Monday, November 06, 2006

Gundappa just lit a bidi from his pocket. This was the last one and the shops were closed too. He cursed the shop keeper, his family and cast out loud, and felt a little better. He'd just come out of his shack a few moments ago. It was late in the night, but the ayaa who was taking care of his wife's fifth pregnancy didn't let him in. "Last four times, you watched the babies coming out, and all of them were girls. This time you've worked so hard to get a boy, don't ruin it at the last moment, go out", she yelled at him. Gundappa really wanted a boy this time. Because of his wife, he was looked down at, at every caste gathering. Some even suggested to abandon her, or better to sell her at a decent prize so that he can get a new and young girl who would be auspicious to give him a boy.

He heard the screaming. It was his wife, she was screaming bloody hell, cursing the father, the child, the ayaa and their respective families. "What does it take to have a bidi without any disturbance?", he thought, he wished his wife wouldn't scream as much. Last four of their children, as mentioned earlier were girls. Useless girls, who were a burden on him. A girl in his caste and social status meant a straigthforward 10,000 Rs. for the marriage. With daily wages of 50 + 60, it was really difficult for him to manage. He'd married two of the girls at a very old age of 12 and 14. And the third one was of a suitable age, but Gundappa didn't have the money.

"If this one is not a boy, you know what to do", he warned his wife. She knew it. If it were a boy, Gundappa and her would celebrate with a joint of afoo. Otherwise, the newborn child would celebrate her birth with a puff of afoo and die instantly. It was a very popular technique in the village, to get rid of unwanted girl childs. Widely used, suggested by the haqim on the corner of the peepal tree. He rolled the joint into the vida leaf. Tied it with the home-made thread. The joint was ready. He hoped that it was a boy. That way, he'd get to smoke the joint and it would be a pride for the whole society.

The screams got denser, louder and horrifying. The moon had risen above the coconut trees and the sea was breathing heavily. The trees were responding by whisteling along the wind. His wife added to the whining natural harmony. Time should stop, the screams should stop. He urged to god. He prayed it was a boy, for the family and for the joint.

Now we are in the climax. She was screaming, she cursed his father, his mother, him, the child everyone around her, the ayaa. And finally she was born. She was born, it was a she. His wife didn't believe it. She was born. A moment before, he could have born. But no, she was born. Now the wife had to do the job. Ayaa called Gundappa inside, he lit the joint. He was tempted for a puff. But he knew, it was enough only to kill an infant. If he had one for himself, the girl would live. And everybody knew, it was more difficult to finish off a child who was not nascent. He resisted his temptation, he hated the girl. Now the pride was lost and the joint too.

The girl, still unclean, covered with the motherly fluids was forced with the joint. She was so young, she didn't even cough at the smoke. Those kind of emotions or physical manifestaions hadn't developed yet in her body. She smoked it, she might have smiled for a second they thought. But they thought only for a second, because she was undone then. Gundappa decided, if the next one was a girl, he would sell of his wife to a pimp in a whore house in Bombay. They paid a lot there. He would easily marry of his third girl with that.

Now the joint was over, the wife was tired, the ayaa unclean and the child was dead. He was not a happy man, and there was no pot left to sooth him. And he looked at the moon.

3 comments:

Infektia said...

wow. amazingly put.

Karthik Shekhar said...

fantastic!

Karthik Shekhar said...

I was reminded of Mulk Raj Anand..really really fundoo!