"Sorry! Just a little more"
Bhavna pushed my hand away. Her gaze was fixed at her lap. I guess she was trying to hide her
pain, but her silent tears said otherwise. The wounds were too deep to be healed by boroplus.
"Why don’t you leave?" I pleaded, "Bhavna look at me!"
Bhavna did look up, but not before the kitchen door was banged open. We staggered to our feet,
Bhavna nervously adjusted her salwar.
"I have been calling you for a long time Bhavna! Where have you been? And what exactly the two
of you have been doing here?"
"Nothing saheb", Bhavna’s voice was feeble, unsure. She was avoiding eye contact, "Shankar
wanted a glass of water, that’s all".
"Shankar can drink from the tube well. There is no need to bring him here. Go and tidy up the
bedroom. Memsaheb has gone out for shopping, and she needs the room to be squeaky clean".
Bhavna looked at me nervously and then walked away without a word.
"Shankar," Saheb stopped me, "next time, do not enter the kitchen without permission", his voice
was stern, "now go and fetch the laundry".
Truth was that Bhavna had already cleaned the bedroom in the morning. With Memsaheb
gone, Saheb had Bhavna alone and all to himself in that room. Until now, Saheb had restricted
his fantasies to playing the peeping tom while Bhavna changed her clothes. But he has become
bold off late. The other day, memsaheb caught him grabbing Bhavna from behind. But instead of
reprimanding him, she vented her anger on Bhavna. She was given a brutal
thrashing; memsaheb even poured boiling water on her fingers.
I was pacing up and down on the roof top, fearing the worst, when Bhavna finally showed up. I
had not seen her since morning.
"What happened?" my voice was thick with anxiety, "What did he do?"
Bhavna looked at me straight in the eye, her expression was grave. But then I saw a faint hint of
"Nothing, he could do nothing. memsaheb had returned rather unexpectedly."
I heaved a sigh of relief. Somehow the bas**rd had been thwarted. I lay down on the mat, with
Bhavna by my side. She cuddled up to me like a baby. I gently stroked her hair; the fragrance of
her hair always lifted up my spirits. Together we gazed at the October sky, studded with
numerous stars: it was heavenly.
"Why don’t we run away Bhavna, away from all this trouble?"
"Hmm…." Bhavna was absent minded.
"I am serious, Bhavna."
"We have discussed this before Shankar. And you know my answer."
"We can make it Bhavna. I’ll work hard, I’ll support both of you, you and Montu."
Bhavna held on to me tightly. She was shaking uncontrollably.
"What is the matter?" I tried to coax her.
Bhavna took a deep breath; "Saheb wants me to sleep with him."
I sprang up. "The old bas**rd is crossing his limits. What did you say in reply?"
Bhavna was silent.
"What did you say Bhavna?" I shook her by the shoulder. A horrible feeling had gripped me.
Bhavna was looking at the ground. "I did not say anything."
I let out a cry of exasperation. "What?! You should have said NO! Do you even know the meaning
of this Bhavna? Look at me!"
Bhavna kept avoiding my eyes.
"That’s it," I was boiling with rage, "I am going to Memsaheb. This has to end, now!"
"No! You won’t do anything!" Bhavna held me back. She was sobbing uncontrollably.
I pushed her to the ground. "Do you know what you will become, if this carries on? A concubine!
Have you any morals left in you? Or are you dreaming of being a mistress?"
"Shut up!" Bhavna slapped me across the face. "Do you think it makes things easier for me? Like I
enjoy being groped and molested?" she shook me by the collar. "Do you? Do you Shankar?" She
buried her face in my chest, breaking down again.
I tried to console her, "I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have said that."
"It’s Okay," Bhavna wiped off her tears. Her sobbing had finally died down. The two of us sat
"Why don’t we...."
"We don’t have an option Shankar," Bhavna cut me across, "if you go and complain to memsaheb,
she will blame it on me and punish both of us very severely. Worse still, she might throw both of
"That would do you good?"
"No it wouldn’t!" Bhavna looked stern, "It would harm Montu. The world is barely enough for two
of us; do you think you can bring him up?"
I kept silent.
"You talk about running away. But these people are dangerous and well connected. They will hunt
us down, or malign our names so that we may not find refuge anywhere."
"I just cannot see this happening to you," I felt a lump in my throat.
Bhavna gently caught hold of my hand, "It will be fine," she was smiling now, "We will eventually
get through this."
I watched helplessly as she walked away.
It had always been tough for them: Bhavna and her eight year old brother Montu. It had
seemed to be an end to their misery, when they were ‘taken up’ by the suburban couple. For two
squares meals a day, and a house to call their home, it seemed perfectly reasonable for Bhavna
to adapt into role of a maid. She had been through harsher conditions. Trouble started when she
bled, and nature began to add curves to her contour. This did not escape the prying eyes
of saheb, for whom Bhavna was a full blown flower ready to be plucked. All this took place right
in front of memsaheb; initially she showed indifference. But her failure to rein in her husband
meant that she was losing her grip over the household; Bhavna being young and desirable served
as a potential threat. She was never implicit about her husband’s antics, yet she never lost an
opportunity to taunt, torture and assault Bhavna.
"Stay away," Bhavna warned me, "saheb is looking," I preferred to stay put, as Bhavna finished
washing the dishes. Saheb stood near the doorway. He let Bhavna pass by him, but not before
brushing against her side. He then turned towards me with a smug look on his face, as if to show
me he owned her.
I became paranoid by the fact that any second saheb could lay his hands on Bhavna, and she
would be forced to comply. Nightmares of their encounters blew away my sleep; during the day I
would snoop around the house, trying to get a whiff of the on-goings, often abandoning my
chores in the process. Bhavna has been rather discreet these days. Saheb would always be
around, sticking to her like a shadow, depriving me of any chances to talk to her.
One evening, I was awakened by a commotion in the dining hall. I rushed to the spot and found
Bhavna on the floor clutching Montu who appeared to be unconscious. Memsaheb and saheb were
huddled around them.
"It’s nothing, it’s nothing," saheb kept repeating nervously under his breath. His breath reeked of
alcohol, "He’ll be fine."
"Let’s take him to the hospital, memsaheb please!" Bhavna was close to tears.
Memsaheb did not utter a word. Instead, she went to the kitchen and returned with a jug. She
sprinkled some water on Montu’s face. A large swelling was visible on his forehead.
"Yes, Yes. Sprinkle some water. That will wake him up," Saheb was still disoriented.
Montu let out a groan, and made a feeble effort to open his eyes.
"Let’s take him to the hospital," I tried to pull Montu up. But then, memsaheb blocked me.
"There is no need. The child is fine. He is just a little dazed. He’ll recover soon."
"How did this happen?" I asked.
“Oh, he slipped on the floor and fell," Saheb said abruptly.
"Just like that?"
"Yes, the floor was slippery," memsaheb cut me across, "now enough of chatting! Get back to
work, both of you Bhavna take your brother to his bedroom."
I decided to wait in the backyard, just in case Bhavna passed by. There was definitely more to
this story. When Bhavna finally came outside to dispose the garbage, I grabbed her and pulled
her to a corner.
"Tell me the truth! What happened?"
Bhavna kept mum.
"This isn’t going to help you, Bhavna. How did Montu get injured?"
Bhavna was close to tears, "saheb got drunk and tried to force himself on me. When I resisted,
he beat me up and began to tear away my clothes. Montu tried to rescue me, but saheb pushed
him away and banged his head against the floor. That’s when memsaheb came and saheb
returned to his senses."
I leaned against the wall, and let out a sigh, "you still want to stay here Bhavna? After all this
"I don’t know what to do," Bhavna broke into tears.
"Listen, take care of Montu. If you need anything, let me know. I’ll be close by."
"Thank You." Bhavna was barely able to articulate.
I went back to my quarters, still shocked by what Bhavna had narrated.
My sleep had been disturbed by the recent turn of events. It didn’t take me long to respond to
the frantic calls of my name outside my room. Bhavna was banging ferociously against my door.
"I tried to wake Montu. He is not responding." Bhavna was panicky and sweating from top to
We dashed towards Montu’s room as fast as we could. He lay there on his bed, as if he was fast
asleep. I shook him violently and called out his name many times. But he didn’t respond. In fact
he was not even breathing.
Fearing the worst, I picked him up and rushed out of the house, with Bhavna running to keep up
"Hey where are you going?" Saheb tried to stop us. I brushed him aside.
"There is nothing we can do. He has been dead for a long while. We are sorry."
"Shankar, what are they saying? This cannot be."
I was at a loss for words. What could I say?
"The doctors are wrong Shankar. I tucked him into his bed with my own hands. He had dinner
with his favourite dish. Yes, he was hurt but he was okay, he said he was okay. What do you say
Shankar? Why don’t you say anything?"
"Let’s go home, Bhavna." I tried to hold back my tears.
"No! Not without Montu, I mean how he will feel if he is left behind."
"He won’t feel anything Bhavna. Come, let’s go home. The police will take care of him."
I ushered her out of the hospital. She kept on mumbling about how Montu would wake up any
second and call out her name. I just couldn’t tell her that Montu was dead, gone forever.
On the way back, we took an auto. She clung on to me, her head resting on my shoulder. She
suddenly let out a cry, and broke down into uncontrollable sobs.
"What is the meaning of this?!"
"You murdered him, do you hear me? You murdered him!"
I pushed saheb against the wall, my hands wrapped around is throat. But then, memsaheb raised
a hue and cry, and other servants came to his rescue.
"Call the police." Memsaheb ordered one of them.
"Yes, call the police! Let them know what he has done." The other servants were holding me back.
"He has done nothing. It was an accident," memsaheb retorted.
"Oh come on, memsaheb! We all know what he has done. He killed Montu. He has been harassing
Bhavna for so long. Can’t you see with you own eyes how lecherous your husband is?"
"Shankar! Hold your tongue!’Memsaheb appeared shaken, "remember who you are and what your
position is. We can destroy you, you bet we can. You are lucky, that we are going to only fire
"I am not leaving without Bhavna."
"Bhavna is going nowhere." Saheb was massaging his throat.
"You are not going to decide for her, you bas**rd! Come, let’s go Bhavna."
Something was wrong; Bhavna was not responding to me. She appeared to be lost in her own
"Bhavna," I tried to reach out to her, "Listen dear. There is nothing left for us here. Do you still
want to stay under the same roof, with the same man who took away our Montu from us? Come
on, hurry up! This is the last chance we got."
But Bhavna just wouldn’t utter a word. "Bhavna …." I felt myself chocking on my words.
"You heard the girl, now get lost!" Saheb pushed me away, "And never dare to contact us again!"
"Did you know these people? Hey I am talking to you!"
I was on my knees, amidst the pile of rubble and ash. The whole house had been burned down.
"Yeah, I worked here as a servant."
"You won’t find anything here son. They are all dead."
"Officer, by any chance…." I tried to control my tears, "how many bodies have you found?"
"All that we have found are bones and ash. The experts blame it on a cylinder leak. But we will
soon find out."
I made my way to the place where the kitchen once stood. It was highly likely that Bhavna would
have been here when the fire broke out.
While I was rummaging through the remains of a cupboard, something caught my eyes. There it
was, just visible under ash. A locket; Bhavna’s locket. I picked it up and held it in my hand. Much
of it had been damaged in the fire. But I simply knew it was Bhavna’s. Hot tears trickled down
my cheek, as I realized the inevitable.
Back in my makeshift hut, memories of Bhavna kept haunting me. I began to relive every moment
I had spent with her. And there was this horrible guilt of my failure to save her.
As I was tossing around in my bed, I felt someone near me. There was this familiar fragrance.
I immediately turned up the lamp. "Bhavna!"
She blew the lamp away and pulled me close.
"I thought you were dead!"
"Sssh!" she placed her hand on my lips, "Stop talking!"
She cuddled up to me, like she used to do not so long ago. "Lull me to sleep Shankar. I am tired.
For once make feel like a woman, and not a sex object."