Pushpadevi woke up with a start. It was a silent night and the only sounds that reverberated through the room were the loud snores of her husband Kashinath. Relieved ,that what she saw was only a nightmare,she sat up,wiping the beads of perspiration,from her forehead and upperlip. She then started walking towards the earthenpot ,resting on a rickety old stool,in one corner of the room.Her hands groped in the darkness ,for the ‘lota‘(a copper vessel ). Having found it,she dipped it into the pot and started drinking ,till her throat no longer felt parched.. Keeping the ‘lota’ back in its place,she turned to walk back. Her husband,completely oblivious of his wife’s predicament ,was snoring even more loudly now,as if mocking at her . Pushpa let out a sigh and walked back to her charpai (a bedstead used in India) and lied down. But sleep eluded her. She kept staring at the blank ceiling of the house,as if expecting it to come alive and remove all her apprehensions.
The next day ,early morning ,she quietly opened the main door of the house ,and hurried down to Banwarilal’s grocery shop. His shop was the closest, she could get to a telephone,from her house. Once there,she exchanged a few words with Banwarilal ,after which she started talking to someone on his phone. As the conversation progressed,her face grew from sad to morose , and her eyes ,that were now moist with tears,showed signs of some hidden grief .Though Banwari quizzed her about it ,she refrained from answering. Then paying him the money for the call she had made,and holding her pallu (the loose end of the saree ) over her head,with great cautiousness,Pushpadevi scuttled back ,in the direction of her home.
By the time she reached home,Kashinath was ready to leave for the fields . Pushpadevi quickly made him two rotis (indian bread ) which he greedily devoured ,along with a green chilly and half a piece of onion.After this ,he left . Pushpa ,standing at the door,opened her mouth, as if to say something . Then,as an afterthought ,muttered something under her breath and let him walk away. Her eyes ,welled with tears, stood gazing at him ,till he became a speck in the distance ,and she felt choked. She knew ,she needed to speak with someone about her fears,but with whom….?
Pushpa then thought of Suman, her daughter-in-law . But then ,she no longer stayed with them….With these thoughts, her mind wandered back in time. ” She still remembered the day Suman came to their house,dressed in a simple red saree and minimal jewellery… Pushpadevi had a lot of plans for her son’s marriage and ‘dowry‘ was the’ highlight ‘ of the plans. She had always dreamt of a wealthy daughter-in-law, a daughter of a zamindar (land owner) perhaps,who would come into their house laden with a lot of jewellery and cash ; thus proving herself to be Goddess Lakshmi ,(the Hindu goddess of wealth ), in the real sense.”
”But here she was, Suman, the girl her son had fallen for and married against her consent – a comlpete contrast to the ‘bride‘of her dreams. A frail looking girl,the daughter of a landless labourer,who struggled to make both ends meet,let alone provide them with any financial benefits !!!. Pushpa remembered Suman’s calm ,innocent eyes plead with her for forgiveness. But they failed to break Pushpa’s resolve ,to never completely accept her as her daughter-in-law.”
Today,as Pushpadevi,stared blankly ,at the empty cradle lying next to her charpai , her thoughts re – winded to that fateful day…..”Her daughter-in-law ,Suman,was pregnant .Pushpa was elated to hear the news.She now looked forward to a grandson ,who would bring some joy into her otherwise mundane and hopeless existence. Days turned into months and soon the D-day had arrived .”
”Pushpa, waited patiently ,outside the ward of the village hospital . Her lips were muttering a prayer and her fingers were counting the beads of her rosary. Then, suddenly,she heard the cry and the doctor came out and announced to her..” congratulations !!! It is a beautiful girl...” Pushpadevi felt the earth shift from beneath her feet.All her hopes and aspirations were nipped in the bud.As the tears flowed down from her eyes , Pushpa had made yet another resolve.”
”The following morning,as Suman,lying on her bed,attempted to pick up her newborn ,from the cradle,to feed her milk , she froze. Her baby was as still as a stone.”
”Death due to asphyxiation” , declared the doctor”.But, how a pillow lying on Suman’s bed , ended up suffocating and killing the infant lying inside the cradle, nobody was to ever discover !!! ,except perhaps Suman herself, because the very next day she packed her bags and left, never to return again. Pushpa’s son soon followed suit. ”
The loud knocks on the door,snapped Pushpa out of her reverie. She stood up and walked towards the door.The knocks were growing louder by every pasing second. A knowing fear ,gripped her heart. As she opened the door,she closed her eyes for a second (as if asking for forgiveness ) …When she opened them,she saw, lying on the ground,just opposite the door , a body. Pushpa looked closely at the body, lest she was mistaken… the body of her beloved daughter Kusum . It was only a few hours back ,that she has heard her voice on the phone. Kusum was pleading with her to take her back home or send more ‘dowry’ to her in-laws. Pushpadevi was helpless,she couldn’t do either. Now, remorseful,she kneeled down in front of the body of her dear daughter and wailed…like a mad woman.
Pushpadevi knew…this was her nemesis . The chickens,always come home to roost…..