what caught me is Math and Science.

In my teaching career, I have come across enough number of parents who openly say to me, “This is English, all this is okay. Ma’am, show me Math and Science marks.” (PS: I am an English teacher)
I share this with many, and they ask me how I react. Well, I do not. Because each of these parents or children at some point of their lives will need something more than Math and Science.

I thought the 90’s was over. But frankly I feel it will never get over for Indians. Well.. we are the global leaders who are running board meetings now.  The new face of the global market. Are we?

This post is in no way saying that these subjects are detrimental. Oh my… how can I say such a thing?I am an Indian parent! But may I please take the liberty of saying they are err… over-hyped.

I was in for a pleasant surprise on my recent trip to Thekaddy. There was an in house shop run by a Kashmiri, and I happened to like quite a few things in his shop. While making the payment, he asked me about our family. There was a casual Hmmmm when I told him that M was in the IT field. He smiled and said, “Everyone is into IT nowadays. What about you ma’am?” I said, “I teach English”, and handed over my card for billing. He stopped packing and looked at me. “You are a teacher? An English teacher?” I nodded with a smile. He didn’t say anything for a few seconds. After a while, he kept his hands on his heart and spoke. “Oh my God. Aap teacher hain. Woh bhi English ki. Mein kya bolu?” I was a little surprised. “Have you even been to Kashmir, madam?” He asked. I said, “No.”
He lowered his eyes and said, “It is a beautiful place. I am also a student. I study Political Science. But because of the conditions there, I am unable to write my exams. I want to become a teacher. I have chosen political science to understand how our country is run. Only we can bring a change. IT field main tho sab log jaate hain. But I did not choose it because I want to study something ‘more’. I will become a teacher like you. But of political Science.”

I was humbled that moment. Before leaving, he sad, “I am very lucky to have met an English teacher.” All I could manage was smile.

The next day when we visited a tea estate en route Alleppey, the lady who walked us around impressed me with her smartness. Even though she was an Oriya, she had learnt decent Malayalam to communicate with her staff. (Malayalam is one of the toughest languages to learn). She asked my husband what we did in Bangalore. He told about himself and then about me. As soon as she heard that I am a teacher, she asked me what I teach. “English”, I said. “Oh really! You teach English?” Before leaving I said to her, “You are quite smart. I really liked you.” She quipped,”No, It’s been my pleasure to meet an English teacher. Language touches heart.” I said, “Yes, absolutely it does.”

Sitting in the car, I couldn’t stop wondering about these two individuals. For me, they had glamoured a subject other than Math and Science.

A few of my friends tell me that because my kids are still young, I talk like this. When they reach Grade 8 or 9, I would also be quite keen that they take up Math and Science. I don’t have an answer to this. I will cross this bridge when I reach there. But I also remind myself that I am a 90’s product of a family where no one had studied anything else other than Science and Math, (barring my aunt) and guess what? I DID NOT take up Science or Math after my 10th grade even after scoring above 95% in both the subjects in my 10th board exams. I do not know whether you can imagine the hell I went through and made my family go through too, having to convince them that I do not like either of the subjects. So I still have a hope that I would do just fine if my kids take up something beyond these subjects.

Someday I will blog about that day when it actually happens. 🙂

Oops! The ‘S’ word….!

Last Friday, it was a usual late evening. N had gone off to sleep. A was preparing for his Spell Bee competition ( he was on his Nth work sheet, refusing to stop!) and better half was eating dosas while I was preparing more for me.

I was my quirky self that evening. Maybe coz I could not stop raving about the fact that I was off for another round of clothes shopping the next day. (March has been officially declared the SHOPPING MONTH, my wardrobe is looking ooh-la-la.)

Disclaimer: When I am quirky, I forget the basic rules for what words to choose and which way to behave. (I am a good girl otherwise.)


So anyway, as I was saying, I had springs underneath my feet for no particular reason. I had the strangest desire to wear my hair in different styles, and lo! I came across a particularly fun way of clipping my hair. And out came from my mouth, “Hey Manu, isn’t this looking sexy?”

The dosa dropped from M’s mouth and then followed the jaw.

A stopped writing suddenly and with an open mouth looked at me. (A gentle reminder: He is 7 yrs old)

That’s when I realised….OOOPS!

Lately, our son has been getting exposed to new words in his vocabulary (read adult words), thanks to the big boys and girls who share the park with the little ones, and ofcourse dear old TV. Thankfully, he knows they are not so nice words.

Now you see, M and I do use ‘oh-now-that’s-a-bad-word’ words, but are very careful about using them in our private conversations and not in front of the kids. But that day, I had a bad excuse. I was being impulsive…my bad!

Then came the thunderbolt. .

“Did you just use the ‘S’ word?” A asked with the most aghast look on his face.

I have always seen actors having the dumbstruck look on their faces and constant stammering and inability to speak on TV, when cuaght off-guard, and used to always wonder that how does that even happen in real life. Idiots!

But apparently, it does.

I heard …’ummm…haaa….ummm…aaaa….ummmm’ coming from my mouth. Better half kept stuffing dosas on his mouth.

The second thunderbolt.

“How could you use the ‘S’ word, Amma?!”

I wanted to disappear into thin air. Finally, I was able to gather my marbles and managed to say, “I am sorry, Ani. I will keep in mind that I am not supposed to use the ‘S’ word.”

I strongly believe that it is always better to speak the truth in front of a child rather than beating around the bush. They are not as dumb as we think they are.

Thankfully it worked. A shrugged his shoulders and got back to his sheets. Better half finally finished off his date with dosas and got up to wash his hands. While I went back to eat my dinner, and sincerely hoping that I have not scarred my son for life. Ya, ok…now that just might have been a little too dramatic.

So much for a moment of quirkiness. Mothers are not entritled for that, I say!