This post has been published by me as a part of the Blog-a-Ton 14; the fourteenth edition of the online marathon of Bloggers; where we decide and we write. To be part of the next edition, visit and start following Blog-a-Ton.
All characters and events in this story are fictional. Any similarity to real life incidents or people is purely a coincidence.
There is a small path through the garden, leading away from the big bungalow and away from the main road. As we walk by, the fragrance of roses and of mint leaves make our mind calm, make us one with nature who shows off her beauty in every way. The path leads to a small gate, an archway above it and continues inside to a small, yet spacious outhouse, the servant’s quarters. The archway is covered with vines, a single lamp in the centre. It is thick, and standing behind it, one is concealed, yet able to see the main gate. And it was behind this archway that I stood, awaiting the return of my lover.
Most of the people in the world know the date on which they were born. I don’t. Most of the people in the world know their parents’ names. I don’t. Most of the people in the world have seen their mother, at least that one time when they came into the world. I haven’t. All I know about her is that she’s unknown; that she placed me at the front steps of the big bungalow one night ten years ago, and ran away never to return. I know I cried, because the lady of the house awoke hearing it and I know my mother didn’t because she was running faster after seeing the lights come on. I know I was a curse to my family and to the people in the bungalow. I know all this because memsaab keeps repeating it between the curses she has been throwing at me since that day. Perhaps that’s why she named me so: Kroora.
A slight drizzle had settled in by the time I saw him approach the gate, but I was quite sheltered behind the archway. The wind carried his voice and a dull thud followed a moment later. From where I stood, he wasn’t visible anymore. I knew he had just collapsed on to the big wooden gate that was at the entrance. It made a drop of unadulterated joy drop through my mind. He was drunk, in all probability. The thud was followed by another sound, one that I wasn’t surprised to hear. I didn’t know who it was, but it was a woman’s. The laugh was melodious and rang of innocence. “I was like her…” I thought, going back in time to my childhood days. “Did I have any of those?” another thought shot through, countering. It was a fourth sound that brought back my attention. “He’s dropped the bottle”, I thought and looked back. This time I saw her with him, next to him, lips locked in a fierce tangle. “Enjoy it”, I said to him silently. After they broke apart, he waddled through the gate, and approached the bungalow. Then, remembering something, he changed his path and stumbled through the garden path and walked right past me. He opened the door of the outhouse and the door slammed shut.
I don’t remember the first ten years of my childhood. They were spent confined to the bungalow, or running around in the servant’s quarters. The old cook taught me my first words, how to talk and understand what others were telling me. The day I met her became my birthday. I was brought up under her care, and it was she who I first called Ma. She was my friend, the only one I had in the world. I ran behind her for everything, dressed in the second hand clothes that the memsaab threw away, rather than give to me. Seeing me active must have made her angry, because after that, she made me work too. I toiled, bearing pots of water or washing the pans or sweeping the floors of the bungalow. She wouldn’t let me sit idle at all. During teatime, I’d sit on the front steps of the bungalow sometimes, waiting to watch the other girls return from school. I loathed them, knowing I might never be able to go.
I think my life changed on my thirteenth birthday. I woke up late, to find the old cook still fast asleep, her arm around my chest. The rooster had announced morning long back; it was strange to see her still there. I let her sleep a while more. When she didn’t wake, I slowly removed her hand and prodded her. My shouts of panic and anguish moments later would have been heard miles away perhaps. She had left me too, never to return.
As I sat in the kitchen alone that day, the memsaab’s son, came to my side. He held my hand, and consoled me. He said, “I love you, Kroora. I’ll take care of you” and walked away. I didn’t understand what he said. Night fell on the world, and I slept in the bungalow’s attic that night. I’d got the old radio there, and as I listened to it, still crying for the old cook, footsteps approached and I saw him at the door. “I love you, Kroora”, he said. “What is that? This love” I asked him, not understanding his language. “Close your eyes, and I’ll show you”, he replied. “Hum tum ek kamre mein band ho…” the radio blared.
I closed my eyes, and he showed me. Love was very painful, I found out that night. I couldn’t move after finding out what love was, when the door to the attic was thrown open. Memsaab was there, and she eyed me with malice. I saw her, and stumbled back, till I was stopped by the wall. He stood there watching as she came to my side. I saw what was in her hand, and closed my eyes. The pain returned. For a second time that day, I screamed.
I waited a bit before I went and knocked on the door. He was still intoxicated when he answered it. “Ah, you came”, he said and let me inside. It was just like it was when I last saw it. I could have sworn I saw dust there too, but perhaps that was my imagination. As I looked at the place, his hands locked around my waist and his head rested on my shoulder.
“How are you today? Missed me?” he asked. He reeked of liquor.
I still gave him a kiss, and said, “Yes of course, sweetheart.”
He smiled; the look in his eyes, devious. “Show me how much”, he said.
I laughed and went into the bathroom. “Return soon”, his voice came, but I paid no attention.
I don’t know when it was that I woke up, or even if I slept that night. I just sat there, in the corner of that attic, holding a towel, the pain throbbing in every part of my body. A thin line of red across my face marked my innocence. I knew she hated me. I stayed there for a long time, before her voice rang out, “Kroora, stop sitting there like that, you lazy girl. Go sweep the floor.” Accepting my fate, I tried to get up, only to collapse again. Hurried footsteps came up the stairs and she appeared again. Rage was there on her face as she pulled me up by the hair and shoved me toward the door. The bleeding had receded, but I knew there would be a scar. There always was, once she got angry with me.
I felt different after that night. I wasn’t sure what had changed, but something had. In the following months, I began to eat more, and fatigue set more easily. I began to look bigger too. Memsaab noticed it too, and I was surprised when she took me to see a doctor. Usually, she never bothered with my changes. She and the lady doctor spoke in a different language, so I didn’t know what was wrong with me. Memsaab was very angry at me after we left the hospital. I could see it in her eyes, and once we reached back, I ran up to my room in the attic, afraid to face her wrath. But she came soon, and caught me by the hair again. When she left it, I fell. I felt each of the fifteen steps that led to the attic as I tumbled down it. I think she was satisfied. Her laugh certainly echoed it.
A week passed after that. It was night when I heard someone coming up to the attic. The light was dim, but I could see two boys there. One was the memsaab’s son, Jesh and the other, his friend. “You maybe scarred, Kroora, but we still love you”, they said. I didn’t wait. I ran. Jesh caught me, but I bit into his hand and ran, down the stairs and out the kitchen door. I could hear them come after me, but I ran fast. I saw a car coming on the main road. I waved at it, pleading for it to stop. It did. I got in the back seat. A lady I’d never seen before drove it. But I didn’t care. I looked behind and saw them standing there. I thought I’d never return to that bungalow again.
I returned to the room again. He was already under the sheets. He looked at me and smiled. “You look gorgeous, Kru. Ditch the blanket already”, he said. I did, and he voiced his approval. Later, we lay under the sheets, soaking in the moonlight that came through the window. He talked and held my hand. As he examined every part of my body, he saw some of the scars. “You must have had one rough childhood, dear. You’re mottled with scars everywhere”, he said. I felt a tone of concern in his voice. I got out from under the sheets, sat with my back to him. “Yes, Jesh… you should know. Most of them were gifted by memsaab”, I said. He sat up, still groggy from the alcohol he’d consumed earlier. His hands felt the left side of my cheek, running through the nearly invisible line that showed my innocence.
“It’s you…” he mumbled, before he fell unconscious.
Thrice I had trusted with my eyes closed. After that night, I couldn’t close my eyes. Every time I tried, their faces danced like the fire, hurting my eyes like hot metal on skin. Sitting in the back of the car, I cried. I cried like I have never done before. The lady was kind, and heard my story. She offered to go to the police, but I cried more on hearing that. What if they would send me back? She tried to make me change my mind, but I wouldn’t listen to her. She finally took me to an adoption agency. I think she knew the people there, because they let her adopt me immediately. I was happy to be away from the memsaab. The lady’s name was Anita, and she told me to call her by her name itself. I refused blatantly, but she didn’t accept. When I finally nodded in despair, she told me, “Good. From today, your name is Kruthika. A new start deserves a new name.”
She taught me English, Tamil and Mathematics. She talked to someone, and before long, I was going to school on a bicycle, much like the ones I’d dreamed of, sitting on the bungalow’s front steps. I had friends, other than Anita. I lived in a small house, but I was happy there. It felt like home. Years passed, I became educated, and strong minded. I stopped crying for small things, and even slapped one boy for trying to hold me. Anita was happy, seeing me stand up for myself. I stopped returning to my past, though they came to me in nightmares at times. I thought I’d forget soon, till I saw Jesh again.
He hadn’t changed at all, but I had. There was no clear scar on my face now, and he didn’t recognize me in the mall. He approached me, introduced himself, complimented my beauty and asked for a date. I told him I didn’t date strangers, and tried to walk away, but I knew he’d persist. And he did. I don’t know from where a thirst for vengeance came into my mind, but I felt it was an opportunity. I agreed, went on a date with him that night. We actually had fun. We went on few more dates. I let him think I loved him. He finally said the words I wanted to hear. “Come home tomorrow evening. No one’s home… we could even use the servant’s quarters.” I said that would be delightful, and took the piece of paper where he’d scribbled the address. I didn’t really need it. I was, after all, returning to my past.
I didn’t expect the sleeping pills I’d mixed in the wine to take effect this quickly. He looked peaceful in his sleep, his eyes closed. I reached into my bag and pulled out a knife. I stroked his face. “After tonight, I’m free of nightmares. Your face needs a mark too, Jesh”, I whispered. The point of the knife touched his forehead. Then my mind wavered.
“If you do this, you’re as bad as he is, Kru”, it said. I reflected. It was true. I didn’t want to be like him. Not after I’d become unlike him. I put the knife back. “He’s already suffering”, I said to myself as I got dressed. I picked up a sheet of paper and wrote something. After that, I left, walking down the path again. There was a car waiting. Anita stood outside it.
“Well, did you do it?” she enquired. “No, and I’m glad. It’s better this way. Now I’m sure I can sleep without a return here” I replied. She laughed, as we got in and drove away. I pondered about his reaction when he’d read that note:
“I’m doing you a favor going out of your dreams. I’m never returning to your life. Do the same for me.”
I didn’t care though… I was now Kruthika. The Kroora inside me was dead. No more returns.
A lot of tears
Made me fill
With many fears
Love not had
I thought life
Was only bad
I felt that love
I felt dreams
His grace above
To that past
That I knew
Would be last
Burned my heart
Began to love
From the start
My life’s turns
But I forgave
No more returns
Memsaab: term used to address the lady of the house, madam.
Hum Tum Ek Kamre Mein Band Ho: old Hindi song, meaning Both of us locked together in a room.
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