The wings of summer had been botched by humongous rain-clouds, as peals of sunlight remained streaked against the forlorn tapestry of the unknown.The gallows were being opened. The glint of the metal dashed against a pair of chestnut-brown eyes, searing through a horrific melange of paradoxes. Aware, yet oblivious. Cognizant, yet deranged. Willful, yet carefree. Mystic, yet worldly…Those very eyes that had betrayed nothing, that had retained an unnerving state of emotional equilibrium, an eerie degree of poise, had just shed their inscrutability. But with no spectators. They were alone, awake to the realization that an aura of self-composure had just been penetrated. They were free from public scrutiny. But were they free from judgement? Thoughts swiveled in concentric circles through eyes that could give away as easily as they could shield. The foremost was this: Someone is about to be judged who is completely alien to judgement.That was true. If eyes could disguise emotions, what not could a slight swing in the gait, a light dimple on the cheek, a breezy, cocksure voice, do? And if that was not enough to put others off their guard, complete disregard and sure-shot insolence were reciprocated without hesitation. And then nobody cared. Maya trembled as she recalled Professor Whitney’s words, “Introduce your father to me as Bill Gates, and then we’ll talk.” So exceptions could be made if there was some support on the ancestral front. Or if there were solid connections, material assets, a palace in Rajasthan or a benefactor at Cambridge… if there was anything, to sum it up, that could be used to bribe the gaolers. Assets, connections, finances…it all boiled down to one omnipresent evil.Money.Which had got her through every day of her life, but had never been her own. And now that she was about to depart, it hardly made any difference. But what about that acrid taste that would last forever? Could the pungent traces of remorse be bitten away? Could the bristles of incompleteness be brushed away? Could the raging turmoil that was soon becoming her, be wished away? Maya knew the answer. Yes. They could.
She swung her arms and jostled against the iron chains that were already strained under the tyranny that her turmoil was inflicting on them. As they slapped against the bronzed wall, an echo filled the room, being carried on the warm currents of the wayward wind. “There are days when vengeance can speak, but shouldn’t. There are words that pain can utter, but mustn’t. There are actions that vehemently seek implementation, but are best left alone.” The rich baritone that spoke those words relayed currents demanding that they be heard. The effect was almost unearthly. Maya felt the vehemence leave her veins iota by iota. The voice was familiar. It belonged to the only gaoler who spoke shop. Drained and exhausted, she waited for it to go on. But silence was its next decoy.“Who am I and where will I go next? Is there someplace where I will fit in? How handsomely will I be paid, even if I do belong someplace? What matters anyway? Why am I asking questions that I know will have no bearing on my very own humdrum daily soap-opera?” flitted a feeble but firm voice intoned with all the affectation it could gather.The effect of this sequence of events was too much for Maya, and she burst out laughing. But even her chortle proved overbearing. She briskly decided that if she overdid either the pining or the guffawing, she would be feeding the other and it would end up being a melee of nonsense that could challenge even her. And suddenly the pained limbs felt the nudge of strong metal giving away. Like currents that had beat a hasty retreat on the command of the moon. Like the changed minds of courtiers who had been serving a vile ruler. Like feeble-willed parliamentarians who approved a bill but didn’t.Oh, God, of course she was free! No one was going to be hanged and no one was going to venture close to a metre of circumference from her.“Why do Angry Young Women like me have to be blessed with such a teasing sense of humor!” Such tempered wrath fed through and through, was simply wasted with a funny bone tingling here and there.T hat very sense of humor dangled in her dreams, of course, but the hustle-and-bustle of the everyday world threatened to keep it muted. The Angry Young Woman would shine yet…