Is she not here today? I wondered, as my eyes searched for her.
Coco and I were regulars at the park and I had seen her sitting alone in the corner since couple of days. There was something disturbingly familiar about her eyes.
Coco’s woofs showed his impatience, his urgency was palpable. So, I took him to his favourite spot. While he went on with his business, my thoughts veered to those sorrowful eyes again.
It was getting dark, and there were still no signs of her. For some unexplainable reason, I had a strange feeling in the pit of my stomach.
Bahadur and I exchanged our usual pleasantries, he might know something, “Bahadur, udhar jo ladki baithi hai, aaj nahi aai?” I asked pointing towards the bench.
“Kahaan rehti hai? Maloom hai?”
He pointed towards the row houses, mumbling a door number.
With Coco leading the way, I walked towards the house and rang the bell. An eerie silence greeted me, probably no one’s home! I thought of walking away, but some gnawing feeling stopped me.
I knocked hard and waited.
Few people walked by, ignoring me. Their hushed whispers floated behind.
The door opened slowly and through the crack, peering at me, were the same pair of sad eyes.
“Hello! Sorry for intruding. You don’t know me. I have seen you in the park, but you didn’t come today so I thought of checking on you.” I rattled non-stop.
Without a care, she left the door ajar and traipsed into the house. I did something which I hadn’t ever done in six decades of my life… I entered a stranger’s house, uninvited!
Coco had felt her sadness too. Instinctively he leapt up and sat on her lap, licking her affectionately.
“What’s wrong beti?” I inquired in an attempt to break the cold silence.
I strained to hear her quavering voice, “Aunty, I eloped with a colleague 8 months ago. Our parents objected to our relationship because of caste differences but I was hopeful someday they might accept us.
And this,” she hissed as she handed me a paper, ‘has ruined everything.”
It was a blood test report.
I gasped as the paper slipped from my hand.
“That’s not the worst part”, she smirked. “My husband has left me. I don’t have the will to fight him nor the neighbours who’ve ostracised me. ”
And in that moment I knew why those eyes had looked familiar!
They were just like Amma’s – a young widow who had been shunned by society, and left to fend for herself and her three daughters.
Her feelings stuck a chord with me. I clasped her hands, “You are not alone. How can I help?”
“You’ve already helped me, if not for you I’d have…” she mumbled and looked towards the knife lying across her.
I shuddered, imagining the outcome if I had ignored my instincts.
“You’ve a friend in me, don’t worry” wiping her tears, I embraced my new friend.
This story is based on a real incident which I had witnessed a few years ago. However, I have changed the settings and refrained from naming the characters so as not to reveal the identities of the individuals involved.
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