The van cruised along the rugged terrain of the winding roads leading to the Nellaya village close to Palakad. The stolen wagon noisily hurtled on the gravel-filled roads, the vehicle threatening to crumble down anytime given the civic apathy of ignoring the infrastructure in the not-so-lucrative political constitution.
The rickety seats and the vibrato-clad windows jostled Suman out of her stupor. She was coming back home…
She was barely twelve when her father had peddled her off to the highest bidder to prevent the family from starvation. Her favorite person in the world, her cheta* had wailed watching her flailing self, dragged away.
Suman had spent a tumulous decade in a filthy brothel in the by lanes of the notorious Paharganj. Muthu a daily wager from her hometown had been the catalyst triggering her jest for freedom. Pooling their meagre possessions, they had fled the inferno, breathing life into their moribund souls.
She smiled at Muthu humming a funky tune that she got to know was a Malayalam chartbuster. He had secured a job on one of the coffee plantations close to Wayanad and had asked her to join as well.
“Illa… No Muthu. I have a home to go back to. My cheta must be worried sick. I want to spend the rest of my life in Nellaya.” She had told Muthu and he had only somberly looked on.
Suman blurrily regarded the breezy green velvet of lush shrubbery luring her into their aromatic haze. The colorful flora waved as if welcoming her to their fold. She finally inhaled the redolence of freedom.
It was close to dusk as the van screeched to a halt on the pavement near her ‘home’. She stared wide-eyed at the beautiful two-storied manor nestled in the varied green magnificence instead of the run-down chalet she remembered.
The carved teak pillars screamed of opulence along with the rustic charm of the green protuberances all along the boundary wall. Enticed she sprinted towards it unmindful of her tattered clothes and shredded slippers.
Would cheta recognize her? How would he introduce his little daughter to her? Appachi?
Excitement surged through her battered body as she gripped the silver anklets her only prized possession, she yearned to gift her anni.
With a pounding heart, she rang the brass bell and was startled at the metallic echoes vibrating around her. The family must have retired early.
After what seemed like ages the door shrieked open.
Her heartbeats straggled away as her handsome brother stood squinting before her, his oiled hair glistening in the night lights adorning the gates. A myriad of emotions played on his face as recognition struck.
“Su…Suman?” He whispered.
“Cheta… Inan Vittil thiracchi etti… I am back home”
Color drained from his face as he looked around timorously.
“Illa… My sister Suman died years ago. Please leave. Don’t create a scene here. It’s better for everyone.”
He slammed the door shut, the jarring noise confirming the anachronism deep inside her heart. She staggered behind turning back towards the pavement even as tears had their freeway.
The pair of headlights flashed as Muthu signaled her to return… towards another future.
Glossary: cheta: older brother
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