The Boiled Water: A Story Navigating Inner Thoughts

Sometimes I found it arduous to begin writing on lined paper until a few minutes passed when the left hand got attuned to holding the pen. It made me score lesser marks in the examination till doomsday.

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“A woman doing chores without an identity of hers. She was being churned and corroded at a place, she believed she deserved.”

Under the scintillating 100 Watt bulb that did not tempt any kind of houseflies, I was reading a book by Patricia Daquin. I was on the 50th page of Necropsy. Yes!

The expertly placed small alphabets indicated such a name for the hardback. Above the bemusing title was mentioned the author’s name, which I spoke about already.

Daquin was eye-catching because it was made BOLD in white.

Towards the bottommost part, an iron fencing wire was illustrated; the iron thorns from which pointed in opposite directions, but their base was besmeared in blood. “Devilishly clever” — the words quoted by The Observer had intrigued me in the bookshop.

***

I bought the devil to the paying guest (PG), I was living in.

The whole room was hushed on its own. I was sitting on my bed, moderately away from the two almirahs, with a substantial horizontal stretch between them.

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On my left side was a portable table, to the further left of which lay a double-sized bed.

The girls were out. They usually went out at 7 p.m. to the market in Sector 42 to buy milk, but most importantly to stroll. This is how they played in the hands of the clock, their youthful age crushing on young men’s street smiles.

The cooler peeped through a wide quadrangular orifice into the elbow room. It remained sinistral to the pink tulip bedsheet on their bed. I was a sinistral too.

Sometimes I found it arduous to begin writing on lined paper until a few minutes passed when the left hand got attuned to holding the pen. It made me score lesser marks in the examination till doomsday.

My memory bank was a cut above my writing speed. I held more in my brain than I could empty with my left hand on sheets under vigilant circumstances. Reading too was an effortless task.

I climbed the ladder of pages within half an hour, from the 50th to the 80th. In the next seventeen minutes it was a century seized well with stillness and emphasis. I moved onto 101. And then to 416 – the last page of the thriller.

I got up from my bed and headed towards the balcony. The tall curtain wrapped me entirely during my exit from the wooden door. I glanced back at the book over my pillow before I broke free from the muddle.

I completely cold-shouldered, the washroom immersed in semi-darkness. And I stared at the lit staircase with white marble steps leading to two more floors below the floor I lived on. With my mind occupied with the last sentence I read on page 100 of the book, I walked up straight to the steel glass railing on the balcony.

***

Kay Scarpetta, the medical examiner and also the female protagonist in the novel, had a lot to solve and answer. A serial killer had left the unbroken Richmond city, the capital of Virginia, in a state of blue funk and disarray.

It was up to the female lead to use her forensic research knowledge and dynamic expertise to unveil the narrative behind the manslaughter. As a woman, she had an adopted daughter to look after.

As a forensic examiner, she had her dedicated work to manage. In my empathetic impression of hers, I wished to assist her being a graduate in forensic biology.

***

I rested the radius and ulna, each pair of which constituted my two forearms, on the railing painted in black. A few elderly women were gossiping with each other near the main gate of the house, close to the peepul tree. The tree emerged quite big when the sun was at rest.

Its front branches were stooping on the way to the ground, and threatened the small stall of the washerman below it. I went to the stall to get my dazzling clothes ironed for the college celebrations.

My college life was quite happening due to my active participation in volunteering events. I was the coordinator of the National Service Scheme (NSS) at my college. I registered for the same two days after my admission to the Bachelor’s program due to my keen interest in social service.

“Did you see her? She is standing next to Pramila aunty. Yeah! That fat lady walking with her children to the school bus every morning. She puts a lot of makeup on her chubby face. God knows why she does that!”

“I think she is above 40 years. These days, aunties dress like young girls. They have become so forgetful of social standards. 40 and getting updated? Haircuts and slim dresses? Ugh! So freakish!”

I never did the hard work to know the noteworthy names of the two girls who lived in Mrs Pramila’s PG. I simply didn’t. And after hearing their verbal thoughts falling on my ears, I was extremely pleased that I manipulated myself in staying away from them.

Gosh! These girls were so judgmental of women’s way of life.

As a girl born and brought up in the city, I freely accepted women in all dress codes. I welcomed their innovation in trying different fashion styles under the spark of their own free will.

I was annoyed at what I heard.

My reaction took me a few inches away from the sinistral corner of the balcony to the dextral one. I breathed well and observed colossal umbras in sight before their actual autocrats. Soon the personalities showed up walking on the lane to the paying guest.

One of the hands went in the air to bid me “Hey!”

I was never too excited to say “Hello” to people. I remained introverted until they initiated conversations, that also didn’t last long. After the head-to-head was over, I was quieter.

I raised my half-hearted hand at a bare angle from the black railing. I was doubtful if they saw me waving towards them.

The two girls soon passed the aloe vera pots kept before the verandah, where the landlords sat during early morning and evening. I, too, walked inside to fetch myself a glass of boiled water, now cooled for probably an hour.

All the limestone present in the tap water should sediment in the round utensil and not in my stomach. I ensured this. From the steel rack, I picked up the copper glass and began drinking the poured water from it.

“Honey! Why did you keep the milk on the table? Keep it inside the refrigerator. Don’t be lazy, my sister.”

“Yes! I will do that. But let me first change my clothes.”

“Ah! This girl has her ways. Alright, you do it right after wearing your nightgown.”

“Yes, yes. Stop ordering me. I know it.”

“Hmm. Cool.”

“Hey! You didn’t see us waving towards you while coming back to the paying guest?”

I saw the wheatish Akriti standing behind me. I kept the empty glass on the slab and turned towards her. She was wearing a white kurta with purple flower prints.

“Oh! I saw you and Bhwana coming. I waved too.”

“We didn’t see your hand for sure.”

“But I did wave. It was dark. Perhaps that’s why you didn’t notice.”

“Why are you talking so rudely? As such, you never talk at all.”

“Rude? And I do talk at times. When there is some need, I do respond to you all.”

“Why is there so much commotion in the kitchen?”

Bhawna came into the kitchen while pulling her pyjamas up to her waist. Her silky hair was tied in a high ponytail.

“Look Bhawna! This quiet girl has suddenly become rebellious. Sounds funny, isn’t it?”

“Oh! But what happened? What happened Neha? What did you say to my sister Akriti?”

“Did you see her waving to us? She was standing on the balcony and completely ignored us. What does she think of herself? And how come she has become so full-throated? Has she read too much of her books?”

“Don’t you pinpoint my reserved nature? Women don’t need to be talking all the time. They can be critical and calm. Not always gossiping.”

“You mean we cook stories on our own? How dare you say this to us.”

“I don’t mean that. But women should not be judged on their habit to mind their own business. I am a career-oriented girl and wish to remain engrossed in book learning. This is how I amplify my creativity.”

“Go out and live life! You bookworm. Akriti, she is idiotic! Leave her for good. Let’s go and watch the new series on Netflix.”

“Next time you show us your pride and arrogance, we will make a complaint to the landlord. Go bang your head on your novels. Stupid and immature girl.”

Something came over me that prevented me from answering the last statement uttered by Akriti. I realized that it was pointless.

Unconditionally, purposeless to make these unformed minds understand the power of continuous and in order edification. I grew up under the cognizance of this philosophical banyan tree.

And as I nurtured its roots every day with the harvested rainwater collected in the johad*  of my mind, the more strength of shade it provided to my soul.

The boiled water kept in the utensil was shallow. So little in depth that it revealed the old white conventional salt tarnishing the base. It reminded me of nothing but,

“A woman doing chores without an identity of hers. She was being churned and corroded at a place, she believed she deserved. And she lived it always until her mortality vaporized. Only her white ashes remained.”

Jhoad*– small earthen dam to conserve rain water

Image Source: nanoqfu via Getty Images free on Canva Pro

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About the Author

Sonali Sharma

Sonali Sharma belongs to Dehradun, Uttarakhand, India. She is a postgraduate in environmental studies from Panjab University Chandigarh, India. She is also a published poet and writer. Her poems have appeared in the Indian Periodical, read more...

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