Too Late

Sanju wiped the sweat on his brow and thought about Leelabai’s words carefully.  Hesitating to look up – for he knew if he looked up he would see the magnificent woman staring straight in his eyes and eyes are  poor companions to a man who wishes to maintain his mind beyond the reach of the mortal world – he shook his head in some amount of disbelief.

Sanjeev Satpute, yes that was his name for all official purposes sat under a poorly built concrete roof on a hot Thursday afternoon. Right in front of him, leaning against a pillow in a manner that aimed at showing off a certain amount of carelessness than seeking comfort, rested Leelabai a woman of 60, or any age that people attain when their faces begin to flaunt wrinkles and their voices grow louder under a notion that everyone else can hear not a decibel more than themselves. And yet to say that Leelabai’s voice had grown louder only in the recent years would be a complete lie for she had been known for her loud voice amongst other things since the prime of her age.

When Sanju had knocked Leelabai’s door two hours ago, he had done so in a hope that she would provide him with some sort of job since he had been recommended to her by Sada, a dear friend of his and also a close companion of Leelabai who had a very few close connections in the first place, but after the preliminary questions of his whereabouts and his purpose of coming, she had turned the conversation awfully bitter with her words that seemed to insult him – or for that matter they would have insulted any person who would have made the mistake of walking across her doorstep while looking for a job, and then she had sent a wave of shock through him, leaving him astounded by disclosing the kind of job she had in her mind for him and now, he was still trying to recover himself from the temerity of her thought, his mind firmly believing that she was making some unusual sort of joke, looking for the sardonic air about her tone.

“You came to me because you needed work. I never called you and yet, because there is a generous heart within me, I’m offering you the best I can. Take it or leave it”, she said with a faint aura of impatience in  her voice.

As a reply, Sanju only shifted his gaze from the dirty floor beneath his feet to the doorstep and rested it on a cheap pair of sandals. He adored the quietness of the room at that moment because even if it didn’t soothe his heart, it gave him a few moments to revive himself from having to hear Leelabai’s continuous, almost lingering voice. Such moments were rare when one had to communicate with a woman like Leelabai and Sanju, realizing it only at that instant, hurriedly ceased to soak himself in the quietness and had just begun asking his mind if he was in the right place when Leelabai said in a rather stern tone, “Sanjeev, stop thinking like a fool. Tell me your decision, quick.”

This was a little startling for Sanju who had immersed half of his mind in a stream of thoughts. However, he quickly collected himself on hearing Leelabai’s words.

“Sada said you had a job for me… so… I..thought..” he stammered.

“What were you expecting? You thought I would give you a job to sweep and wipe my floors? How silly an expectation from me! I’m generous and I pity you but that doesn’t mean I am not the Leelabai you have heard of. If you want to work here, you have to obey my orders like a dog!!” she roared.

Sanju, just a little vexed now, looked about her in a miserable fashion for he was scared that exhibiting the anger on his face might make this woman a tad more stone-hearted. The heat of the afternoon, now seeping in through the walls of the room, now unbearable, had dabbed him  in sweat, making him uncomfortable like all trifles leave a man when he finds himself in the midst of an undesirable conversation. He tried to impede the uneasiness by leaning back on the chair carelessly, without success. But barring this, he did not make a movement more. He sat quietly, not uttering a word, to confront Leelabai’s torrent, waiting in patience to let her understand that he had accepted her supremacy.

A man’s silence is always mysterious for a woman – it makes her restless and in one instance, transforms her heart from one extreme to the other, and that is why Leelabai, in-spite of all the unreasonable fury in her heart, continued in a softer tone, “Sada has told me that the mill where you used to work has been shut down since a couple of months and that you have been at places for getting a job but you had no luck. And now you need money, right?

“Yes”, he muttered.

“Then listen to me carefully”, she said as she produced a paan from a small, round-steel box and placed it in her mouth, “I can help you. I can help you to earn a lot of money unlike other jobs where they only give you a definite salary. I can give you exactly the kind of job you require at this moment. It will benefit both you and me. You only have to follow my instructions and I don’t think that can be a problem right?”

The positiveness in her voice had built a confidence on his face, for he was a man in distress and men in distress are quickly affected by anything that looks affirmative, anything that promises to wipe the misery off their faces – and his heart pounded a beat faster. But in moment the sanity within him brought him to terms with the kind of job he was required to do in return of the money and he shrugged. Clearing his mind and his face of all the evidence that he had been on the verge of agreeing to the offer, he looked at Leelabai hoping that she hadn’t noticed anything on his face. Leelabai, on the other hand, had not just read his face but had also understood that it was time to locate and touch sensitive part of his heart. For she had acquired the art of understanding and manipulating men through the many years she had spent knowing them. She smiled wide, exhibiting her paan-stained teeth, and in a voice as sweet as she could produce, went on, “Even if I’m in this business, I’m also woman and all women have one dream in common – to marry a good man, to settle with him and be a mother. I don’t think anyone has any rights to thwart these dreams from coming to reality. My conditions, absence of my family and therefore an obligation to survive on my own forced me to do this business. It took away my dreams from me – of having a family, of living peacefully and no, I don’t regret a thing but I won’t see some other woman’s dreams being shattered like mine. Certainly not if the reason that keeps them from getting married is something as insignificant as money. Look, Sada has told me everything about you. I know that you have two young, unmarried sisters and that you’re the only breadwinner in your family. I know why you need money. I can understand your desperation to get a job and I want to help you. Do you understand what I’m saying?”

Sanju nodded under the spell of the her words, his face inquisitive to understand her more as a person, as a woman with a heart but his mind still hesitating, still reluctant to accept the job she was offering him.

“Your sisters are not just your responsibility now, I am equally responsible for seeing that they get married in a respectable manner. I will help you earn the money you require to marry them off and ensure that they live comfortably. Think of the joy they would seek in their weddings, think of how proud your mother would feel about you to see that you performed your duty well. If you take this job, it will all come to reality”, Leelabai said, her eyes fixed on Sanju’s and her voice assuring in all manners possible.

He was still quiet, still soaked in his own sweat but now, it didn’t make him uneasy and on the contrary, only seemed to relieve him of the hotness in the atmosphere. ‘Leelabai is certainly right. It is my responsibility to look after my sisters and my mother. They are my family’, he thought.

Another part of his mind however, kept telling him of how he would destroy himself and everything around him in a quest to seek happiness for his family if he followed Leelabai’s instructions. And thus, divided in two, his mind began a debate within itself about whether or not, should he accept Leelabai’s offer. But in events as such, the conscience of a man cannot soothe his misery as much as the facts can worsen it and fact was that his sisters would soon surpass the right age to get married, which is why he was bound to see that they got married soon and in quick succession.

By now, it had dawned up on him that the job would bring down his manhood, it would leave him at the mercy of the cunning woman who sat in front of him and to whom he was still not bound in any manner, that once he accepted her offer, she would immediately make him work like a dog. It dawned upon him that he was heading towards a mistake which would destroy everything and everyone around him and in the process, eventually destroy him. By now, he could clearly see all the things that could go wrong. Only, it was too late.

The misery within him which he had long borne sprang up in a ferocious manner and his heart refused to bear it for another moment, he wanted to shed off all the anxiety which came along with it and the only way he could do that was grasp the first hand of help that he was offered.

“I won’t get such an easy opportunity again”, decided Sanju and at another moment, said out loud, “I am ready.”

A delighted Leelabai stood up quickly and said, “Good. You can begin today. Go to the inner room. I’ll see if I can send someone.”

Sanju did as he was ordered.He sat in that room, hopeless and frightened, his face sunk in his palms. He could hear Leelabai’s voice coming from a distance. She was talking to someone over the phone

“No, no… No girl. Your type person. He is new. You come and see”, she was saying.

Hearing those words, the horror of his job suddenly struck Sanju like a lightning. But then, it was too late. Tears trickled down his cheeks. It was his first day at the brothel.

 

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The Saree

Shanta wrestled with the dirty clothes in her bathroom in a gush of excitement. It was evening, finally. She had been waiting for this part of the day right since she had woken up in the morning. There was a faint line of happiness on her weary face. Her husband had promised her that when he would return from work, he would take her out to buy her a saree. 

She fumbled with the foam on her forehead. She always disliked it when the foam would slip down her forehead all over her face, but today, her mind was too occupied for  trifles like these. She just wanted to finish this last job of the day and get ready to go out. The thoughts of going out were already dancing in her head. Maybe we can eat out today, she thought. It had been a long time since they had eaten out together. This will really be a nice evening, she smiled to herself.

Her little house, though it could barely be called a house for it was just a little room with a roof of hay, looked pretty neat and tidy today in spite of all the large and small things that her husband had gathered together to run a family of two. There was a pile of firewood stacked neatly in a corner, which would otherwise always lie quite scattered. The wall opposite to her looked a little crowded because of the aluminium utensils that stood next to each other in a very congested fashion. The bottoms of most of the utensils had blackened due to a continuous and long term usage, but she had managed to scrape out most of the blackening by washing the utensils twice and wasting a considerable amount of soap and time. Their beds that comprised of two thick and large mats, covered in rags of bed-sheets had been rolled up and pushed against a wall. Then there were two or three sacks full of things like dried coconut skin, plastic bags and tiny bits of clothes all standing tall and still against the little partition that was used as a bathroom.

Charging herself at the washed clothes, she turned and twisted the fabrics several times before putting them on an iron string that hung across the room at a very low height. Then she washed her face and applied a bindi to her forehead. Searching through the darkness in the house, she found her favorite yellow saree in a plastic bag. She smiled at the saree as if it were a person. Wearing this saree, she was going to roam out in the city today. It would be sop much fun, she thought. The kind of yellow the saree bore was a bright, almost gaudy version of the color and it always reminded her of the yellow butterflies that she used to chase in her childhood. The city is the garden, and I am a free flying butterfly, she said to herself and at the very next moment, laughed at her thought. She was just very happy. Quickly, she undressed the thin saree she was wearing and wrapped herself in the yellow one.

Now all that she had to do was wait. And so she did. She sat by the door of the house waiting for him. The lights of the day had already faded and it worried her that her husband wasn’t home yet. He should have arrived by now. Pushing away the worry with a little effort, she tried to think of the saree. There would be sop many shops and so many colors to choose from! What would suit me? A magenta with a golden border line? Or a parrot green one? She knew a few shops where the rates of sarees were the cheapest. She decided that whatever it was, she would decide and buy her saree as quickly as possible because if she took long, she wouldn’t get much time to roam on the streets and other places of the huge city. She thought intently over the little conflict in her mind – should she eat a bhelpuri or a chaat? Or both? The thought of all that spicy food excited her. If her husband was in good spirits, she would also convince him to get her an ice-cream. The evening would be a beautiful one, away from the daily evenings spent in the presence of a dim bulb and a lot of mosquitoes. She decided that they would also go to some supermarket just to walk on the glossy tiles and feel the luminous and therefore, luxurious atmosphere around them. She loved doing that. It gave her a feeling of immense pleasure. It had been a long time since she had been out in the bright of the city. It would of course be a little set back for their tight income that came from the labors of her husband as a mason, but it was the kind of evening that she had awaited for months and she didn’t want it to slip from her hands at any cost. A few moments more and she was going to own that evening. 

By the time she was pulled out of her thoughts by the barking of stray dogs, it was already dark. She got up and switched on the bulb, and placed a little lamp in front of the deity that their community worshiped. Just as she was sitting in front of the lamp with closed eyes and folded hands, she sensed some movement behind her back. Opening her eyes and turning around, she saw her husband smiling at her. She smiled back.

“Where were you all this time? I have been waiting. We have to go to buy the saree”, she chirped in excitement.

“Yes, yes, I know”, he said, still smiling, “and guess why was I late? Okay close your eyes.”

As she closed her eyes, he placed a small plastic packet in her hands. She knew what was it. Opening her eyes, she saw what she feared. It was a saree. A rich-magenta colored saree with golden borders. Just as she had wanted it. It was beautiful but shed couldn’t really seem to observe that at this moment.

“Isn’t it nice?” he asked, changing his clothes, “anyway, what is cooking for dinner?”

But Shanta couldn’t hear him. clenching the saree in her hands, she kept looking outside the door at the huge lights of the city that never seemed to fade.

The Obscure Thief

Karim Mulla stood still and sweating on a quiet evening – for all evenings were quiet in this particular area of Shastrinagar, unsure about what would happen to him next.

“You tried to steal again?” the police-constable screamed as he sent his fist diving in Karim’s stomach.

As a reply, Karim only moaned in pain looking at the constable in a helpless manner – as if he was pleading the constable to read the guilt on his face.

The constable was a stout man with a heavy mustache. He believed that the mustache added an aura of some unknown yet strong attribute to his personality with which he could impose himself up on his fellow mortals – which happened to be an important part of his job. For in a city as chaotic as Kolhapur where one had to deal with numerous men, all backed by trifle amounts of political power in some or the other way and yet all of whom were mere cowards if you stranded them on a deserted street to deal with a situation on their own, an imposing charm of the police uniform, a stick and a mustache was quite enough to leave them under the impression that the law was stronger than them. That is to say, everything was in place and peace resided in the city more or less like it would in any other common developing city anywhere across the globe.

It wasn’t therefore, a trouble for the constable to deal with people like Karim and in fact he sought pleasure in dealing with such men for it gave him a feeling that he was doing some real work unlike his fellow constables who, in these days of elections, had to got to places everyday to keep a watch over public gatherings and political speeches.

“Did you try to steal this man’s bicycle?” the constable pitched his voice again , this time mechanically as if he was rehearsing a scene from a play of some sort, and again hit Karim in the stomach without waiting for a reply.

It won’t have been wrong to say that Karim had no stomach, for where people usually had big, protruding bellies, Karim barely had skin to cover the hollow between his ribs. He was a petty thief and anyone could tell that at the mere sight of him for on his dirt-smeared, blackened face, he constantly carried an expression that was a mixture of a little grief and a lot of anxiety – like he considered himself inferior to everything and everyone that his eyes saw, like he was vulnerable to them.

But when the constable pulled out from his pocket a pair of shiny, steely handcuffs, for they were rarely used, in a great pride, the anxiety on Karim’s face vanished and was quickly replaced by some sort of feeling that could not, in any manner be called joyous but it sure was better than anxiety, something just a little more heartening than what he had borne for such a long time. Of course no one seemed to notice it because there were only three people at the scene – the constable, the bicycle owner and Karim out of whom, the constable was busy listening to the bicycle owner about the account of theft not only because it was his job but also because Karim’s ways were pretty amusing and otherwise quite foolish even for a petty thief of the least acquired skill set. 

“Come with me to the police station, inspector sahib would want your sign”, the constable ordered the bicycle owner after having amused himself to a good extent with the details of Karim’s unsuccessful theft.

*

“Sir, it’s Karim again”, the constable declared as he entered the police station in a certain amount of pride with his entourage – Karim and the cycle owner, following him.

The inspector looked at Karim in a cold fashion. To this, the momentous reaction of Karim was only a transformation of the feeling he carried in his heart – the warmth of some kind which, only he knew why, had resided within him was quickly reclaimed by the anxiety that he never seemed to get rid of. But of course the inspector didn’t notice it and it would have been wrong to expect such a busy person to observe so trifle a change in a petty thief, for the inspector was indeed a busy man. There was always a stack of files on his desk that never seemed to decrease and he sought a great pleasure in burying his head amidst the large piles of papers because it made him look like a working officer, a thing that, he believed, left a good impression on anyone who happened to visit his police-station.

And so he was – buried in the files as usual when the trio had arrived. He turned to the bicycle owner and in a tone as serious as possible, said, “Sit down and tell me what happened,”

The cycle-owner pulled a chair and sitting on it’s edge, began, “Sahib, I had parked my bicycle outside my house and was having the evening tea when I heard the ringing of the bicycle’s bell. I knew it was my cycle’s sound because the bell makes a peculiar sound that I can recognize quickly. I thought it must be some child from the neighborhood and when I rushed out for scolding them as I usually do, I saw this man,” he continued pointing to Karim, “he was trying to break my cycle’s lock with a stone and at the same time he was constantly ringing the cycle’s bell as if he was testing it. When he saw me, he quickly withdrew his hand from the bell and began hitting the lock with even more might. In two seconds at-the-most, I got hold of his shirt’s collar and then he began screaming and begged me not to beat him but to hand him over to the police. I was going to bring him here when this constable sahib saw the commotion and took over the thief.”

The inspector threw a long, thoughtful glance at Karim, then he sighed and handing the bicycle owner a notebook, said, “Please sign here. We will see what is to be done with the thief.” The bicycle owner, as if he was eager to hear these very words, signed in the notebook and thanking both the officers concerned, left in a hurry.

The inspector sat idle for a while, leaving both the constable and the thief in a motionless silence waiting for his orders. Karim, by sheer experience and practice, was now well aware of all the things he had to do and not do in order to save himself from getting beaten up by the police.

“Did you try to steal the bicycle?” the inspector asked in a calm manner, his eyes fixed on Karim.

“Yes”, Karim replied quickly.

“This is the tenth time that you have been brought here like this, do you know that?” the inspector questioned again.

“Yes”, Karim muttered.

The inspector threw up his bulky arms behind his head.

“So you ought to understand”, he said, leaning back on his chair, “you ought to understand that you cannot steal. You cannot be a thief. You’re too foolish for that. Why do you even try? I understand that you are homeless. If you stay on the streets, you can feed yourself anyhow. There are a lot of things you can do to feed yourself. Don’t do this. If you promise me that you won’t steal again, I can leave you now.”

Karim, anxious and uneasy, stood with his head hung down in silence.

“Do you promise me?” the inspector asked, a little impatiently this time.

Karim stood like a statue, not a word coming from him. Irritated, the inspector spat a curse and signaled the constable to lock him up. The constable pushed Karim in a cell that was empty except for a drunkard who lied motionless in a damp corner. 

Karim sat comfortably with his back against the wall, neglecting the strong odor of the drunkard’s urination. He looked as if he was ready to pounce up on something. And although the inspector was looking at Karim intently, he failed to observe this change on the thief’s face.

Burying his head in the files which happened t be his favorite activity, he pondered over the thief’s obscurity. Why does he do this? he thought, and was suddenly seized by a motive – to find out why Karim acts in a manner so difficult to understand. With his eyes fixed on a file that lied on his desk, his mind went from one possibility to another, he thought deep about infinite reasons as to why would Karim behave in such a foolish manner but alas! None seemed to satisfy him. Exhausted, yes sometimes implausible thoughts do leave a man exhausted, he looked at the large clock on the wall and ordered to no one in particular, “Feed them!”

Hearing those words, Karim began tapping his fingers against the floor and turned to look at the drunkard in the corner who was sleeping like a log. It relieved him to see his cell-mate asleep. As a constable brought a plate of stale chapatis and banged it on the floor inside the cell, Karim’s eyes gleamed.

The inspector, still thinking of Karim, tried to find an answer to the question that had resided in his mind since a while now: “Why would Karim act like this?”

Scratching his round belly, he looked at Karim who was now engrossed in the glorious act of eating, and mumbled to himself, “So obscure.”

She

She stood near the deserted bus-stop looking for signs of human intervention. It was already almost midnight and at an hour like this, there were very little chances that someone would get off a bus. She was aware that no one would understand her motive of being there at such an hour and and anyone would be surprised or rather scared to see her standing at a deserted place like this. It was dark and the moon hid behind the huge tree that shadowed the bus-stop. Under such circumstances, she could have easily walked up to someone and asked for money and she knew she would get it easily for no one would want to invite a trouble of an unusual kind at a time as now.

But in her heart, she knew that she wouldn’t do anything of that sort because she didn’t want to beg. There were days when she used to make a lot of money just on the mere demand of it, but looking at people’s reactions while taking it, she had learnt that if it did anything to her, it disgraced her. It had occurred to her that she was as healthy and in as good spirits as was anyone else. Yes, in some ways, she was special, but she had never thought that it would thwart her efforts to live like another working person. And so, it was decided – she would look for a job.

Right since the morning, she had been at places, met many people and asked them if they had a job for her, only to get a sardonic ‘no’. No one seemed to see this honest wish for her. Everywhere she went, she was mocked and driven away, some people even offered her money, but that was that. There was no job. This routine had continued for many days and today, it had been no different. There was an intense, sharp bout of pain about her whole body due to the many kilometers she had walked but this agony of her body was overshadowed by another feeling that had risen like a giant within her. She was hungry. All the money that she had been offered and that she had rejected throughout the day flashed in her head and for that one moment, she regretted her decision. But the next instance, the fierce force of Mars stood up again and she whispered her thought to herself, “I will keep trying. I know what is to be done now.”

The screeching sound of a bus braked her thoughts. She looked up and saw the two big headlights of a bus getting bigger and bigger. She gulped. Maybe someone would get down here, she thought, and before she could happily realise it, the bus halted at the bus-stop noisily and a man jumped down from it. As the bus moved away, she called him in a hoarse voice, “Sahib….”
The man was a little surprised and scared for he hadn’t seen her. As he turned towards her, she walked closer to him. In the moon-light, he could see a fix-feet tall lady with rough features smiling at him. He took a step backwards and reached for his wallet.

“Go away, don’t come near me!!” he shrieked. 

And the hijra (eunuch) said, “Sahib, I’ll do it like a lollipop, behind that tree sahib, please.”

The Little Girl

“I beg you sahib, please, I need only twenty thousand rupees. I don’t have anything else to give you sahib. Please, my wife is dying”, the man said with folded hands.

His daughter looked at him in disbelief. She had never seen her father so miserable and so weak. He had always been her savior, hero and had always taught her that she should never beg for anything. And today, the same man was begging for a thing of the least importance –  money. Yes, for her father had imbibed on her mind that money is never important and that important things like people, relations and trust can never be bought with money, she had grown to believe that money must be after all, very insignificant. He believed that all these little things compiled one’s life. And since she knew all these things and more about her father, what she beheld was a little puzzling to her tiny brain. How could her father just forget all those lessons he had taught her and behave like this right in front of her? Moreover, what was he going to give in exchange of twenty thousand rupees? They were penniless people with nothing to sell or mortgage. She wondered what could it be. It must be something significant, she thought. Because this man whom they had come to meet seemed greedy and he would not spend twenty thousand rupees on something worth it. He would want more.

The man scratched his huge beard and looked at her father. He seemed unhappy with whatever deal they had brought to him. Her father however, regardless of whether his counterpart was happy or not, still kept begging with a web of worries on his face and tears in his eyes. He suddenly looked so old. She pitied him and wished that she could help him in some or the other manner. The huge beard was scratched again. This time, his response was a little positive. With a thoughtful nod, he looked at her and smiled. It wasn’t exactly a warm smile, but it wasn’t cold either. It was just a smile shot for the sake of smiling. She didn’t smile back at him because she knew that if kids don’ t smile, it doesn’t look impolite. Then, he smiled at her father and pulled out a large wad of money from his pocket.  As he began counting it, she held her breath. Twenty thousand rupees. Her father had never owned so much cash ever. She thought of all the things she could do with the money. Of course her mother’s medicines were important, but she could still ask her father to get her an ice-cream or candies. He loved her a lot and she knew that he could get that much for her. While she was still engaged in these thoughts, the frugal man finally seemed ready to had over the cash. As he put the money in he father’s hands, her father thanked him and with folded hands, genuflected before him. Then he looked at her and began crying like a small kid. She couldn’t understand why was he being so emotional.

And then, the greedy man advanced towards her and held her hand. His grip was casual yet firm.  She couldn’t understand what was going on, but when he pulled her and began taking her across the room, she knew what had happened. She was small, but she cold understand things as such. She smiled at her father and without another glance at him, followed the greedy man calmly, the satisfaction of helping her father visible on her face.

*

This story happens over and over again not just in India, but all around the world. This Children’s Day, let us all do our bit to spread the awareness against child trafficking because it can make the change. 

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Priorities

she looked at him through the silence that had filled the room. There was a storm in her mind but her face bore a calmness that veiled it all. Within her heart, she had waged a royal battle between her two selves.

Do I love him?

“Yes”, one part of her said.

Then should I marry him?

“No. That would be stupid”, another voice within her shrieked.

She looked at him again, this time with some sympathy. He was a romantic fool and she knew it right since the beginning. The anxiety that had enveloped him was visible to her and the crispy sepia of the rainy afternoon made him look sadder. She didn’t know what was she supposed to do with him.

It had been another normal day for her since the afternoon until this man had knocked her door in the afternoon. She had been taken aback at the sight of him. It was dangerous for both of them and yet, he had dared knocking her door at such a busy, bright hour of the day. She had asked him to go away and yet, he had persisted her that he wanted to come in and talk.  It was then that he had asked her to go with him.

“Where?” she had laughed wondering it was another one-day trip at some hill station or some place like that.  They had done that far many times. He loved hill stations and she loved to snuggle with him in the bed. But this time, it wasn’t what she had expected.

“Let’s run away”, he was saying.
“Why? And where?” she had been confused.

She wasn’t very pleased to know that he wanted to run away with her because his parents wanted him to marry a girl they knew, very soon. She loved him and even if he married another woman, it wasn’t a problem for her and she had told him so.
“What? Don’t you love me? Why won’t you come with me?” he was asking.

“I love you. But you know that we cannot run away. I’s not that easy for either of us. We have things to look after. Why can’t we stay this way even after you get married?” she asked.

“No. I can’t do that. I need you to be mine. I can’t stand the thought of loving you so secretly in the shadows of fear like this. Like thieves. I want the world know that we are in love”, he said in a shrill voice that gradually grew louder and frail. She was silent again. She didn’t know what to say.

“I have been through a lot of things. I have waited for you all my life. Why? To hear you say this? I always thought we would get married like other people. But you didn’t stand up for it. You married someone else. I don’t mind that but I want you to come with me now. Let’s run away”, he continued in a pathetic, desperate manner, “please”.

She didn’t know when were her eyes moist but she made sure that he didn’t notice it.  She loved him sure, but the thought of running away with him was unappealing to her. Why was it necessary to get married to him? Or even running away as he demanded. Was it necessary? Why wasn’t just love enough?

She wanted all these answers and more but she knew he hadn’t got them. His sanity had left him long ago and all that was left behind was a man who would go to any measures to acquire what he wanted. She couldn’t choose from the two most important things in her life – love and responsibilities. She couldn’t just put away what she had been doing for three years and run away with him. It was too stupid for her. She had set a proper pattern of her life. Every day, every moment he was away, she had a lot many things to do. That was the continuous stream of her life. Like the rainy-days are adored because they stay for just a few months, she adored him and his company because it was a change for her. 

Living with him forever would have bored her of the sweet nothings and his presence throughout the day. With these thoughts, something struck her. She realized that what she misinterpreted as love was mere leisure. She was with him just for the sake of good times. And that leisure was the very thing that made him special for her. He rescued her from the plain, boring life that she went through every day. It was the cycle of her life and cutting off that cycle would mean the end of his role in this play. She looked at him with pity. He was really, honestly in love with her. It was tougher for her now. She couldn’t tell him what she had realized. She couldn’t tell him that she didn’t love him. It was too late now. She looked at the expectations that were displayed naked on his face and broke down in to tears.

“I love you. My life begins with you and ends with you”, he said as he saw her weeping.

She was crying more like a woman than like a girl. It carried some sense. After a while, with a determination on her face, she wiped her tears with the end of her saree and composed herself.

“There is just one option left”, she said looking at the balcony calmly. For the first time in his life, he looked at her with a hesitant shade in his eyes but at the very next moment, he gulped and said, “Let’s go.”

She pulled him by his hand and kissed him. Without letting her control over her senses slip, she pushed him away and headed towards the balcony. He held her hand and said, “I cannot see you dying. Let me go first. I love you.”

And without waiting for a reply, he turned to the balcony. She was mesmerized looking at him climb the parapet. He turned, smiled weakly and before she could have another moment to look at him, his body tossed in to the air and went down, out of her sight. She could hear a sound of a little crash and then, the chaos of people. 

“Call a doctor!” someone was saying.

“Stay away! It’s a police matter”, another voice cried.

In the midst of all these voices and the blankness that had taken over her mind, something caught her attention. The huge clock on the building that stood opposite to her tolled loudly telling the world that it was 6 in the evening. The skies looked reddish but weren’t really rainy and the weather seemed good.

Life was suddenly so crystal clear. She breathed in the cool air and closed her eyes.

She knew her husband would be back any moment. He loved having a cup of tea as soon as he walked in the house.