Wednesday, February 13, 2013

After the fire

She looked at the charred walls of the once pure-white shop, lifting her chiffon saree as she walked over the cinders. She was tall and thin, and she ducked to step out and stare up at the singed sign-board: "A-1 Dry Cleaners", it announced. And below, in bold, self-important letters: "Prop: Kishore Yadav". Just like Kishore to put his name up there when it was she who did all the work. Running her narrow fingers over clothes customers dropped off, checking the pockets, alerting the workers to any rents in the fabric. Writing out receipts. And, smiling at the customers, something Kishore did not believe in. He just sat around, shouting orders, wearing the pristine white clothes he loved. Surrounded by heaps of coloured bundles, he stood out like a neta, wearing white and thinking black thoughts.

She really should have checked whether Chhotu had turned the iron off before she left for the day. Luckily they kept all the customers' clothes in a tiny store room, and neighbours doused the fire before it reached there. She must remember to thank them. Kishore would raise hell, of course, when he returned from the village. She was his wife - in his eyes someone to boss over and blame. She straightened up - accepting his shouting and even some well-aimed blows was nothing new. She was stronger than that. Deep within, she felt a sneaky thrill - "serves him right for going home for his cousin's engagement when he wouldn't let me go for my own sister's wedding." Oh how much she had longed to be there for the celebration, the cooking, the songs, the giggling, and to tightly hug her sister good-bye, their tears flowing into each other's hair, staying back a few days to comfort her mother. But Kishore had put his foot down, as he usually did.

A man cleared his throat and she leapt back into the present. The repair work would cost them a fair bit. And she wanted it done before Kishore returned and yelled about how she had no business being careless with his shop. The man cleared his throat again - he was the civil contractor who would undertake the repair work. "What colour do you want?" he asked, indicating the tattered shade card he'd brought along. "Just white," she said, shrugging and turning aside to let him in to measure the surface area.

He placed his bag and the shade card on the sooty counter and fumbled for the tape measure. Her eyes fell on the shade card and a delicious, evil idea came to her. She smiled wide and said "Actually, rani pink."


sukanya said...

descriptive and beautiful imagery as always. loved the neta analogy.
'Rani Pink' - you go girl.

dipali said...

What colourful revenge:)

Thinking Cramps said...

Sukanya: Thanks! I can just imagine the shop in my head :)

Dipali: Exactly!

Bong Mom said...

So glad to have you back in full color :) Missed reading you