“But the dream had opened an altogether different possibility to her.” It is never too late to find out that standing up for yourself is possible.
Here is the fourth winner of our July 2016 Muse of the Month contest, Nikita Jhanglani.
The cue was: “Dreams have a strange beauty, no matter how terrible.” – ― Samhita Arni, The Missing Queen
It was late evening. As she cooked the dal and rice for dinner that night, Sukanya lifted the curtain that hung from the threshold of the main door and peeped outside. No sign of Raghav. His ‘friends’ were not to be seen either.
“Should I ask somebody to go and look for him?” she thought, going to back to her kitchen in a tiny corner of their kholi.
“Maybe not. He is late by only an hour. Maybe Sethji or Sethaniji had to go somewhere and they took him with them”, she muttered to herself as she mashed the boiled yellow moong dal into a smooth liquid consistency, just the way Raghav liked to have it. She then took out a smaller pan and heated some oil in it. When the oil had heated enough, she added some cumin seeds and let them temper. When the fragrance of the tadka filled the room, Sukanya poured it into the dal and covered the vessel. After checking that the rice was done, Sukanya cleaned the small platform and went to lie down on the single charpoi in the room. Sethani ji had asked her to clean all the windows of of their 5BHK and Sukanya’s limbs ached now.
Sukanya checked the time again and wondered where Raghav had gone off to. Had he been drinking with his friends again, she feared. No no, she thought, it is Tuesday today. Raghav didn’t drink on weekdays; Sethji frowned on it. The weekends were another story; her back still ached from the thrashing he had given her on Sunday. I might as well lie down for a while till he comes back, she thought. “Once he comes home, I will have to stand in his service. It is better that I am rested well”, she reasoned. She winced a little as laid to sleep. Sleep evaded her for the first few minutes, as she unsure whether she should sit up and wait for Raghav to come home or catch a short nap while she had the chance. Raghav wouldn’t like it if he returned home and found her asleep. And she was already in enough pain. Another thrashing today and she knew she’d have no strength to go to work tomorrow.
But she needed the rest. She was only human, after all. Finally, she decided that she’d just sit with her back against the wall and close her eyes. When Raghav came, the sound of his footsteps would be enough to wake her up. Before she knew it, however, she had fallen asleep.
The loud thud of a steel vessel hitting the floor startled Sukanya and she woke up with a start.
“Get up, get up, Sukanya”, Raghav screamed from the kitchen. “How did you even dare to do this? How did you dare to sleep without waiting for me?”
Sukanya set up in bed, cowering with fear. She cursed herself for not being careful.
“Sorry… Sorry, Raghav… I’m sorry”, she muttered. “I… I was tired and… And, I did not realize when I fell asleep.”
“You did not know how you feel asleep? Really? You think I am a fool?”, Raghav moved towards her and slapped her hard.
“Raghav…”, she sobbed, “I have your dinner ready. I was tired and…”
“Tired, huh? You are tired? A few hours of work at the Sethani’s house and the bitch claims she is tired”, Raghav screamed like a lunatic before he landed another slap on Sukanya’s already red cheek.
The pain in her body was now becoming unbearable. “Stop hitting me Raghav”, Sukanya screamed getting off the bed, confused at the sudden anger that made her body burn far more than Raghav’s thrashings but having had enough of this. She glared at Raghav, her breathing heavy.
“Bitch, how dare you speak to me like this? Wait. You think you can glare at me like this and scare me? Do you? Wait. Now I’ll show you what it is like to be scared”, Raghav threatened.
He removed his belt and advanced menacingly towards Sukanya. Before she could comprehend, the belt met her bare midriff with a loud smack. Sukanya doubled over in pain, tears streaming down her cheeks. Another loud smack, this time on her back, made her scream even louder. A few more blows and Sukanya dropped to the floor, writhing in pain.
“Are you scared now? Are you, you good for nothing parasite? Your parents did not give me a single penny. I work hard day in and day out as Sethji’s driver. I work over time to earn extra money and this bitch is sleeping here. And then she dares to scare me.” Raghav flung his belt in a corner of the room and stood glaring at the house, his hands on his hips. He turned his back towards Sukanya and began rolling up the sleeves of his shirt.
“Go get me my food now. All day today…” A loud smack against his back interrupted him. One more. And then another one. Raghav screamed. A few more blows before he could finally fully turn towards Sukanya.
Sukanya looked at him with red eyes and a tear streaked face. Momentarily scared, Raghav quickly came back to his senses and tried to pull the belt out of her hands. But Sukanya was faster than he had expected. Several more blows and Raghav had doubled up on the floor, screaming in pain. Just like Sukanya, a few minutes back.
Sukanya felt a satisfaction course within her, something that she hadn’t felt in a long long time. Raghav was begging her for mercy, just like she had for all of their married life. He was now going through the same pain that she had endured. He would have to live with the scars and the pain just like she did.
Raghav dragged himself across the floor to beg her to stop, even as she continued thrashing him. She felt a high watching him so helpless and even though she thought she’d done enough for one time, she did not want to stop. She continued to hit him until Raghav fell down on the floor, too weak to even make an attempt to stand. He was a terrifying sight, broken, helpless, just like her all those times. Sukanya was scared looking at him, worried that she might have done more damage than she intended to, but the fear was nothing compared to what the power of being on the other side made her feel. All the hurt, the anger, the pain, the humiliation that Raghav had caused all these years had now freed all bonds from within her and unleashed themselves on Raghav.
Raghav wasn’t able to get up from the floor; Sukanya saw him trying to drag himself towards where she saw standing. His weakness gave her strength. While she enjoyed the sight of her badly beaten husband lying helpless on the floor, she felt scared of what she felt. She felt like she was having an out of body experience.
When Raghav had managed to drag himself pretty close to where she was standing, Sukanya moved back a few more steps. As she did, she hit the pot of water sitting on a stool and it fell to the ground with a loud thud.
Sukanya woke up sweating profusely. She looked around, the room was empty. She’d been dreaming and Raghav wasn’t home yet. She pulled her knees close to her chest and sat hugging them, thinking about the unexpected dream she’d had. Raghav’s cursing, his anger gave her the jitters even in her dreams, but what terrified her was what she’d done to him. Was she even capable of doing something like that? True she had hated Raghav from the day he had first hit her, but over time she’d learnt to suppress it within her and kill all her expectations from him. It hurt every time he hit her, but in a childless, loveless marriage that pain was the constant companion, never leaving her side, she thought and mentally chuckled. Besides, going back to her parents’ house, where there were her three unmarried younger sisters wasn’t an option. But never had she thought that she’d retaliate like this. Not the first time he had slapped her, not when he had kicked her so hard that she’d lost her baby. He’d just stopped existing for her.
But the dream had opened an altogether different possibility to her. What would have happened had she retaliated that way? Would her life be different? It would be a life where Raghav was scared of her. She twisted and turned the thought in her head. Raghav doing all that she asked him to do. Raghav not hitting her. Raghav not badmouthing her parents. Would she have liked…
“Sukanya” Raghav called from outside the door. “Serve my dinner. I’m very hungry”, he ordered, not bothering to check if she’d eaten herself.
“Yes”, was all Sukanya said.
“Sethani ji wanted to go shopping today. It was almost like going on a city tour. These people with money are sometimes so lost about how they should spend it. You should have seen how many bags she had accumulated by the end of her shopping trip. I was so tired that I did not even go with Suresh for a drink”, he ambled on about how his day had gone.
Sukanya served him his food, all the while thinking about when he’d go to bed so that she could go back and think over her dream. After all some dreams were strangely satisfying, no matter how unexpected and unpleasant they were.
Nikita Jhanglani wins a Rs 250 Flipkart voucher, as well as a chance to be picked one among the 10 top winners at the end of 2016. Congratulations!
Image source: wikicommons