Submission – Short Story
By: Mamta Gupta
The Clouds welcomed the July monsoons with a thunderous sound. When the wild rain fell on the reopened earth, hope filled Laji, where wet rice had not. A farmer with money would visit her.
It had been a week since a man had been under her dusty thatched roof. Sitting on her haunches in her red coarse sari, dark arms covered with a tattoo of goddess Sita, Laji cleaned the mud floors with a twig broom. Her nose itched with the dust and the heavy nose ring shook, a salvo of water came out, but she kept cleaning, eyes on the door.
Laji placed the last morsel of Jowar roti and crushed onion on seven year old Basanti’s fiery tongue. She set aside the onion’s peeled diaphanous cover for the next meal.
The next night while the purple white tipped sky was waiting for the moon, inside Laji’s home the village chief opened his soggy dhoti quickly. “You will only get five rupees from me, not ten. My wife is away to her brothers, so I had to come to the likes of you.” His hungry eyes looked at her well proportioned silhouette.
His name was Jasmal. He smelled of his arousal, pulled at Laji’s saree, fondled her in the dark, bit her neck softly, then harder, but when she failed to arouse him, spat on the floor a few times. He threw five one rupee coins, muddy heads, shiny tails, which bounced against the floor and then walked out shrugging his shoulders. Laji adjusted her saree and called out to Basanti in a shrilly voice, “my child comes inside.” Basanti had been making faces and gabbing with the stars.
The silver speckled mirror and starry faces in the sky would watch Basanti endlessly flaying her arms and legs. With them there was no mean laughter, only a blameless friendship.
After a few moon filled nights, Laji had collected forty rupees under her pillow; it was enough money for grain, oil, salt, turmeric and a doll for Basanti. Laji’s dry flaky feet walked towards the town next morning. Sun came out scorching, so Basanti obediently stayed indoors, wrapping her mother’s red sari around her small, perfect body. She made a crescent moon with a black kohl pencil on her forehead, just like mother.
Singing the festival song of trust between friends, Basanti turned when a male voice completed her song. It was Jasmal again. His eyes were red, his mouth smelled. Where is your mother? His eyes remained on her chest. Her little breast quivered and escaped the red saree, she fidgeted and warily looked up, “Ma is outside buying a cloth doll for me, I will be marrying my doll tomorrow.” Jasmal’s forehead glistened. His drool wet his beard. Maybe I can present you a doll as well. A hand reached out and stroked her face.
When Laji came home that evening, her mud walls echoed the small sobs that had filled the corners of her hut. Lying on the floor of the hut was Basanti, her small hands clutching onto Laji’s red sari. Her breasts were covered, but her small damp legs were held tightly, her neck bearing the prints of teeth. Lying next to her little frame were five ten rupee notes.
Laji’s shadow became smaller as outside the fertile moon smiled. The new green grass shone under the silver of the night.