Monday, December 06, 2004

Untitled

"Hang your head Tom Dooley, Hang your head and cry,
You killed Poor Laura, Poor boy you’re bound to die."

The lines were stuck in her head like an unending refrain. Try as she might, she couldn’t get the words out of her mind. Hardly had it faded away, that it started all over again. Perhaps it was good that there was music in her head. It meant she still had the fighting spirit in her. She was still alive. And then, music had always been the essence of her being. It filled her heart with joy, spreading light in the dark corners of her soul, making her steps lighter, her eyes shine with suppressed glee, her mouth curve into the hint of a smile. Just as it did now.

"So he thought he had her beaten and subdued did he? Crushed her wings like he had crushed that fragile butterfly last week? He wished."

She’d spent her lifetime, dedicated to serving him. She met his every whim and fancy, toiled all day to keep his house clean so he could entertain his guests with pride and they could comment on his beautiful “home” and his good taste. Ironed his shirts, laundered his trousers, and ensured his tie was knotted perfectly for that important meeting with the German Chancellor. Gave him his vitamins every morning with the glass of freshly squeezed orange juice, poached eggs, bacon and warm toast, just the way he liked it. . Cooked and served him gourmet meals night after night. And then she lay back, like a dutiful handmaid, praying it would end quickly tonight. Praying fervently throughout that she’d conceive and get the excuse to avoid this nightly torture for at least a few months. But it didn’t. It went on and on and on…

It had been fifteen years now. Fifteen years of negating her identity and preserving his. Fifteen years of servitude. Of broken dreams. Of dissatisfaction. Of unfulfilled yearnings. She’d accepted it as her fate, plodding on listlessly through life, doing what he told her to do, dressing as he told her to dress, seeing the world through his eyes, seeing herself through his eyes. What had he said before he left for work today?

"Look at you. You look like a whore with that disheveled hair. You could have combed it back into your usual chignon. And those crimson lips? Didn’t you wipe that blood off, before doing the eggs?"

He left a few minutes later, leaving his breakfast unfinished. He’d grab a Subway on his way to work. The eggs were cold. And the toast was not crisp enough.


"I thought you’d have learnt by now. Such ineptitude won’t do. You better not screw up tonight. These people are important. I can’t have them thinking I married a useless bimbo who can’t even look good, leave alone prepare a decent meal."

She’d listened quietly, her head bowed down. Cleared up the remnants of breakfast after he left, then gone to wash the blood her face, rub some ice on her lips to reduce the swelling and improve her appearance before the maid came. He’d never beaten her before this. But then, she’d never refused him before this either. But...how could she have agreed? What he had asked her to do…a cold chill ran down her spine as she remembered. Shaking her self, she shut her eyes and focused on emptying her mind of the pain. She was good at that.

She slid in her favourite CD into the Sony Music system and started wiping the Swarvoski crystals. After the maid left, she entered the kitchen, having planned the menu while she worked. Quickly removing the vegetables from the refrigerator, she started slicing the onions finely to prepare the gravy for the chicken. Chop, grind, mix, sauté…soon the aroma of spices filled the air. She reached over and switched on the exhaust, continuing to stir the Kheer with one hand, lifting the lid of the other saucepan to check if the gravy was ready.

As she chopped the coriander for the chutney to go with the Shaami Kebabs she planned to serve with the drinks, she remembered this song she’d heard a few years ago. It sang the tale of a woman, much like her, who worked without pay for thirty years, negating herself for him and his children, and then one day, she met him at the door with her bags. She had a job now. One, that paid more than the current job of being a wife. "He thinks he’ll keep her, wasn’t that the refrain? Perhaps she too, could…"

The acrid smell of spices burning wafted to her nose and she abandoned the coriander, running over to turn of the stove. The gravy had burnt a little while she was lost in her thoughts. She’d have to make it all over again. He wouldn’t leave her in peace if there was even a hint of the burnt smell in the gravy. She picked up the knife and began slicing the onions again…

"Hang your head Tom Dooley, Hang your head and cry,
You killed Poor Laura, Poor boy you’re bound to die.
"

(Dec'04)

10 comments:

Ami Titash said...

lovely. you have the potential to become an amazing story teller.

Its neatly done, with no verbosity, not extra fat.

I like your attention to details and the style of narration. it holds the reader.

I wanted to call you up and congratulate you for writing this. :)

since theres nothing much to criticize about, I will stop here. Dont let these praises get into your head and keep writing. :)

all the best.

Paddy said...

I stand vindicated about the earlier comment I made on your blog by the same title namely you have outgrown yourself in the past month..Kudos..I have this picture that you would be in the US sometime sigining one of your latest books and I would drop by for an autograph..
Hmmm....

Geetanjali said...

Thanks Titash and Paddy! *Smiling with unadulterated glee!* :-)

Sid said...

Ok im o start off but saying. NIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIICE!

I love such pieces. I mean not such pieces, such pieces.
I just like sanity related themes. But seriously your character is done nicely. Very bitter as is obvious. Someone so bitter needs something to act out against. The beating you so cleverly embedded instead of emboldening her, just increases her faith in her abilities to try and accept her fate.
Ergo, driving her deeper into an abyss she is digging herself. Sweetly done.

An interesting observation. If you change the line, "preserving his identity" to "persevering his identity" it completely twists it into a different direction. By "persevering his identity" she pens the pain on him ... by "preserving his identity" shes actually pulling something good out of negating herself.

Yup Yup, damn good stuff. Your awesome!!! Giving me compliments sheesh! In closign WRITE MORE WRITE MORE

Parth said...

Excellent work Geetanjali. I loved the way the story brought the character out just as the character was bringing the story out. Keep it up :-)

Sreekesh Menon said...

A story of unsung courage?

I might not have got the true essense of this story, but I like it.

Free Spirit said...

Nice work. Very succint. I wish I can say I couldn't relate, but I guess what made me stay and read is because I could.

livinghigh said...

nice story, and very sad - i guess both u n i have a penchant for semi-tragedies, don't we? ;-)
but there was a confusion: in the mention of fifteen years having passed, and she still trying to conceive!!! who does that?

Geetanjali said...

Thanks a ton Sid, Parth, Sreekesh, FreeSpirit & Rahul - am feeling rather re-assured abt my writing 'talent' right now...

Unsung courage, pushed to the limits of tolerance - I'm trying to say it all...

Rahul - 15 years was supposed to make you realise that she's had an early marriage (20+15 = 35, yet she's hoping against hope...anything for temporary relief!) I like to believe I'm optimistic, and don't want to write tragedies - dunno what brought this one out!

FreeSpirit - welcome aboard! Hope to see you again - you know as I wrote the story, I realised that the woman I'm describing isn't unique - there are so many of them out there. Perhaps my reading of books such as Not Without my Daughter, My Feudal Lord, Blasphemy etc influenced me more than I thought and came out in this story...it's sad that despite the so-called equality we've won, women still continue to be battered and subdued in so many ways!

Sid - baccha, thy comments are very insightful and total fun to read!!! :-)

Anonymous said...

Hey Geetz! A really nice piece of work! Way to go gurl! As you said earlier, it certainly seems that you have drawn inspiration from other literary works where the woman has a battered self and ego as in this case. But this piece is refreshing, different! It springs surprises where an untrained eye would assume that the storyline would go the normal way like the others! Read up ur other piece of Caferati too! Found it too abstract for my taste But great all the same! Keep it up! From urs truly, Smiley Sherry! ;)