Thursday, April 28, 2016



Her cell phone showed wee hours 4:45 a.m. She stood inside the elevator with wooden legs. Her spirit crushed and unwilling to go further. The elevator buzzed and moved to fourth floor and vibrated to a noisy stop. She did not want to open the door and move into that abode which she had lovingly bought and paid installments to call it her own. Thick tension and disappointment awaited her. Helplessness and despair!!! Arguments and screaming matches!

However much she tried she just could not control the spiraling of verbal torrent of accuses and resentments. She saw “No way out of the predicament” 
She told herself it happens in many a marriage and according to her mother she must work it out. But each day told her... it will not. She cannot forgive …she wanted to but cannot …just cannot. It was a No win situation for her. Her Mom would be mortified if she ever were to think of ending her wedlock. For lock it was…a lock whose key was totally missing!!!
She would have to face “I told you so” before and truth be told she was so tired and weary she did not even want to face herself in the Mirror of the elevator. There was only one option to end the pain and predicament … escape the shame and humiliation of knowing her husband bonding with another one. It destroyed her sense of feminine respect and created a purported image of a woman less worthy.a woman who could not keep her home together…
She had tried…to be modern and broad minded and overlook the late night escapades of her husband and spend many a lonely nights in her three bedroom flat in this posh locality. She had also thriftily managed to finance the Loans single-handedly and even manage the home chores all by herself. For an outsider she had done well.
Only she knew how lonely and battered she was. No she did not face any physical abuse but verbal abuse and slinging matches were becoming daily routine. She had put up with all the fancies her husband created and financed some foolhardy investments. She was most definitely not willing to contribute to keeping another woman happy. She wanted to think no more…nothing mattered more...nothing can change her life more…she had nowhere to go…no one who cared for her…
Her old parents would be too distraught to hear her woes and siblings were too enmeshed in their own affairs to even recognize her pain.

On an impulse, she pressed the button to the last floor, a resolve forming in her dead eyes. She came out of the elevator and stared at the staircase that lead down and then upward glance to the path that led to the terrace. To her surprise she found the terrace door open. She moved onto the openness. The Air was cool but without movement. A resentful smile escaped her being. Everything had relegated itself to being without movement in her life including the Air around her.
She moved to the wall and looked down. The ten-storeyed building stood regally as one of the best housing facility this area offered. Luckily for her the terrace was open, else mostly the doors were securely locked and one needed special permission to access it in any time of the day.
It was as if Even Nature was conspiring to bring about conditions favorable for her exit and let her go…all conditions met for Finale Act of her…unlocked one around …
One jump…would end it all…she just had to sit up on the para-pet and carefully just jump…or shall she jump forcefully?? She Gingerly gauged the height and thought of leveraging herself on the parapet...few awkward moments...she realised she did not know exactly how to do it right ! 
“Ha Ha …why am I supposed to carefully jump? What does it matter how I jump? Who will give me marks for jumping right??”

She whirled with a start…She was abruptly pulled out of her reverie by this disdainful,reproaching teenage voice…half boy…half male…looking down the same way as hers and planning the same thing as she was…only a little more Dramatically vocal as if giving Subtitles to His Ongoing Act!
She recoiled…horrified at the implication of what this young boy was about to do…she had to act fast...or….
The guy she recognised was Ashav  from her society…must be in ninth or tenth…
Instinctively, she sternly send out a warning “What are you doing here Ashav? Do your parents know??”
Ashav seemed to stiffen and turned around guiltily, his eyes brimming with unshed tears.
His head bowed low and his fingers were trembling…

She took a step forward and held him by his shoulders. His agonised frame shrinking at the touch expecting reprimands and the pain of being caught…
“Sit down…Here take a sip of water”
She always had a small bottle in her handbag and she was glad it came handy today.
“Thank you Sugandha aunty”
He spoke very soflty and took a sip …breathing shallow and sort of collecting himself.
For a while no one spoke…an endless silence where both were taking in their internal war and the discovery of what just transpired. She realised that if she had not intervened quickly the little one would have been a pool of blood and mass of broken bones. It filled her with indignation ,horror and revulsion...
Her chiding came out as scathing “Do you know you would be a mass of broken bones down there?”
He looked further down…
She continued “Now you are ashamed…look at me…do you even realise that your parents would have been in such dire circumstances? The whole society would blame them for your Act…for life they would blame themselves???"
“No one cares for me Sughanda Aunt …all they care is my marks…whether I pass or not…whether I do well in studies or not…No one cares…” His voice broke into a sob...almost choked on a sob…he was struggling not to cry or howl…male dignity at work…
“And How did you jump to that conclusion?? Have you taken a Survey of their feelings?” Her eyes flashed a daring warning to defy.
Truth be told her words surprised her…she, herself, was here on that premise...
“No one cares and they will not be in my favour once they know my marks!!!"
“So you have got less marks? In which standard are you in?"
“9th…I was supposed to go in tenth” His eyes brimmed with fresh tears.
“Ah” She took in sympathetically “ So you failed in Ninth grade exams?? So??”
“My Mom Dad will be Livid…ashamed of me…all my friends will make fun of me…my teachers will insult …not openly but…” His voice choked thick with emotions

She understood the anguish but still reeled at the young life that could have been sacrificed for something that seemed gigantic to him…but so miniscule in the long run…
She glanced at the forlorn figure and contradicting him at this juncture seemed futile…
“Yes it is a difficult situation…I agree but..."
“You will never understand aunty you I have heard have always been a topper …you earn so well…you have your own house…you are a boss in your office…what you will know about children…you do not have any…!!!"
That stung…that was rude and cheeky…he knew quite some things about her…but she fumed at the barb...the last one...if only he knew her situation…
"You young teenagers …you are the rudest lot of this time…you  do not think beyond yourself…so you did not study well…you did not get good marks…so what try again…for a while everyone will be unhappy… maybe they will scorn you for a while, ridicule you, but the storm will pass…”
“Sorry aunt but you are a woman...what you know of my problems…what will you do in my situation???”
She sucked in a breath…technically she was there for the same purpose as him…but she cannot leave this young one here…alone to jump…or preach her about problems…or let him know what she was about to do…
She softened a bit…offered a slight smile…sat closer to him…
“ As you  said I was indeed a topper so true I would not know of your situation but what I do know is that ”There is always an option to live” Her own words sounded phony to her but she plodded along for this little soul that was sitting broken and lost.
“What can I do??? My folks will not love me anymore once the truth is out…they have my younger brother who will fulfil all their wishes…”
His voice cracked a bit and jarbled a bit.
She sighed…sibling angst…so rampant and endorsed by influences all around. She remembered all too well her phase of feeling peeved by the attention showered on her siblings…only to know too well now that all felt…shortchanged whatever the treatment meted out…
“Even I had siblings and even I felt my folks as you put it loved them more and not me…but that is so not true…when I look back…you are equally special Kid to them…”
“You do not know my folks…they will not care…”

A surge of indignation rose at the adamant immature rejoinder. Anger flared a little. 
She bristled and said “So what do you think…your parents will see your dead body sigh and instruct the watchman to dispose it in the dustbin and go back to their day??? Is that what you think will happen??”
He winced but stubbornness began to show in his taut frame.
She continued “ You young people think everything is an adventure…you give up so fast on everything…so something did not work out and went wrong…there are constructive action steps one can take”
“You are a woman…you will not understand…” He dismissed and slightly turned away as if to say go away…
She was not about to give in and her anger could not be reined in now…it was full throttle in steam…
“You think women do not have problems???”
“Yes they might…and they would be the first one to jump like I would…"
"Wait a minute what do you mean??? " was the child reading her mind???
“See Aunt I may sound rude but if you had a husband who cheated on you and if you had a bad marriage…well you too would do the same thing…you would not take the constructive step that you suggest…"

Her eyes narrowed for a second…how did he know…? She hardly interacted with anyone in the building as her night shift prevented social life of any sort.
“How do you know??” she demanded slowly…softly…
“Gossip travels …when people fight…aunties love to hear and love to tell…” 
He smiled a little impishly…for the first time…and his eyes brightened with mischief with this shared secret.
Tension seemed to dissipate a little…she smiled too. She never knew her slinging matches were entertainment for bored femmes of the society. So much for privacy!
She smiled back “So my Gossip magazine you think I will consider jumping from here instead of kicking my waylaid husband out??”
He shrugged his shoulders “It is an easy and glamorous way to end it dramatically…besides your husband will be hounded by police…you can harass him as much as he did…after your exit of course”

This was getting out of her hands and he was speaking way beyond his years she knew that…but she began enjoying talking openly about herself and her apparently “ miserable situation” She liked the thought of kicking her husband out a bit too much which she had voiced defiantly and accidentally just now…whyever did she never think of taking that " constructive Action " and ask him to leave. It was out and out her Home she had paid every single penny. He should be shown the Door and here she waas surveying the Parapet and Exit options. Naively the child had put her victim mentality " in her face".

She decided to challenge the kid as well “So you too wanted to glamourously teach a lesson to your parents for loving you less and then have police fire them too??”
All smile left the bright face with a defeated “No the more I think about it…I like it less...I think my angels send you to sort of open my eyes…I will face their anger…they will hate me for a while…” he was so vulnerable and hard on himself...all for less marks...
“You can win them over by working hard and talking to them about your interests…hmm…”
He acknowledged it silently and asked “But aunty what were you doing here at this hour?”

She could never tell him the truth…

“I was spending time alone thinking of some constructive action…unlike you teenagers who think of squandering everything of your resources…time…love and life…” it was her time to send in a barb.
He grimaced and nodded “You will not tell anybody please “
“Only if you promise to never return on this terrace ever…I will not take chances and strictly ask the secretary to ensure it is locked at all times”
He smiled briefly and giggled “Only if you promise to not give another tele series episode to my Bored aunties…”
The little guy had some nerve…but she felt immeasurably light and so she sighed happily
“Hmm…the tele series shall go off air...promise...Come now…its already the time when your folks will begin to search you…”
She got up indicating he get up too “I do not trust you I have to leave you at your door…” she expressed her intent when he made no move to get up. 

Sensing her determination, he sighed, gathered his books and got up…
She firmly slided the grill with a knowing reprimanding look at him for ever considering …and walked ahead…he followed with a bowed head …

“Ashavbaba again you went to study on the terrace?? Did you put off the lights??? I will lose my Job because of you someday…!!" Came the half reproachful half smiling chiding of their watchman.

She turned around to look at the exchange. The watchman ruffled Ashav’s hair and gave him a false whack which the Lad took in good naturedly…

“My flat has come aunt…I have the Keys…Bye..”
She stood a little frowning …something did not seem quite …
“Hey Ashav…Congratulations buddy…first rank in Division and first prize in Dramatics…my folks are going to frame your pic on my bedroom wall…Stop being so talented dude…” Rang a voice of another kid his age who was alighting quick for early morning Jog…

She whirled around…her eyes mirroring her full blown surprise…
She narrowed her eyes at him who stopped midway at opening the latch…turned and smiled impishly…with the Morning newspaper in hand!!!

Sonnal Pardiwala©

1 comment:

  1. Sonnal!! It's a brilliantly etched story bringing alive emotions and expressions. I like the partnership between the young boy and the lady, tension you've built to make it an engrossing story and tapping human complexity. Great job.