Jagadish had been knocking at the door for quite some time. No sound of movement inside made him suspicious and desperate. He started shouting, “Malati! You whore! Why it’s taking so long to open the door?” It was after another few minutes he heard the familiar sound of unfastening the bolt from inside. Malati appeared at the door. She didn’t even draped the shari properly, wore no undergarments as she was came out of the door. Jagdish squirmed inside.
Standing at the door she yawned and leaned her body against the door frame trying to come out of the slumber. He wanted to go inside. She showed no intention of moving away from the door. Her eyes were red and swollen and seemed to have either been sleeping or weeping for a long time. As usual, he said something, which was meaningless for both of them,
“How could you sleep at this time of the day? Where is Sona?”
With a curl in her lips she countered, “How did you guess I was sleeping? But you are right this time. Sona must be on her way back from school. How come you are home so early? Haven’t you been invited to arrange the mats for the ‘Tarja’ (duel between two singers) at the ‘chandimandap’(place for congregation) tonight?”
Malati moved away from the door towards the verandah.
“Nobody gives you food for free. How would you know what it takes to earn a kilo of rice?”
Malati started laughing. She came closer to Jagadish, placed her right hand on his chest, her lips almost touching his chins, and whispered, “ oh, my man! You have worked so hard for us all these years, how can I question that.”
Jagdish brushed her hand aside in a fury and wanted to move away. Malati caught hold of his hand by that time and drew him closer. She put her two hands around his neck like a rope. He tried to wriggle out but his effort was not strong enough. He could feel her large breasts brushing against his chest; her worm, soft thighs touching his legs. His groin started throbbing violently. Finally, succumbing to the provocation he picked up giggling Malati like a sack of paddy and entered the room. The disheveled mat on the floor supported them for a few moments of tumultuous friction and then it was swept away to one side; it was cool earth, slightly damp and infinitely resilient to withstand calmly the kicking and shrieking that followed.
Jagdish was the first to get up. His body was smeared with soil from the earthen floor. He felt a cramp in the stomach and remembered that he had been hungry.
“Have you cooked something?” he asked Malati.
She nodded from where she was. Jagdish lost no time in further conversation and bolted out for taking bath in the adjacent pond. She also got up, gathered her shari from the corner and draped it on her body loosely. She brought out the rice and the vegetable on the plate. Jagdish came back after a quick dip in the pond. From the door itself his eyes compulsively went to the plate and then towards Malati. He went straight towards the plate, grabbed the plate and gulped down the rice hurriedly as if somebody was out to snatch it from him. Malati was looking at him off and on sitting near the wall. Jagdish looked up at her only after he finished his food and asked softly, “why are you looking at me like this?”
Malati smiled and said softly, “do you want some more rice?”
Jagdish didn’t reply. She got up and poured the entire rice on his plate. He looked at the empty utensil and then at the rice on his plate smugly and asked, “Have you and Sona taken your food?”
“Why do you worry about such small things? Have the rice and go to sleep.” She said curtly.
Jagdish did not answer immediately. He was taught from childhood that the food should be eaten quietly and slowly. Any excitement may result in the food going the wrong way causing severe cough or even death. He chewed slowly, gulped down the rice and then said, “Who would worry then, your paramours? I am asking you a simple question, and what an answer!”
The matter would have ended there had Malati remained silent like other days. She was smarting with pain of her own since morning.
“You! And worry! Did you leave a morsel of food when you left in the morning? Where were you so long? Killing flies in the tea shop? Now, you come back, have fun with your woman and demand food. What a man you are!”
That was provocation enough for Jagdish. He overturned the near empty plate, rushed towards Malati and rained his fists and feet on the hapless woman.
“Why don’t you kill me, if you are man enough?” she went on shouting in between the hits and howling, “You! Coward! You don’t have the guts to earn two decent meals for your family. How dare you call me a whore? It’s this whore, who earned the rice you just had.”
Jagdish could not find an answer immediately. But the rage within compelled him to pull her up by her hair and slap with all her might. He started shouting, “Why they ogle at you, and not at any other woman? You Slut! One man isn’t enough? Can’t you survive without food for one day?”
Her cheeks bore the mark of his fingers. Despite the burning pain she managed to catch hold of his wrist and gnaw it with all her might. Writhing in pain Jagdish left her alone. Both of them were panting. She was shouting, “You pimp; who asked me to go to Bipin babu’s house to work as a maid? Didn’t you know his character? Everybody else in the village knew, but you thought how it matters to you; Malati will be available at night…….” Now, she was tearing apart his clothes, skin whatever came within her reach.
Jagdish squirmed at the vehemence of the retaliation and fended himself with both hands. He managed to blabber, “I didn’t ask you to go to bed with him. Did I? You wanted to be a rich woman, wear costly sharees, cosmetics, what not. Now, you blame me for all that you have done.”
Suddenly, Malati’s eyes fell on Sona standing at the door; her eyes dumb with fear, she was trembling. She got up and hugged her tightly.
“Haven’t you brought your bag, Sona? Where is it?” It was lying near the door. She might have dropped it there when she saw them quarreling. She went out, picked it up and came inside holding her hand.
Malati knelt down, started removing the frock and said, “Let us have our bath quickly. Rice will be ready in a minute.” Sona leaned on her mother as she picked her up and went out.
Jagdish had his eyes fixed at them, the mother and daughter. But they didn’t even spare a glance towards him. He sighed, silently spread the mat on the floor and straightened himself. In a few seconds he started snoring.
All rights belong to its author. It was published on e-Stories.org by demand of Amar Mudi.
Published on e-Stories.org on 17.05.2012.