Saturday, June 6, 2009

The Sweet Taste of Salt

Shazia walked up the stairs. Slowly. Her heart pounding. She legs heavy, like tons of lead. She felt the shackles, that society had put on her, as a woman, dragging her down as she walked up. She felt her desires piercing her mind, one needle at a time. She felt breathless, claustrophobic. The old, dirty, paan stained walls around her appeared to move slowly and come together to crush her. She walked up slowly towards her mousetrap, her one room cage, with all its animals waiting for their banquet - eager to feast on her desires. She was scared. But she had to tell them today.

A thousand thoughts with each step taken. Her life flew by her. She could see her childhood and her father. A policeman stuck for perpetuaty in the bottom rung of the police force and imprisoned in the bottle of cheap whiskey he consumed each night, drowning his frustrations at his pint-sized-life in the gold coloured poison-nectar. He would drink his sorrows and then come home to beat his wife and his children. Two boys and one girl. The girl, his eldest, and, in his opinion, the inauspicious wretch who destroyed his destiny along with his whore of a wife. The whore of a wife who he would fuck each night, after beating her up, while the children pretended to sleep. He beat them every night. With his fists, his belt buckle or with any weapon he could find in his drunken stupor. They hid the knives, each night, in the neighbour’s house. The one time he got his hands on a kitchen knife, he cut Shazia’s forearms and let her bleed until the terrified and pleading neighbours finally took her to a hospital. She still had the scars. He beat them everyday until she was fifteen and till his liver finally, fed up of him, delivered him to his end.

After her father died, they moved to her grandmothers house. The tyrant’s mother and mother of all tyrants. Shazia’s mother worked in the houses of the rich, cleaning their grime and helping them shine. Then she came home and cleaned the grime at home while the tyrant's mother, in her chair by the window, said the rosary.

Shazia went to school along with her brothers and excelled while they just about managed. As a ritual, they beat her up every year on the annual results day to wipe the smirk off her face each time she topped the class. They beat her every year until she finally hit back at the eldest brother. She hit him with his hockey stick and cracked open his chin. They never hit her again. But her grandmother almost stopped her school because of the incident and Shazia’s mother had to fight, grovel and plead to get her back into school. The grandmother finally agreed but not before her mother agreed to hand over every rupee of her income each month.

Shazia’s mother, to her, came before God. God never suffered at the hands of men. Men, the cruel bastards’ had use for women only as a body that satisfied their carnal desires or as a womb that protected them. She had experienced the wretched life of women in her society. A woman’s life is never her own. She can never have her own mind. She can never speak her mind. When she is a child and before she is married her life is run by the father. After marriage, her life is run by her husband and after the husbands death; she is dependent on her sons. No one understood women and no one wanted to. God did not understand women either. God, after all, is not a woman.

Shazia could never say no to her mother. Her mother loved her. Her mother had fought tooth and nail to give her an education. She had fought the tyrant’s mother and the tyrant’s sons to allow Shazia to take up a job. Not that it was much of a job. She made peanuts. But at least she was away from hell for ten hours a day.

Shazia had only one more floor to climb. She had been preparing for this day for months now. But she knew that this one time, even her mother would not understand. She was, after all, a product of the same society. Speaking to her mother, was what Shazia feared the most. Mother had battled men, poverty and the society all her life. But this would be the last straw. This would hurt. This would break her mother’s spirit. Mother would never agree. And Shazia could never say no to her mother.

Shazia worked in an old part of the city in an ancient establishment and had an unfulfilling job as an accounts assistant. She could do so much more. She was made for so much more. If only she wasn’t to be born a woman. If only she was born elsewhere, in another family, in another society, in another land, she would have archived so much more. Yet, she felt, it was better than cooking and cleaning in that chicken-coop of a kitchen.

Most importantly, she had ten hours each day of her life at her disposal.

And she had found love.

It was nearly a year now. In her twenty years on earth, she had never felt the emotions she experienced in the last one year. She felt buoyant and exhilarated. She felt wanted in her lovers arms. Love felt like a steady drizzle on a hot and humid summer morning. Lemon flavoured raindrops. Consistent, wet, fragrant, and refreshing - washing away the years of pain, agony, fear, and unhappiness. Love was like a floating feather and Shazia had found herself levitating, her feet always a few inches above the ground. Love scorched – making love in hot summer afternoons. Love was naughty and tickled. Love was risky and asked many questions. Love made her lie - to her mother for the first time in years. But love was never guilty. Love was faultless. Love was her only desire and her only hope. Love was also her only fear.

Shazia found herself smiling, thinking of love, at her doorstep. And then she realised. She was home. The smile disappeared. She walked in. Her head bent low, her eyes searching the floor - with dignity and humility, she walked in. She dropped her bags on the table and paid her respects to her grandmother, who refused to die, and was always seated on her chair, close to the only window in the room, a rosary in her hand. She hugged her mother and went to the little space in the corner of the room, designated as the bathing area to wash her feet. Each time one of the women had a bath, everyone else had to leave the house. The three toilets, shared, by the other ten families who lived on her floor were in the corner towards the right end of the floor. Chicken-coop for the soul.

Shazia, went into the toilet and locked the door. The smell of faeces hit her senses but that didn’t bother her. She had grown up in this place and the toilet was the only place she had any privacy. Not in the morning though, when everyone from the ten families lined up for their chance, a bucket full of water in their hands. She closed her eyes and gathered courage. She had to tell them today. Tomorrow would be too late.

Tomorrow would bring home the suitor her grandmother had found her. He would come with his extended family and she would be required to cover her face and serve them sweet tea and salty savouries. They would ask a few questions which her grandmother would answer and then it would be over. She knew that the events that would unfold tomorrow were only a formality. Her grandmother had already decided her fate - she would marry the balding son of her distant relative. She had seen a photograph and the man looked, according to her, like a bollywood villain, with paan stained teeth and a potbelly. But no one would ask her for an opinion. It was decided and she would be required to comply - with the dignity and humility required of a young woman in her society.

Her only hope was her mother. But she knew that this time, even her mother would not agree. She had tried for months to gather the courage, and yet, if her grandmother had not forced her hand by trying to get her to marry potbelly, she would never have managed to muster the courage to speak to her mother. Now she had to and she was scared.

She did not care for what they would think of her or the names that they would call her. She was prepared for the beating she would get at the hands of her brothers. She was prepared for the trial that she would have to face at the hands of relatives that her grandmother would gather, to deliver her to eternal damnation. She could fight them all. But she could not fight her mother. She could not think of breaking her mothers heart.

But she also knew that she had to try. It was her one last attempt at life.

Slowly, she walked out of the hell-hole she had locked herself in and walked into the hell that was waiting for her. She saw God at the stove, preparing chapattis for the evening meal. The devil, on her chair, praying her rosary with eyes wide open, watching, on TV, a young couple running around trees in an old hindi movie. A little devil, having just walked in and flung his shoes in the corner, sitting on the floor with his sweet tea and glucose biscuits.

Softly she said “Mummy, Can I speak to you for a minute”

“Bolo Beta” mother smiled a mother's smile

“Mummy. I wanted to tell you something. Please tell me you won’t get angry”

“Jaldi bolo beta” said mother, now impatient, her attention taken away from the chapattis.

“Maa… I can’t marry… please ma….please don’t hate me…. I…. I am in love ma... I love this person from my office…. I can’t marry that man grandmother brought…. I…. I love…. I love this girl called Deepti ma”

64 comments:

Choco said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Grayquill said...

Mr. Mind Meander,
You did it again. The story grabbed me and would not let me go. And then you wacked me right at the end. I did not see it coming.
Great job.

Ms.R. said...

OMG!!! What the hell was that??!!

Ms.R. said...

God! Had to collect my thoughts. I love the whole flow and everything. IT was so gripping. The last line was like a punch in my stomach. Yikes! Very well written. I was gonna ask you, what was your inspiration behind it? The last line was like... I still can't digest it. Feel like her mother :P Great work :)

Divya said...

Waah.. I did not see that coming :Pee

aahang said...

Gripping.Fantastic end !
Just see if you can loose some words.Its getting a trifle longer.

Kaddu said...

Shucks! That was brilliant! I cudn't decide whether to do a :O at the end or a :))
Uffff... add a 3rd one... @-)

As the Mind Meanders said...

Tch Tch... innocent Choco

Even as I was writing... I was wondering if anyone reading this would be able to digest inter caste love :-)

Thank you for reading Choco

As the Mind Meanders said...

@ Grayquill

I am glad you liked it... Thank you...

Suree said...

oHhhhh!


wat an ending...

narration was so gripping....

As the Mind Meanders said...

@ R...

LOL

Hope the punch did not hurt...

My inspiration... hmmm... lets see... YOU, my dear, were my greatest inspiration...it started with you and your dilemma... and wanted to write something on a woman having to make a difficult decision...

The characters in the story are based on people that I have known...

The ending was a sudden attack of creative inspiration that hit me from nowhere... I could have taken the story anywhere... she could have wanted change jobs that required her to relocate outside the country... or she could have fallen in love... heterosexual love... but I don't know from where this came to my mind... and gave the story the edge that I thought it needed...

As the Mind Meanders said...

@ Divya... thank you for visiting mate...

As the Mind Meanders said...

@ Aahang... thank you so much... Your feedback always matters... and I am trying... trust me... hopefully... I will get better...

As the Mind Meanders said...

@ KADDDDDUUUU.... Your comments always matter so much to me... thank you....

As the Mind Meanders said...

@ Suree...

Thank you for visiting Bro and for reading...

I am happy you liked what you read...

Cheers

Ms.R. said...

It was a really good one. The narration in it's true right was gripping. Inter caste is something I am cool with. Inter- everything. But the whole thing about a girl and a girl in the end left me stunned. A girl comin from such a poor family doing some thing so 'outrageous'. But then love knows no boundaries. After the initial shock, I am in love with this one :D Please keep writing! It's not everyday I come across such gripping pieces ;)

As the Mind Meanders said...

Ah! you made my day R...

This is that said...

This was good.

As the Mind Meanders said...

@ This is That

Thank You

easy forex said...

wow men that realy nice post.

If you like to raed some about forex you can see my easy forex blog -

http://easyforexbroker.bravejournal.com/

Tech36.com blog said...

God! That was an awesome story. Pain, problems but the ending punch was too good. Too depressing, my jaw dropped, literally, when I read the last line (deepti part). Too good. Just too good.

As the Mind Meanders said...

@ Easy Forex

Thank You

Rambler said...

If inter-religion/inter-caste love is tough, same-gender love must be 10 times harder!!

As the Mind Meanders said...

@tech36.com

Oh Thank you... Hopefully It didn't depress you too much...

As the Mind Meanders said...

Love is tough rambler... Love is tough...

But we all need a little....

Thank you for reading :-)

ZiLliOnBiG said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
As the Mind Meanders said...

@ Zillionbig

LOL... Mate.. Next time... the twist might have to be that there isn't one :-)

prithvi said...

you know by the time I reached the end of your post I had thought I would applaud you for telling such a beautiful women-centered story, by the end of it my thoughts had gone haywire, you changed it from a “strong willed women” issue post to a tantalizing story in a single line, you sure have an author in you...well written.....

As the Mind Meanders said...

Thank You Pritvhi... I am a few feet up in the air now...

SSQuo said...

:)

Deepti! Woman, you stole the show! Nicely done.

Anukriti Sharma said...

Amazing Post! lesbians exist in this world as a part of our reality... Ur words made my heart flow with them... The ending though shocking is really the best part of it!!! that what makes it so different! Fantabulous story! Heart-rendering, and touching!
God bless ya! keep penning!

Ravi Lobo said...

Here are some points,

Since this is a story, avoid giving your view. Author should not judge the characters – rather that should be reader’s job. Show them, don’t tell them - is the basic rule of fiction.

Avoid foul/strong language. Four letter words are fine as character dialogue however - a blunder for author’s view.

Ending is good. Keep writing. All the best.

My rating – [3.5/5]

As the Mind Meanders said...

Anukriti... thank you

As the Mind Meanders said...

Hi Ravi...

Thank You for the feedback...I will keep these things in mind...

The story was written from Shazia's point of view... these were her thoughts and her judgements (i.e. the grandmother as the devil... this is what she saw when she entered the room)... If at all, I haven't been able to communicate that effectively

Abuse language... the idea is to use the most effective language to communicate a situation... i.e. the cop "Fu@#s his wife" he does not make love to her, he does not copulate (too bland), he does not have sex (too impersonal)... he "Fu@#s" her... that is how he looks at it... the act, from his point of view, and his wife's and shazia's is sadistic, vengeful... he takes advantage of his position as a man and as a husband... He is only fulfilling his carnal desires... with sadistic power... that's why I used the words I did...

But still... these things will remain at the back of my mind when I write in the future...

As the Mind Meanders said...

@SSQuo

Deepti Thanks you :-D

ZiLliOnBiG said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
As the Mind Meanders said...

Thank You Zillion...

Deviki @ Viki said...

Oh wow that is one heck of a good story .....wow just wow....I'm so gald her father died LOL

As the Mind Meanders said...

@ Deviki

Thank You Deviki.... Glad you liked it

thoughts said...

you are a very powerful story writer.

As the Mind Meanders said...

Thank you thoughts...

blunt edges said...

take a bow madame :D
d end blew me off...my 1st time here :)

As the Mind Meanders said...

@ Blunt Edges

Thank You mate... Glad you liked it

Although I ain't a madame :-)

I don't think any sensible lady would take up a name like blog gore :D

Shankha said...

Nice one indeed. The revolution always is there, but silent ones, felt by hearts who want to feel them.

You have one such heart.

Thanks for this story.

As the Mind Meanders said...

@ Shankha

Thank you mate...

Rashmi said...

The very moment i started reading, i didnt strayed away for anything, it was so gripping till the last word. Intercaste/religion in short inter-everything is cool with me.
But the end was the punchline.
I loved this piece, i really really really loved it.
Phew!!!!
What an end :)

As the Mind Meanders said...

Thanks Rashmi... Glad you liked the story...

K?K! said...

u and me share the same interests as far as books are concerned...
the story was nice... very bold

As the Mind Meanders said...

@ K?K!

Thank You. Glad you liked the story.

As far as similar interests in books is concerned... I am gonna visit your blog and find out...

Nikki said...

You want my feedback? I am a little unnerved about the ending but I am glad Shazia decided to love a woman!

Different and brilliantly written.

As the Mind Meanders said...

Thanks Nikki

Nikita said...

wonderfully written and totally unexpected. Good work :)

As the Mind Meanders said...

Hey thanks Nikita... Total unexpected... I can relate to that... Even I did not expect that anyone will like this :-D

Meghana Naidu said...

your words on nikki's blog intrigued me and i stopped by the blog, and it got more interesting as i continue reading. :)

This post started off as the 'ok here we go another on the oppressed woman' dont get me wrong its a subject foremost in my mind,

but the narrative was gripping and the finale was 'bang on mark' :)

now that being said, a little more streamlining and editing will surely turn this one into a masterpiece. for ex: maybe if you want a point/scenario to be emphasised you could go in for 'descriptive imagery' rather than it being repetitive. just my thoughts.

but all in all, an interesting&rare peek into the hush-hush realm!

As the Mind Meanders said...

Meghana... Two things

1. Thank You for visiting my blog. The little comment that I wrote on Nikki's blog was one of those rare moments of inspiration. This does not happen often.

2. Thank you so much more for the feedback... this blog is first real attempt at writing anything... and I am hoping to improve with time... and feedback such as yours is going to be of immense value...

Lastly, I read some posts on your blog and I have to say that you write brilliantly...

Meghana Naidu said...

Its not about how often it hapens but the very possiblity of being able to think that way. Believe me, as mich as there is no dearth of like-minded people especially in the blogsphere, you dont find them all that often.

i like what i read and your quest to better it only fills me with anticipation.

we, the readers, will always be here ofcourse and i cant help but get dramatic and say 'one for all and all for one' ;)
hope to read more of your reactions to my work

:)

manisha said...

yes as choco says, i was vividly reminded of the thousand splendid suns....this was beauty, sheer beauty..one of those kinds that when u see a sunset and want to capture the hues in camer a eyes, u wont be able to recreate the same experience when seen with eyes...

same way, i cant comment on the beauty of this post!! beyond what my words can explain! the threads of hundreds of emotions -sadness, love, freedom, retaliation, loneliness, dominance, anger...merged with mesmerizing skill!!!

manisha said...

and wanted to write something on a woman having to make a difficult decision...


thnks for doing this! not many guys accept that:(

As the Mind Meanders said...

Thanks Manisha... You made my day mate...

HoneyBee said...

Whoa...! I absolutely didn't expect this ending but this piece is amazing! I like the part where she describe the god in the kitchen and the devil with her rosary.

Impressive! Thank you for giving me something great to read!

SUHAS ROCZ said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
SUHAS ROCZ said...

I will tell you what happened with me... right now I am reading this during the night time...the time when normal people sleep...and also do something else...but I am reading blogs...and feeling sleepy at the same time...i am reading your post..and then sliding from my chair...bcause I thought this would be one of those suspense pillows which will make me sleepy...so aftr 2 minutes, I directly read the last line...poof..i read it again..i scanned again n again...and I felt the famous punch as many people over here...story is all about the aftermath...what happens after you read the story....I am sure I would like to follow your blog...

Rajagopalan said...

Shazia has used strong words when she dealt with men and their relationship with women throughout this fiction. The author has been given sufficient hint to the men- hatred temperament of Shazia. Still... the end is unconventional probably depicting the changing revolutionary social culture! great presentation!

Shanu said...

Wow..super duper! Wat a kahani main twist!!!