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As he drags me along the street, I can hear their whispers. I have gotten used to this now, but it still does worry me. Sometimes I can hear them whispering, in my sleep.
“Asha! Asha! Are you dumb? Why can’t you pay attention?” I suddenly hear my husband call out to me. I jolt back to life as I hear the same old snarl. The child in front of me has already taken the candy out of the jar. He giggles as he stands across the counter waiting to hand over the money. I quickly collect the money and shut the drawer with a bang.
“Now don’t break that thing! Good for nothing!” I hear his murmur in the background. As I get up and steady myself, I hear him again, “Where do you think you are going? Sit back there”. I sit down without a word.
‘Don’t you dare raise your voice! That is not what well mannered girls do!’ Oh how I wish I could block my mother’s voice today.
He walks towards me and sits down beside me. It seems liked nothing had changed over these seven years. We say nothing to each other, as he goes on to read the newspaper, the only thing he does with so much passion. I pretend to take interest in his silly old shop, but I quickly begin day dreaming again. I stare at the dusty road ahead and wonder what it would feel like to just get up and run away. Run away and go back home.
‘You can never come back home. This is your home’, my mother is back in my head.
I quickly try to brush her off. I shift focus and gaze at the construction site across us, bustling with so much energy. I notice the lady with the blue scarf. She is scolding her daughter for getting in the way of her work. A tiny tear slips down my cheek. I wipe it off before I get caught. As the afternoon sluggishly drags on, I continue my daily ritual; I dream of a life I can never have.
I suddenly hear the school bell ring. It’s 6 pm! The shop is suddenly crowded with children. Everyone wants a candy treat after a long day at school.
Thus begins the best part of my day. I pick myself up and excitingly begin handing out candy treats to the children. Time flies and within minutes the shop is silent again. I place myself on the chair again as the evening drags on and I wait for it to end. I continue staring outside, as the women rush home after a busy day. I wonder how it feels to have a job and go to work, come home and cook a good meal for the family. Play with my children and ask them about school. Talk to my husband about my day and ask him about his only to fall asleep in his arms. It is everything that a women wants, and everything that seems so magical to me.
“Get up, it’s time to go!” I get up and start counting the cash. What a meagre sum, I think to myself.
As we close the shop, Mrs Patil and Mrs Gaikwad walk towards us.
“How are you Asha?” they ask, their eyes searching mine. I look around trying to avoid their questioning gaze. “You don’t seem very fine. Look how thin you have grown.” I smile weakly and say I’m just fine.
He grabs my hand, looks up at them and tells them we are in a hurry. They stare at him in disgust, I can see their faces from the corner of my eye. As he drags me along the street, I can hear their whispers. I have gotten used to this now, but it still does worry me. Sometimes I can hear them whispering, in my sleep.
We eat in silence as he watches an old cricket match on TV. I clean up after him and walk into the bedroom. I silently pray to be spared tonight. He sits there like he had won a battle and it was time for me to reward him. I sit down near him, staring at my hands. He moves closer and I suddenly want to run again.
“I’m tired today, go to sleep”. I heave a sigh of relief and slowly put my head down onto the pillow. I cannot believe my luck today. Its been two days since I was last tortured. Today, I shall sleep peacefully.
I close my eyes but sleep evades me. Images of all those nights flash by. I toss around in the bed, while he snores in the distance. I shut my eyes again, the images are gone. Alas, they are soon replaced with new ones, images of the children that visit the store daily, their mothers smiling down at them… talking about their day.
I open my eyes again. I think of my mother now, back to those care free days, how we played in the backyard everyday. My eyes shut due to fatigue. I try sleeping again but I wake up time and again. I wait for it to brighten up again, for the nights never seem to pass.
The sun rises in the distance and I hear the birds chirping around. I smile to myself, it’s over. I wake up only for the vicious cycle to begin all over again…
Published here earlier.
Image source: By © Jorge Royan / http://www.royan.com.ar, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link, for representational purposes only.
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I'm a Chartered Accountant by profession working in Mumbai. I love to travel and
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