“Sumitraaaaaa…….” His raspy voice, send a chill down her lean, tall spine. Hurriedly, she went to open the door, on the way toppling on Bunty’s scattered toys. Her fall set the flapping joker in motion, and it sang a melody. Devduth’s impatient fist now banged the precarious shanty door. In time, she prevented the fall. With tottering gait, he invaded the hut and in an instant kicked away the singing jester.
“You Slut… how long it takes for you to open the door?” He barked authoritatively. Clasping her long fragile hair, he pulled her close to his face. Sumitra couldn’t bear the fetid odour, a farrago of sweat, piss and alcohol. She sloped on to one side in repugnance. Unable to bear this joust of insult, he smashed her forehead, on the fissured wall.
The plaster came off in pieces, some of which were tinged red.
The dripping blood not satisfying his ego, he ruthlessly slapped her haggard face hard. Her already clattering teeth, bit the tongue bitterly- only form of revolt she could afford. Sumitra let out a scream by which he was taken aback. She slipped to the floor from his clutches.
“How dare you even utter a cry? You frump!” With that he kicked her, in her osteoporotic ribs. With pursed lips, Sumitra wept tears of helplessness.
“Go, get me some food.”
As she picked herself, Sumitra saw Bunty run away in the dark. It was not every day that he retreated like this. On occasions, he too was battered with her.
Devduth was never a sober man. But his vices were tamed, thanks to a day job. Being a migrant, after the mills shut down, he turned a loafer. Under the sun, he gambled in shady lanes. At dusk, his clumsy, staggering gait, unable to bear the stout hefty figure, ambled home.
“Did you die on the way?” His cry jolted her to present.
Sumitra’s bulky condition added to her sluggish moves.
There was a life kicking in her. If such assaults continued, the flesh would be reduced to blood. She needed money to keep the little heart thudding.
Quivering, Sumitra managed to speak, “Will you please lend me fifty rupees for a tonic?”
SPLASHHH….the watery dal was launched on her face. She had got her reply. Sumitra clenched her fist tightly, and her tight jaw could be seen even in the little light that came into the shanty.
Again he clasped her by the neck, and kicked her hard in the abdomen.
“This serves you right, you bitch!”
Who would be served right, only the distance from a broken bottle could decide.
The broken bottle indeed was picked up and…..
A wail echoed in the lane outside. A shivering Bunty had seen a towering shadow stab a stout one. Sumitra emerged with blood soaked, trembling hands to calm both her children; one in her arms, other in her confines.
The flapping joker again sang a melody as Devduth’s lifeless body toppled over it.
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