A Normal House
A Normal House
It all began when ma told me not to come out of the room at night, and even if I hear a scuffle or loud noise, I should hide under the blanket until the noise recedes, and that’s exactly what I did.
After 11 pm each night I keep hearing voices and which lasted for a few minutes and reduces
Some days there are no voices, I hear monster speak, and in a low voice and completely goes off at the dead of the night,
Ma told me life is hard only you believe it to be, I never understood what she means, I go to school during the day and do the errands at night
Father is never home, she mentioned he works in the gulf and comes rarely at home and sends money for my school. I am particularly bright in studies but the need to have a father who will drop me home and take care of me and ma, I can only muse
I have grown up looking at how a woman adjusts herself in a male-centric world, and I don’t look like a grown-up, I am 13 years of age- even to lift a cylinder ma takes help, this helplessness is growing inside of me, I sometimes wonder whether I can stretch myself into a grown-up
I hated night, particularly weekends when few men would come home and talk all night without any concern when they should stop-
One day I saw a man, came inside and sprawled on my bed, he smelt of shit and puke.
In a fit of rage, I kicked him and he fell making a screeching sound.
After that day I did not hear anyone coming on weekends,
Even in school, no one knew whether I have a family, during the parent-teacher meeting they look askance at mom and somewhat accept her as a parent
But the school fees get paid.
I will be home alone when mom stays out at night, I got used to it, as she sleeps all day after coming in the morning, people in the vicinity stare at me like I am an alien who landed, and murmuring amongst each other.
Half of my childhood went without to be around good friends, they all avoid me for some reason
Except for Rajan, he recently joined school but after a week he stopped talking too.
The burden of being a kid but acting an adult is difficult, mom invites a few of her friends at home and they all look shiny and weird like they know too much and never were kids,
Judging by the kind of questions they ask,
You look handsome, and sometimes you have a broad nose- it’s something I avoid answering or even to agree with.
One night mom arrived with a swollen face, and slapped me when I came near for the aid; the next day she apologized and we completely forgot about it like it never happened
My home was strange, and childhood more so because normalcy was out of the picture and even everything goes normal I will find it hard.
Normal days would be a boring day for me- because each day without any chaos feels empty.
One fine day I saw mom sitting on the bed ruminating, it was melancholic; the way she held the end of the sari, and her legs were dangling on the bed. I was growing up in puberty the hormones fired up, and for the first time I gazed at her she looked gorgeous, and when I gaped at her through the eyes of a man it made me feel guilty, it took me some time to break the pattern of gazing.
Few girls visited home, one of them was Champa, she wore dark lipstick like she is a part of a metal band- but ma mentioned she works with her, oftentimes I came face to face but I jabbered and sometimes I espied her and she smiled looking back,
Her appearance is sly and I wondered what role she played on ma’s life, one day while coming from the market I saw her in a brawl with a guy which created hullabaloo in the market
I shunned her – and went away.
Ma would never discuss what she does outside, and why some people revere her and some abhor,
The language to which she spoke it can hurt and burn you from inside, I was afraid of her, she even drank toddi and but hardly spoke after coming home
One day while I was studying in the evening, cops came home and asked about her whereabouts,
I responded she is at work, the cops dashed out, this was the first time I spoke to a cop so close, and I knew there is a danger on the other side, my legs shivered and I couldn’t sleep, kept turning on the bed,
That’s when I saw ma arrived; she looked calm but exhausted-
After explaining, she retorted it’s sorted and caressed my back and went to sleep
I could never forget the look in the eye, it has something more than her, and it was the worst day of her life.
The next day I woke with clamor outside the house-a dead body was lying outside as I came near to it.
It was Champa who got killed last night by an unidentified man- she is getting stabbed with a knife 8 times, a dead body looks peaceful because for the first time I saw her face dropping an act,
She looked innocent
They cremated the body, and the autopsy revealed she got raped and strangled- this murder led to a protest which ma initiated, I got worried about her life – and what will happen to me if she is gone,
Crowds gathered but no authority paid heed and all these pushed aside by swinging sticks to the protesters, such mendicants keeps dying- the cops murmured
One week passed and even the protesters forgot about the case, they resumed working.
I was preparing for my exams, and it was hard for me to concentrate because the number of visitors who came to see ma, kept asking about me which was annoying and stupid,
They all smell of high pitched perfumes and some chew pan and still utter words lest it sounds gibberish
It was disturbing for me, my studies getting affected,
Without further ado, I decided I will study at my friend's place, thereon each evening I studied there, they made me tea each time I came, the moral underpinning of the house was beautiful, I saw his father watching the news and his mom run errands, I don’t know it all looked so normal.
Once in awhile his father will crack a joke and the whole family would burst in laughter, I missed a normal household, hence I looked forward to visiting his home and on few nights I did a sleepover
But ma didn’t like me going there often, and she even told me she will ensure he will get a separate room,
What she did not understand I needed home not house
Exams got over, and this was my board and I cleared with good numbers now I can attend a reputed college,
My friends family cooked biryani and gave us treat, it seems to me, they began treating me as their own child, I liked them, it felt safe but I also know ma loves me a lot,
I showed her my marks, without looking at it, I am proud of you, she remarked
She did not want to see how much I scored but now I am eager to show her,
I got the admission into the science stream, I kept a distance from home and focused on my college, the nostalgia to meet new friends was more than studies, my first year had few girls most of the girls was in commerce, sometimes I regret taking science but I can study well enough,
We perch on the college railing to ogle girls from other streams and it feels good,
One day while I was in hurry to get my chemistry book from the college stationery, I was short of 50 rs I rummage my bag but to no vain, a girl thin and holding a lose bag tucked on her shoulders saw my ordeal
I can borrow you 50, she said
Out of embarrassment, I said no,
No, it’s okay you can take it, I am from first-year Ba, room no 18
While she mentioned all it, I stood there like a dumb boy who has not a charming girl before,
She left while her hair bounced,
We met during library studies and each time I meet her, the urgency to meet her again arises.
Rita liked speaking about science fiction, but why she took science,
She retorts, one shouldn’t be a writer to like a novel
And we both giggle, Rita likes to hold the flower closer and sniff it which is outside the classroom, I espied at her every time she does it.
Ma chided me not to make friends from the upper class; soon they will know my reality which will break my heart, she professed
I disregarded what she has to say and continued my friendship with her
While the college festival was near, I grew fond of Rita, the way she dressed and how she sometimes make fun of me by calling me a geek- the constant chatter had no ending but the escape from everything
I dress up every day to have an impression on her, out of rare occasion she might compliment me, by calling me stud – but she was unaware how her words reverberated and her memories kept me get through the night.
The college festival was approaching. The sound itself sounds fun to me and couldn’t be excited enough
I prepared for a debate and Rita was preparing for a dance competition, I took time and peep through the window to see her rehearsing, that day I realized how much I love her.
During those days she would mention a guy who is a senior, and kind of liked her, she would keep talking about him, and I would change the topic.
The day of the festival, there was a hubbub in the college premises, less known faces were present, but it was my first college fest more than ever I wanted to see Rita, after squeezing myself I went near the stage, and I saw Rita close to the guy like he is something to her, she was close to him so much so that I have not seen her close to me as well, how can she suppress an affection for someone being with me
I felt disappointed, something other than me can be close to her, and my self-esteem dissented- am I less than him?
Why she has to choose him?
I did not see her performance, after going home I punched the wall, the peeling came out, I did hurt myself but I want to hurt her, It was a mixed feeling like a pendulum swinging from love to hate,
I assume I hated her
Rita kept calling me, but I disconnected- I wistfully recollected what ma mentioned once, no one will love you because you stay in a brothel