Nothing much had changed except for the fact that more grains had to be cleaned and more spices had to be ground. My husband wanted to buy the house himself so that we could make a huge mansion of our own. Unfortunately this man had come back and wanted to stay. My husband was of the opinion that if we treated him well, we might trick him into selling off the plot.
My husband had a full time assistant Chotku. Chotku was called Choktu because he was short in height and was hardly twelve years old. My heart went out to him when I’d see him work like a mule all day, but what could I do, I was doing the same. Everyday I’d clean the grains, grind the spices and chop vegetables and give them to Chotku so that he give it to our guest. Chotku said the man is a curious case. He walks around the place in a pant half his knee length, listens to music of some weird kind, cooks with less spices and offers Chotku a tip everyday he hands him the cooking material.
“Well.. Whatever he is, it’s none of our business. We must just continue what we’re doing. If he is paying you, be happy. Just don’t let malik know about it.” I told him once when he was repeating the curious case for the utter nth time.
Some nights after the mandatory coital chore had been completed and my husband had left for sleeping on the terrace, I’d stay awake for a long while. I’d stare in darkness falling into it deeper, going to a new place. Was it really possible to be touched and to be not hurt? Isn’t it unfair that all of us are given the same abilities, the same brain and the same heart? If You wanted me to live like this, You should have made me an animal. Did Chotku feel the same? Does every wife feel as lonely as I do? Why is food, clothing and shelter not enough? Why do we yearn for something we don’t even know? Something that might complete us.
One morning I was struggling to get out of my slumber, the lantern was still burning. It was 1 am. My husband had not touched me that day, which for me was my monthly bliss and for him it was just that I was too filthy to be laid eyes on. I felt extremely thirsty, possibly because of the extra sleep I had got. The idea of having a couple of hours more to sleep almost made me dizzy with joy. I woke up with a sort of intoxication, a feeling that made me nostalgic of days back at home. I took the lantern and walked through the corridor, the cold floor pressed needles into my cracked heels. I was about to turn towards the kitchen when I heard a creaking noise. Was it a hiss? I wasn’t sure. It came from the room near the front door. In one instant all my slumberous feelings vanished, an animal had sneaked into the house. It couldn’t have been a snake because it was definitely something much heavier. I forcefully swallowed, I had to make up my mind. If I didn’t try to intervene, it might climb up the roof, on the terrace where my husband was asleep. I couldn’t yell, making noise would agitate the animal. I quickly went near the kitchen where a wooden torch was kept. I lit it with a match and with great caution, steps soft as a feather, I walked towards the room. Needles no longer pierced my heels for they were now in my heart. I was fearless, death would mean freedom.
I reached the door and drew a deep breath, I thought of my son who studied far away in the city, of my mother and oddly enough of Chotku and opened the door. Flames of the torch filled the room. There was no animal in there, what I saw there was nothing I could’ve fought with, nothing that could swallow me and set me free. It was my husband lying on the bed, naked as a newborn, in the arms of a woman. One moment and I found my soul collapsing into an abyss I would never come out of. He started abusing me but my ears were already ringing. This is the same man for whom I had risked my life. How stupid Radha! How stupid!