The Woman's Heart - contd
by Krishna Chaitanya
Back to Page 1 of the story
Hastily, Gowri rushed into the kitchen, lit-up the stove, placed a bowl over the fire, poured half-a-glass of water, one-and-a-half teaspoon of tea powder, and allowed it to boil for a while. In the meantime, she pasted ginger and tossed it into the boiling liquid; increased the fire by turning the controller, allowed it to boil for a while. Followed by half-a-glass of milk, poured two tea-spoons full of sugar. Left the mixture boiled for few more minutes, until it raised to the rim; she reduced the fire intensity, so the racing mixture calmed and toppled down back to the floor of the bowl, hastily. Now and then, repeated, like a child's play. Finally tea was prepared for uncle Prakash.
Clutched a silver glass, which must be about two hundred mille-liters capacity, Gowri filled it with tea about to the brim.
"Gowri," anew the cry came, but smoothly. "Is it ready?"
"Ha..." she replied. "I'm coming."
Before confronting her uncle, she adjusted her sari perfectly coiling around the waist and then across the back and again rolled around, such that not a single part of her body visible, except those bare hands full of bangles below the ankles, and the popped-out beautiful and blissful face drooping over the silver glass in her hand, grasped with the edge of the sari; and moved deliberately into the master bedroom, where uncle Prakash was laying on the bed like a tired dog.
On her appearance, he raised all of a sudden and sat erectly, though no support he had to his backbone. She handed over the silver glass clutched by the cloth across, till then.
"Careful, uncle," warned she. "Sizzling hot."
"Thank you, ma."
Nobody knew how a cup of tea healed-up aching of a head. But it did to Prakash, for all the belief he had, either in the mixture of the milk and the water, or the magical tea powder which he had been watching regularly in the advertisement amid the breaks of his watchful daily serial, or the ginger-effect, or for this special tonic made by the pure hands of his good daughter-in-law. Not just for supposed, nor a joke it was, but the glass full of tea healed-up aching of his head. And The Goodness should've known, 'how?'
Whilst Gowri served tea to her uncle, another cry she listened, this time not a request but something like a command, "Gowri, coffee."
Pretty familiar this cry. Very close to her heart, the figure from where the yell came and had have been sharing a bedroom daily with--yes--it was him--Rahul--her only husband.
"Two minutes..." she said aloud and ran back to the place, where most of her daytime connected with--the little, dreary and messy kitchen.
Coffee was prepared and she didn't much bother about the placement of the sari. She was quite tranquil with the partly visible waist, tumbling sweat onto the blouse through the naked neck, a fixed smile over the rose-lips. She went into the other bedroom where her husband laid on the bed.
The little Shiva who was sitting in a couch in the living room, bemused and staring at the ajar door. He listened a knock at the front door. He opened and saw a stranger.
"Please sit down," he whispered showing him the couch where he sat till now and said the next sentence aloud. "Aunty, some uncle came." For which Gowri stooped her head through the half closed bedroom door. When she came out, little Shiva saw her with her sari rolled around the body and across the head, so that only the face and the wrists were visible for any normal human eyes. Little Shiva perplexed.
"Shiva!" cried Gowri loudly. "Shiva!" For which he came live. "Are you asleep?" she said.
"Sorry, aunty. I was--"
"Where did you all these years?"
"Ah... you know my heart, don't you?"
"A girl's?" she said and smiled. "Now it must be a woman's."
"For never," cried the young man. "It's a man's now... Tough and solid."
"Ha ha..." Laughed the lady and said, "so what to do with the matter of vanishing away from home?"
"I had lived around a bunch of ladies--aunts, sisters cousins--all elder to me, for lacking one lady--mamma," said Shiva. "They were good-natured. They were dispersing all the love my mamma didn't give. But they were too much cared about me. Too much worried about me. They
thought a boy without a mom, would be a boy who could easily spoil. So they didn't send me anywhere. They eyed me night and day. They kept me quiet. They made me soft."
"So, I decided to discover a man's heart. I ran to far places. I struggled now and then, here and there. Strange, the places. Strange, the languages. Strange, the food and culture. Years had passed. The coating of softness broken and broken. And I found it."
"But..." said he, indistinctly. "I missed all the people here. And the dispersing love of them."
"I forgot, why I am here."
"Do you know why my sister, Geeta decided to settle in foreign? And not in touch with any of us?"
"That's a big story," she said post a long puff. "But in short, because of your cousin."
He left the place, hastily and walked down the road and then to the backyard in his house. He sat on a fallen wood and thinking, deeply. But nothing stroke, a memory. Thinking and thinking all through the hour.
In the evening of the very day, he was walking in the porch, to and fro, like a pendulum, folding his hands to his back. Now saw a man who must be in early thirties, at a distance, on a terrace, romancing a girl who might be half of his age. The man's face was quite familiar. Familiar than his own. The deadliest pain started in his head. The horrific stabbing with a dagger, in the man's heart. Now tearing, now shearing.
Afresh a stain of an old shadow sputtered. But the nastiest shadow of all.
Raised their chins up, walking down the ground, staring at the stooping mangoes which were too young to pick, yet curiously tempting the smell and drooping down and offering a bite; whilst a figure appeared beside them, tall and big, staring at the breasts of Geeta.
"Beautiful mangoes," he said.
"Brother!" said Shiva.
"Don't call me brother. How many times, should I warn you?"
"But you are our brother, behave yourself," cried Geeta.
"How on earth I'm brother to you?" said the big man. "Did your mom shared the other side of the blanket with my papa?" He gave a ghostly smile, as he spoke.
"We share a common surname," cried Shiva.
"For what?" the big man laughed. "Did you both born in our bedroom?"
"But you are our brother," cried Geeta.
"So, if not brother, is it fine for you?" said he, whilst clutched one of the breasts of the young girl, with his tough fingers, for which she jumped at once and ran, sobbing. Shiva stood still, not moved a pace, staring at the big, tall man who was relishing himself as if just now seen the edges of the heaven, not bothering the little tame boy standing in front, whose eyes bearing sizzling tears. But nothing could he do, the little boy, Shiva. All he got a classic, subcontinent heart of a country-side girl. He could only wept and wept and wept, all the night and day, till the flashes of the memories would die or faded away by, and sheathed up by, new memories.
Many such dreadful memories lingering in his head, where all the characters were the same.
"A man's heart, now," he said to himself aloud. "A man's heart."
A dagger he concealed in a sheath and pushed in his belt, over which the shirt flapping around. Fuming face it was, now. Racing heart and boiling blood, they had befallen. The sweat slumped over his forehead, toppled on his chests, within had a man's heart (as he said).
He jumped from the porch on a pile of sand. Then walked hastily towards Shyam's house. Once reached there, no need to knock at the front door, as it was ajar. Deliberately he stepped inside, like a petite cat. Crouched his head and turned either side. But he was appalled glancing at the unmoved body resting in the hall, from a distance he quiet imagining who it would be? Then the blue shirt that reminded himself the great idiot whom he saw a while ago, lying on the floor vulnerably, as the blood bleeding out twitchily. And the young girl disappeared.
Shiva called the ambulance and heaved the body on to the stretcher. He saved his life. "The woman's heart, it is. Always," he thought.***