Time was still. The man looked at his watch. Hours and minutes stuck in perpetuity. Defeated and motionless.
“How ironic” he thought. His lifeless watch reflected the barren landscape – dull, desolate, and still. Thirsty shrubs reached out to the dry, parched soil. The slight breeze that blew through the landscape during these acrid months appeared to have been imprisoned by the lazy dust that rested listlessly in the summer sun-baked earth.
The man looked at his car as it stood open-mouthed. Its defeated engine looking out at an angry victorious sun.
He had been there for a few hours now since his car broke down. His kerchief tied around his head and a bottle of water in his hands. A bottle that now contained the last few sips of lukewarm water after the liquid had made friends with sunshine. The poor man however had no choice but to wait.
Sweat trickled down his forehead and entered his eyes. He tried to flutter his eyelids to avoid the sweat trickling down into his eyes. Salt and sweat burnt his eyes and clouded his vision. He fluttered his eyes and looked out at the barren highway through a hazy tear screen.
He hadn’t seen a vehicle pass by since his car overheated and his driver had gone off to get water. Since then, it had felt as if his defunct watch had somehow managed to stop time and keep him imprisoned in a vulnerable, timeless and harsh present.
His patience had started getting the better of him. He looked at his bottle of lukewarm water, the acrid landscape, the isolated highway, and his useless car. He cursed under his breath. He cursed his luck, the weather and his driver.
“Benchut, why the fuck did the car have to get overheated today and where the fuck is Ramprasad”
His mind moved on. It moved on to unpleasant thoughts about a bag that was on the back-seat of the car. The bag worried him. The inconspicuous bag held gold, that generally, is a fortune for any middleclass father of an unwed girl child. The bag contained gold jewellery for his only daughters wedding, prepared by a family jeweller from their ancestral village, a few hundred miles away from the city.
The gold had cost him a fortune. It had cost him enough to make him worry about it.
He had set out last evening to go back to his ancestral village to collect the gold. He had to go alone, as the others in his small extended family were busy with other tasks that a grand wedding demanded of younger and fitter men. He had set out with his driver of eight years, a man he could trust with his soul, to collect his daughters wedding ornaments and issue the final payment.
He had forgotten about the gold since his car broke down. But now it worried him.
He pulled himself close to the car door and looked in through the car window.
And then all hell broke loose. His heart started pounding through his chest and worked its way up violently to his temple. It pounded in his head and engaged in a violent scuffle with his brain. He felt his heart and brain scrambling through his veins. His head exploded and his heart tore through his chest.
A lone man screaming on an isolated highway. His voice cutting through the caustic landscape, unsettling the lazy dust and ripping through the earth. Far away mountains, lying still, waiting in eagerness, unsure but eager - Can they absorb the angst.
A car standing still. Its open mouth seems wider. Terrorstricken. This is not the master that it has known
“BHENCHOT… BHADWA… MADHARCHUT”
A man he trusted for eight years had taken off with his daughters future. A man who he trusted with all his secrets, frustrations and happiness. A man who had, for eight years, been just another accessory in his car. A man he trusted.
He had to go after the bastard.
There was no point waiting here. His daughters wedding was less than fourteen hours away. He had to get back with the gold.
His daughter's father-in-law had said that he did not believe in dowry.But the man had also said that the only thing he expects is that his daughter-in--law enters the house like a princess.
Everyone knew what that meant. He, as the father of the bride, was expected to give. This was the social norm and this was how his society worked.
Of Course, the wedding was doomed without the gold.
Since the birth of his only child, a daughter, he had realized that the girl was to be his most precious asset and yet, ironically, his biggest liability.
He loved his daughter. He would not let her down. His family name was at stake. He could not let his ancestors down
He had to get home. And he had to get home with the gold. He had to act.
Waiting around was not going to help. He had to act.
"Act now you you bastard. Come on. You have seen a thousand movies where the impossible has become real. There must be some truth to it. Miracles happen. They happen to those who are desperate and who believe."
"Pray now you bastard. Call out to the one who has blessed you all her life."
“JAI MAATA DI”
He tried to pull himself up and stand up on his feet.
His wheelchair moved away from him
He fell to the ground.
He looked up at the scorching sun, his car and then his wheelchair.
Then he cursed god and his fate.
Why the fuck did this have to happen to him.
Why was he cursed.
Cursed with a daughter. Then cursed with a paralytic stroke that had rendered his legs useless for the last one year.
And now cursed with this misfortune...