Subha Manoj

While I Was Away

Subha Manoj

The washroom akka

She sat outside the toilet. Everyday. All the time, till the school got over. She stood up only when a student or a teacher told her that the tissue papers were over or the soap needed to be refilled. Otherwise, she sat in a corner pressing her feet and observing the world which was too fast for her. Teachers dressed in their finery walking fast, talking in a language alien to her. Girls and boys walking close to each other, touching each other sometimes. Yes, she had seen things that others haven’t.

Like the girl who had ran into the toilet crying. The girl who had got her period for the first time in school. The boy who stayed inside the toilet for a really long time. The group of girls who talked in a hush-hush manner inside. The teacher who liked to redo her hair every two hours. Yes, she was their secret keeper. She knew that none of them knew about her existence. But that didn’t stop her from being a silent part of their lives.

Sometimes she got an opportunity to do small talk too. Like the other day, when a teacher had asked her whether she had eaten her lunch or when she had noticed that the tissue papers had gotten over way too fast and shared her findings with the teacher who always smiled at her. At times, the co-helpers from other floors would come and sit next to her for some time. Those days would be special. She would talk about her daughter in law, her growing grand children and painful knees.

Some days were more special. Like the day there was some function in school. She didn’t know what exactly it was. But there was way too much hustle bustle. Children were dressed fancily, and the teachers even more. One of them even asked her to help her drape a saree. She couldn’t take her eyes off the saree. Soft and silky. Maybe I could save some money to buy something like this for my grand daughter’s wedding, she thought. That day she had so much to talk about when she went home. About the loud music, wonderful dances and bright lights.

Some nights she would think about her workplace. These were days when the night was way too still for her liking. She would think how would it have been if she had continued her education instead of getting married at 15. Wishful thinking, she would smile wryly.

For now, she would sleep peacefully. It had been a nice, peaceful day.

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