Saturday, September 19, 2009

Short-story published in The Sacret Attic Magazine (U.K.) Issue Oct.2008.


---Vishal Tayade


Drawing the circle on the ground with forefinger, Sonu challenged his alley. He gave a look throughout the area but no one was there to play with him. Undoubtedly, he was an undefeated master of the marble game. Seven-year old Sonu’s skill in the game was the subject of respect for all playmates. When short, chubby and fair complexioned Sonu used to stand on the playing field, nobody dared play against him. Playing against him meant losing marbles definitely and increasing his personal stock.
Many times, with great generosity, he used to lend some marble to other neighbouring lads on the basis of playing against him and the result was certain. Half of the alley was debtor to him and many had been declared of their bankruptcy. Sonu was firm on the view that he was heavenly gifted and God himself played through his hand.
He always noticed that Temporary visitors used to come to his hut. However, he was forced to play outside, particularly, because his hut had more visitors than others. About this, Sonu asked his elder friend of twelve and received information that his mother was very beautiful and young than others and doing a profitable business. But what business, he couldn’t understand. He had a grandmother, old woman of fifty. Suffering from some or other ailment. She had also great business in the past, once he learnt from somebody, one thing of which he felt proud that his grand mother, mother and he all were on the top in their own field.
Even once, a visitor told him ‘had Sonu been a girl, he should have been doing great business and visitors would have been attending her with huge amount.’ Sonu couldn’t understand the matter entirely. That man further said ‘he had been visiting his hut for last twenty years but because of Sonu’s manhood’ he had lost further opportunity to visit Sonu’s three generations respectively,’ All was confusing to Sonu, but he felt sorry on his manhood for a while, for losing the chance of receiving great number of visitors like his grandmother and mother.
At evening, Sonu and his friends used to occupy marble ground, all had had a photograph of their own mother in their shirts pockets. Permanent visitors didn’t take their help and directly entered the hut they desired. But the problem of selection was for the newcomers, and keeping an eye on detecting such newcomers, they moved around such a person to show their mothers’ photo each one after another. Generally , it was experienced that Sonu’s mother was selected. Her selection was also proud some to his grandmother.

One late night, after visitors over, Sonu was on his mother’s lap in their hut. He asked unexpectedly: ’why do all these people come to you by paying money?’
Mother shuddered for a while. Having some long breathe, she answered with a deep kiss on his forehead, Sonu, my son! All these uncles have borrowed money from me as you lend your marbles to your friends and now they come to return that.’ This was convincible answer to him. It was a predetermined answer as she was fully aware that, sooner or later, she would have to face this question by him. Sonu closed his eyes, asked no more questions and held his mother tightly.
At the one edge of the hut, grand mother was lying on a shabby carpet. Though not very old by age, due to perpetual sickness and neglecting constant medical supervision, the wrinkled face made her older. Continuous moaning at night was as natural as breathing to her. She retired from the business as her ailment and Sonu’s mother grew up in parallel.
Some time later, Sonu got up with huge screaming outside. Mother said, ‘May be the police raid!’ and within some moments, their door started being knocked with lewd abuse. As soon as his mother opened the door, she received a powerful slap on her face. She suddenly collapsed on the floor. A hale and hearty cop entered into the hut pressing his chocolaty shoe into her thigh.
First time, Sonu didn’t like this colour. Abusing and cursing in highly insulting language, the tall policeman seemed to be an officer. He crackled, ’you witch, last time I warned you not to cheat us. We are rightly informed about your ever flourishing business, though your money doesn’t reach at us regularly. You have deceived our goodness.’ He completed the sentence with a powerful kick at her back.
At the left side, moaning was no more; fear blocked the throat of grand mother. She, deliberately appearing like dead body, tried to hide her presence.
Sonu had already experienced all these things in the past. Mother brought out some money from her blouse and gave it to the cop. He picked up her palm and demanded more money verbally and crushing her frail palm physically. It was looking like a small fish in the mouth of a big crocodile. Grandmother understood his intention and got up slowly and asked crying Sonu to come outside. Frightened Sonu was completely frozen by what was happening to his mother. He hadn’t moved from bed. But the crooked glance of the cop at him made his trouser wet. Somehow, grandmother picked him up and near about dragged outside. Drenched eyes of mother helplessly stared at Sonu. He only cried,’Ma’ with deep sorrow. It brought out flood of tears in her eyes.
As soon as they went outside, the cop shut the door with his chocolaty shoe. It was a regular practice in the alley. The cops visited every month or two, demanded more money apart from their regular hafta , and then enjoyed ladies, particularly Sonu’s mother was their head choice.
Outside the hut, there was a big hue and cry continued. Cops lewd language, victims helpless screaming mixed up and highly unknowing language brought out. Under the street-light, the police van was waiting for culprits. Five policemen were engaged in their duties. Humiliation, threatening, slapping, snatching were on its high point.
Some three women were being already thrown into the van mercilessly. A policeman was abusing and beating a woman for spreading immorality over society, already, snatching money from her and suddenly, the alley was stunned by the ear-breaking squealing. Sonu’s hut was thrilled, leaving the work in hand uncompleted, all cop’s fled towards the hut. With a powerful kick, the door was opened and the scene appeared was so shivering to all. The tall policeman, the head, was tossing about the floor, completely sprawled in the small pond of blood. Sonu’s mother stood in corner with an edged knife in hand, dripping with wet, staring at body with meaningless eyes. For a couple of moments, the cops couldn’t understand what to do?
A cop came forward and screamed, ‘You witch, what have you done?’
Realizing this incident would change her entire universe, she, hadn’t decided yet whether she could or couldn’t answer for this crime. After some time, the mother murmured- ‘I punished, I punished this devil. Besides me, he was trying to snatch all my savings which is only for my son Sonu,’ and then she cried, ‘Sonu, my son, where are you?’ and sat shabbily. A tin-box, full of money lay on the floor beside the body. Some notes were just floating in thick blood.
Grabbing her plaits and kicking mercilessly, the cop dragged her outside the hut like a dead animal. Sonu picked her hand up and tried to hug her but in vain. He also received powerful slap at ear. The little kid near about losing his conscience collapsed at his grandmother’s feet. Mother was thrown into the van being beaten continuously.

One month later, except the absence of the mother, everything was as usual in the alley. Sonu’s tears went dried, only abruptly, he sobs into the bed.
At the same time, people observed the drastic change in the grandmother. Consuming highly concentrated drags, she was trying to kill her diseases. Punctual medical inspection made her condition better than earlier. Rubbing of shampoos, advertised by cinema heroine made her hair glow and visits to beauty parlours brought shine on her face. Perfumes made her skin more fragrant than before. She spruced herself regularly. On the whole, she started looking ten years younger than earlier.
Now grandmother didn’t remain the then grandmother apparently. She presumed that her golden age returned. Beautifying herself, she challenged other ladies around and within some days, she became the favourite subject of discussion among the people .Her maladies showed their presence now and then, but her will power suppressed its annoyance.
On the other hand, Sonu by the passing of time forgot the presence of his mother. Some times, he recollected the memories of his mother and wept. But his grandmother was doing her level best to keep him happy and calm. Twice he went to see his mother in jail along with his grandmother. But later on, she avoided carrying him there.
Sonu, again, started to show his high competence in the game of marble. Within a few days, he regained his autocracy. People in the market, again, fondled him with sympathy. He used to spend hours and hours on his favourite marble ground. His school bag shook all marble masters in the area.
Everything was going as usual. Nothing was changed. The only change, people observed, was that instead of his mother’s photograph in his pocket, his grandmother’s photo occupied the place.