Smrithi stepped out of the building. The air air outside was cool which embraced her and wiped off her fatigue. Her legs and hands were stiff and to unwind them she sauntered forward. Crossing the cement courtyard she reached the garden in front of the building. The garden invited her eyes to a feast of fresh flowers; the jasmines and the chrysanthemums broke forth the previous night. The sky was a display of white filigrees on a blue canvass and the moon was shimmering down through silvery clouds.
She heard the crunching of sands under cab wheels and flurry of footsteps. The contracted cab had arrived to shift a batch of modern India’s nocturnal techno slaves back to their quarters. The night shift was difficult in the beginning, refashioning biological and emotional habits wasn’t easy, but now easily the habits changed; its money, look at the have-nots, those who starve, what all reflective thoughts were brought forward by the mind machinery to justify everything. What’s life more than those justifications, after all?
The driver parked the cab in front of the building and gave a horn, which echoed through the silence in the courtyard. She walked a few meters to climb it.
The cab droned along a street-network of first world standard. The streets were wide and traffic controlled by robots. The skyscrapers on both sides of the streets stood in relaxed ambiance, their glass facades gleaming in streetlights. The skyscrapers were of late arrivals. From an aerial view of the city they appeared a cluster of jewels wrapped in a shattered rug. Inside the jewels the rank and file of a techno-colony flexed their slave muscles, 24/7.
The cab was soon filled with a musty smell of sleep, yawns, snorts, snores, murmurings and giggling. The giggling came from the young love-struck pairs who were enjoying the cab trip. Smrithi slid the cab’s glass window to let in fresh air.
The cab fell into a gutter; it happened daily as a pedantic ritual of an early morning prayer. The gutter marked the line of demarcation between the techno first world ambiance and the third world mush.
Then on, the cab rattled, coughed and spat out its gut wastes along state roadways, and narrow streets that crisscrossed the city’s residential hubs. The cab driver hurled insults at a pedestrian who ran onto the cab like a comet. Dense air gushed into the inside of the cab from residential areas. It reeked of stench, old and fresh.
‘How is everything with you, dear?’’ Malathi asked from next seat. By the time she had fallen onto the seat, sleep had almost consumed her and now she was awake. Malathi was her best friend.
‘’Yesterday, he must have killed me’’ Smrithi mumbled. ‘’Was waiting for me at home to start another round of fight.’’
‘’Asshole, who would feed him, if he kills you?’’
‘’He needs money, my full salary. Comes month end, I drop it in front of him.’’
‘’So that he can finish it in two days!’’
‘’He hit me all over.’’ Tears tickled down her eyes. Malathi wiped them off with a paper tissue pulled from her bag.
‘’Took some painkiller?’’
‘’This cannot go on like this, my dear. I don’t want to hear, one day, something terrible happened to you. Have you eaten something?’
‘Not feel hungry’. Malathi pulled a ripe plantain from her bag and dropped it before her and said, ‘eat this’.
‘‘I’ll eat at home…’’ She put the banana into her bag.
‘’Did you give him the salary?’
‘’Then he’ll be waiting for you today.’’
Smrithi looked on to the people walking along the road.
‘’Drop in at my place’’.
’’Oh no, your husband, I don’t want to add to your own troubles.’’
‘’The devil went to see his mother.’’
They dropped together at Malathi’s place, a two bedroom flat in a noisy area.
‘’How’s Vaisali?’’ When they stepped into the living room, Smrithi asked.
‘’She’s not happy there.’’ Malathi sank into a sofa, slapping her head with both palms. ‘’Its closer to her school is the only consolation.’’
Smrithi went to the bath and switched on the shower. Water blades opened up her body wounds and she felt being pulled through a set of grinder blades. He had been throwing her head against the wall and she lost a lot of blood. Her hair was matted in the blood. Water softened the blood and turned into gory streams before disappearing into the shower drain. Joining the streams were her tears and sobbing.
She shuddered back when the shattered mirror in Malathi’s dressing room reflected her bloody body. Malathi’s husband had thrashed the mirror the previous week, her penniless husband who lived on her.
Malathi made egg sandwiches and coffee for breakfast, which they ate together in silence.
Smrithi rested on a sofa in the sitting room to get some sleep. But, she wasn’t able to sleep. A flurry of memories and guilt buzzed through her head.
(Will continue in part -2)