This short story is selected as Story of the Month May’2016 and won INR 1000
This story is selected as Editor’s Choice and won INR 500
27th November,11 A.M
203, DDA Flats, Karol Bagh, New Delhi
The sunlight slowly crept in and spread its wares on his face. He fell a sudden flush, as his face itched. His eyes slowly opened to the ceiling fan, moving ever so slowly, creaking its fatigue. The AC whirred noisily , well past its sell by date. He looked at the clock on the wall on his side. It was a little past 11 A.M. He spread his arms wide ,yawning away to glory, inadvertently hitting the bottle of water, peskily perched on the side table. He watched it sway glumly and suddenly fall with a sudden force on his head, its contents spilling over his head and nose, in spurts.
“Eowh”, he snarled in disgust as he woke up with a start , blowing his nose hard to drain the water, which had crept into his nose. It was like snorting chilli powder as his eyes started watering. He was now fully awake, as he started to look around himself. Something was wrong, things were different. The angles just didn’t look right.
He looked at himself and amusingly found himself fully clad in a kurta pyjama. He was sitting on a bedding next to the bed. He craned his neck to find a layer of dust under the bed , next to the rug as he cringed his nose, a sneeze creeping up ever so slowly. He would tell Mummyji, later to keep a tab on Saina, their old time maid. She was a complete shirker.
He slowly got up again and turned his face to the left. He let out a scream immediately as he saw a mop of unruly hair on the pillow, no face to be seen, a cow like structure sleeping, spread eagled on the bed . He blinked as he looked hard. Devastation hit him first and then his bowels. He clutched his belly and jumped in to the bathroom to relieve himself of his misery.
Suddenly it hit him as he clasped his head ,wildly shaking it on either side. He looked up to the door hanger and let out another start, there it was, a wild red saree hanging by the hook. His heartbeat was in his mouth as realization set in.
He got up slowly, his life, seemingly being flushed down the toilet as he opened the door and watched wearily. The mass on the bed was moving now. He crept out as he saw the half glass of milk perched on the other side table, sinking him totally.
It was yesterday-moment of truth. The day of his strangulation ,a.k.a marriage. He sat down with a sigh on his side of the bed, head still pounding.
“Kya hua,sar dard hain”she groggily inquired. He looked at her wondering what was the bigger head ache.
”Yes ji, thoda dard hai”.
She sat up, hands on her waist, murmuring to herself, ”Loji , kiya karaya kuch nahin, aur sar dard leke baithe hain”. He looked sadly, wondering what he had gotten himself into.
26th November,4.30 A.M
They had just been ushered into one of the two bedrooms ,they had ,within their 1200 sq feet , DDA flat in Karol Bagh. His mother was beaming at him and his bride. His father was too busy attending to the rest of his relatives, all of whom were readying to go to sleep , in whatever space, they could find, including under the dining table.
His elder sister, overweight by obscene standards playfully pulled his cheek and winked at him as he blushed slightly. His bride, slightly underweight by his sister’s standards looked at her sister in law sufficiently bored with the proceedings. His sister proudly propped up the glass of milk in his bride’s hands.
”This is the elixir of love and togetherness, drink it, half half, ok” she giggled away. After a bit, the commotion died down. She moved to the bed with the glass of milk as he gingerly closed the door on the face of his relatives, who were waiting for the curtains to drop expectantly, craning to have a last look as the door closed on them.
He smiled to himself and adjusted his hair as he turned towards the bride. He slowly moved and sat on the bed before her, finding her yawning and scratching her head in disgust. She took the glass of milk and took a swig , as he watched with his mouth open. He gingerly explained ”Its not done this way. Mummyji told me,we are expected to hold the glass for each other, as we drink it”. She looked at him and rolled her eyes.
Suddenly she jumped up, the bed creaking hard as she ran into the bathroom.
”Where’s the damn light”,she demanded . Before he could mumble, she had already found it and banged the bathroom door shut.
Suddenly his mobile buzzed. It was his crass, cable operator brother in law , Prince bhaiya, messaging him.”Let them know what you are made of,HA HA” followed by a message full of concern ”Arre,you have the packet ,don’t you”. He looked at the phone and then felt his pocket, smiling in anticipation.
She came out instantly almost tripping over her big pink suitcase, plonked on the floor. She was on the bed in no instant, the bed creaking loudly as she adjusted her bulk to the new surroundings. He almost immediately , heard giggling outside the door, as he irritably looked around.
He then spoke softly ”Listen, I know this place is a tad uncomfortable. But don’t worry, Mummyji has assured me that the room will look different, once we are back from Nainital, next week.”.
She looked at him “Nainital hmmm, I guess people don’t know that going to Bangkok is far cheaper, nowadays”.
He blushed “Bangkok is not for married couples, it’s a well,different place”.
She sat up “ Are you out your mind.I have been to Bangkok last year with my friends. We had Sammy with us as well. Me and him,we had such a great time, He’s such an entertainer”she laughed warmly. “Its such an interesting place”, as he looked at her , his mouth drying up in shock.
He adjusted himself again and moved his hand closer to hers and touched her palms gingerly.”Who’s Sammy?”.
”Oh ,Sammy? His name is Shamsher and he is an awesome hunk”.
Almost immediately, she shook violently on the bed and reached out to her vanity bag, a series of giggles outside the door erupting again. She took out her phone and started checking her messages. Then she took out her earphones and propped them into her ears. He craned to look, not making out where they disappeared between all the finery in her ears.
“I just have to listen to music , before I sleep”as she started to mutter something fancy in English”.
He smiled approvingly ”Who is the singer,Michael Jackson ?”.
She looked at him and spat out”Jussssssssssstin Bieber”.
He ,employed as a teller, with a local cooperative Bank, looked blankly at her. Obviously ,Bieber’s prowess had not reached Karol Bagh, yet .
He enthusiastically blurted out”I am a great fan of Kishore , also Sonu Nigam”.
She took her ear plug out,heard it,rolled her eyes and went back to chanting Bieber’s cacophony again.
He kept looking at her expectantly,waiting for a hint of recognition. She gave none as she kept rocking her sides to the music ,the bed creaking again, letting out a series of giggles outside. He could take it no more. This was the limit. He got up and walked to the door and opened it quietly, catching his sister and few other girls leaning against the wood, giggling away. They saw him, fully clothed looking at him from top to bottom, in horror. He kept determinedly staring back ,as they slowly stepped back with their hands to their mouths,whispering inanities.
Instantly Mummyji arrived at the door.”Kuch chahiye,puttar?”.
He looked at her sadly and closed the door.They would’nt give him peace.
He slowly started humming an old Kishore Kumar song about meeting of two minds and hearts and started blushing at the thought of what more could become of it. He looked at her and froze. There she was with her chin cupped in her palms, her red nose, even redder and tears threatening to slope down her eyes. He looked at her and before he could say something, she sighed”Oh,Sammy” and tucked her head on the pillow.
He gulped and asked her softly”Missing someone?”.
She looked at him and spat out”What’s it to you”.
He cowed down, gulping again.
She suddenly turned philosophical ”In life you need a soul mate, and I have found mine. There is so much he says in his silence. Its as if he knows my mind and heart. Just the other day, he picked a fight on the road with a couple of eve teasers. They ran for their life like never before, such was his anger. Ah, he is so possessive , I am truly lucky to have him in my life”.
He sat there with a stupid grin on his face, pretending to understand her plight. She had someone in her life and here she was, talking to him, as if he was her agony aunt. He felt a sudden rage. He got up in a huff and went to the other side of the bed and plonked himself down. She looked at him and sniffed her disapproval.
He switched the lights off by the bedside lamp in disgust . He could hear the dull strains of Bieber’s unending crap coming out of the earphone ,as he lulled into troubled sleep.
He must have slept for an hour odd ,when he woke up ,startled, to hearing a faint voice moaning?,no, murmuring. It was coming from the other side. She was talking in her sleep. ”Don’t go away,come to me, be with me. You know I cant sleep , if I don’t cuddle into you”.
He couldn’t believe his ears. He dared not move, as a numbing realization , set into him. The nightmare was complete. Suddenly, he could hear tossing and turning, the sheets rumbling as he heard intently, almost in fright. The next moment, he saw himself fly and hit the ground on the side with a thud. It was dark and the fall almost blacked him out. What was it, an earthquake?.Then suddenly, he felt a strain on his posterior as he realized ,horror of horrors,that the godforsaken woman had landed him a resounding kick in her sleep.
So he sat on the ground,bewildered, cursing Mummyji’s insistence, on his getting married. Look where had it landed him. But would she listen? No, of course. He remembered the day, he had agreed to the proposal, his father had looked at him in sympathy , for the first time in his twenty eight years. He thought that the old man had thawed, but now he realized ,that was not the case. It was almost as if he was welcoming him into the club,with a smirk on his face.
They would be off to Nainital , the next day for their purported honeymoon. He wondered what he would tell Mummyji , and all the expectant junta. He shuddered to think,what was to come. He thought suddenly,that he would beg off ,citing a severe back ache. Then he slapped his forehead. The perverts would think,that his condition was on account of his irrational exuberance coupled with his relative inexperience. He looked up to see the woman ,sleeping without a care in the world.He thought of getting up slowly back to bed,but decided against it. He took the pillow and the cover silently, as he lay down, thinking about things gone wrong ,before his tired eyes shut involuntarily.
27th November,11.30 A.M
“Kya hua,sar dard hain”she groggily inquired.
He looked at her wondering what was the bigger head ache.” “Haan ji thoda dard hai”.
She sat up, hands on her waist,murmuring to herself,”Loji ,kiya karaya kuch nahin,aur sar dard leke baithe hain”.He looked sadly,wondering what he had gotten himself into.
She sat up and continued the questioning gaze.”What were you doing down there?.We need this bed changed as well. Tell Mummyji , I had such an uncomfortable time.”
He nodded ruefully. Discomfort my foot, he thought, as the kick and his aching backside, came back to hurt.
He got up and mumbled ”Its late and the people will be waiting outside”.
She was busy on her mobile phone , typing messages away, a giggle here and there, a serious expression thrown in between. He walked towards the door and stepped out,closing it silently.There was a hub of activity going around. Newspapers all over,cups of tea, lying carelessly around as the relatives moved about busily. Suddenly,a hard sock on the back.It was Prince Bhaiya.”Aur ,aa gaye hamare Tipu Sultan,Fateh kar ke, hain?. He politely smiled at the brother in law, wondering how he could wring the man’s neck with his bare hands.
He trudged into the kitchen,to find her mother and sister all busy, cooking. His mother looked at him and beamed”You are up son?What about her?”
Before he could say anything ,she hurried him ”Tell her to get ready. Her father had just called to say that Sammy and her other friends are on the way to meet her”.
Her sister,simultaneously hollered at Prince ”What are you gallivanting here for? Go and get some milk, we have guests coming over”.
Prince acted as if he didn’t hear and put on the TV,to watch the cricket highlights. He ,in turn nervously responded instantly ”Didi,I’ll go and get it, don’t worry”. Before she could say anything,he had rushed to the door and run down the stairs.
As he walked slowly, towards the daily needs shop, he thought of the night gone by, of his newly wed bride and of Sammy the hunk. He looked at himself, a five foot eight, apology of a man, weighing sixty seven kgs, married to a heavy set woman, who would not be less than a shade of eighty. His mom had chosen well within her world view. She , of eighty kgs and his poor father, withering away . It had not been the same earlier, but his mother had beaten his father ,quickly at the weighing scale. He imagined,what life would be. An unconsummated marriage, a hurricane for a wife and now a hunk lover to contend with. He suddenly felt very small.
He took the milk packets and walked back ,gingerly trodding up the stairs,wondering what he would do when he encountered Sammy.He shuddered to think of the pride on her face,as she showed him off.He went inside the house and could hear a buzz of activity in the bedroom.He walked to the kitchen and handed over the milk to his mother who looked at him appreciatively.”Arre,you didn’t meet her friends?They are real chirpy girls and that Summy or whatever his name, is really a “changa munda”, she enthused as she cut the paneer for lunch.
He listened to her, mouth dry. He wanted to get out of the place. ”Mummyji,I suddenly remembered something,I’ll just be back in a jiffy” and with that he ran out of the house again,as the noises inside the bedroom , enveloped him.
He flew down the stairs again,confounded and angry. He would go to the nearby Hanuman temple and profess his allegiance to the celibate, bachelor God. He would get back to her, give her a piece of his mind for undermining him and not giving him the respect,God give him strength. He walked with a new found resolve. He would look into Sammy’s beefy face and match him eye to eye.
Back home ,the laughter in the bedroom continued. She regaled them with stories of what happened in the night. They giggled and slapped their heads in disbelief.
Sammy,the hunk, kept quiet, his brooding eyes looking sagely, at the girls as he walked around the room. They were born to create trouble, he sighed, feeling bad for the teller of the cooperative bank. He shrugged, yawned and walked slowly towards the noisy airconditioner and lied down on the rug, settling his big bulk. He looked up,to see the girls ,screeching away , then he let out a belch ,and looked quizzingly at his tail wagging furiously, biding it to calm down. It was a hot day,and he needed his rest.
The teller walked back into the house. He sat on the sofa with purpose, put his feet up on the centre table. His father ,looked up , surprised at his son . How, one night had changed his wimp of a son. He stared his father down in turn. Prince bhaiya, started to say something, then saw his face and decided against it,nervously playing with the TV remote.
He called out to Mummyji ”Ask that bugger Sammy to come out? What’s he doing gossiping with the girls inside?”.
Mummyji looked at him then her daughter and shrugged.”How do I call him out”.
His sister absent mindedly retorted” Whistle ,what else”.
Mummyji decided against it. How boys turned into men during the course of a night, she sighed.