By: Maya Unnikrishnan
She waited for him. He was coming home after 25 years.
She has changed, not the woman he brought home .She had that unsure gait in his presence, as though wanting to be there yet uncertain. He would wait for her to finish her chores. She would stand there next to the grinding stone and when he called out would slowly walk towards the room where they slept at night.
Today as she sat on the stone steps, she glanced at her feet . Her toe ring was there , tight on her toe . Her sari was new and she bought it just yesterday. He was coming and she wanted to look new . They told her he wouldn’t recognize her. She has changed so much, they said .All these years she never once went to see him. She heard about him from his brother.
As she sat there she tried to remember his face, scarred by the sun, his callused hands when they held her last, his eyes moist when he left her. She remembered a mole just above his cheek. Once she had picked at it playfully and he winced as it hurts him . It was lucky his mother told her. He would become a very big man, famous in the village and people would respect him , she told her proudly . She never picked at the mole again.
Today she cooked Ragi and meat. It was simmering in the pot and the smell of meat smothered in spices reached her nostrils .She took a deep breath. Let it simmer she thought like herself all these years simmering.
The sun was shining brightly . She didn’t want to get up and go inside, today she didn’t want to hide from the sun and its relentless heat . Her toe ring glistened . She wiped her face with her saree . It felt cool and soft .
The fields behind were parched , a land ravaged by gashes. Nothing grew , it was no use . It was not so before. Water was plenty and the fields were filled with swaying crops . Both of them would work in the field side by side . He would take the paddy to the market the next morning and return home late at night . She would have finished all her chores and would wait by the grinding stone for him to call her.
That night he didn’t come, she waited and then his friend came. He sat down on the verandah. She stood behind the door. He said her husband would be late tonight as he got held up at the market. He asked him to wait at the house as she was alone. She asked him if he wanted any food. He said no he had eaten and he sat there . She went inside and sat by the grinding stone. The night seemed to stretch. She was nodding off when she felt a hand on her shoulder . It was dark as the kerosene lamp had extinguished. He held her to him and tore at her clothes , she knew something was wrong. She struggled to get out of his hold and fell down hitting the grinding stone.
He came the next morning and called out to her, this time she sat there by the grinding stone and didn’t move. He came in and helped her get up .Gently washed her face and hands. He took the grinding stone in one hand and with the other dragged the bloodied man to the verandah. He couldn’t recognize his friend. The face was smashed and a mess. He turned back and looked at her. The police took him away that afternoon.
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