It was nearing dawn. Our village is at that side of the globe where the sun relentlessly rises early unless it is shadowed by the dark monsoon clouds. I remember the time when my mother used to wake me up early in the morning so that we could empty our bowels in the fields that my paternal grandfather owned. The smell of the 4am village is not an ordinary smell, it is intoxicating. It persuades you to come out of bed again, as early as you can, to fill yourself up with it, as if it were partial, as if it smelled that way only to you.
But eventually I had got over this feeling, the only reason being, I hardly slept. All I could manage was a half an hour nap in the afternoon and a three hour sleep at night. That particular morning I had risen early. I went through my daily need of sanitation since my house now had our own private bathroom. Slowly, I opened the gate so that I wouldn’t disturb anyone. To my surprise my husband was up and about. A few useless men had gathered around him, I heard some vehicles too, it was 4am, seeing a vehicle at that time in the village was as strange as seeing an alien.
” Stop sleeping like a buffalo, you whore!” It was my husband yelling. Sweet names to begin your day with.
“The tea is brewing.” I said quietly, the way I was supposed to.
It was an ordinary day of housework. I made countless cups of tea for useless visitors, watered plants in the back yard, readied food for the cattle, also for others. My daily goal was to hear the least curse words I could manage to get away with. I cleaned five bedrooms, two halls, 6 corridors, a huge veranda and the aangan. Of course by clean I mean both mop and sweep. We were the rich upper-caste people. People with privileges. To tell the truth, the privilege wasn’t mine. We had a million visitors, two meals and two snacks had to be cooked, number of people uncertain.
The grains used for cooking have to be cleaned rigorously before use, unlike the packeted once you casually pick up at supermarkets in cities. The spices have to be ground on stone with a stone, and stones are heavy. The most important thing was to do everything with perfection and on time. If not he’d just strip my dignity off in front of strange men who would laugh the matter off.
That day was brighter than usual since I didn’t get as many abuses as was my routine count. My husband ate quietly whatever was served. That night he came into the room early, at 11. Generally he’d come after midnight when almost everyone was asleep. He sat on the bed, I immediately stood up and sat down near his feet.
“The house adjoining ours?”
“The one with whom we shared our terrace, you bitch! Are you really so stupid!”
“That bastard has come from the city. Not to sell it but to live in it.”
What would I say! Good! At least I don’t have extra rooms to clean.
“Why am I telling you all this! What do you know you uneducated slut!”
So the day continued as it always did. He turned off the light, I mechanically took off my clothes, careful not to piss him off. Eleven minutes. It could’ve been an animal instead of me but that would bring shame to the family. So that’s that. He didn’t know what love is and if he ever mentioned it, he never forgot to mention how unworthy I was of it. For I lacked what a woman must have, however what must a woman have to be loved? I didn’t ask. I wasn’t there to ask questions, I was there to serve. It hurt, hurt a lot. But more than it ached there, it ached in my heart. Mother’s tell stories of love and princes. Why did you lie mother, why did you lie!