“He always did that; ignored me, after he had a drunken night and some incidents of hitting. I think he felt ashamed of his behaviour, that’s why he kept silent.”
Rhiti Bose’s poignant short story chronicles an honest, seething account of a housewife’s harrowing journey through domestic violence.
It hurt, just looking at my face hurt. The dark patches, the bruises, the lines, the eyes. Everything together made my face look distorted, tortured, and unhappy. I slowly traced the dark circles under my eyes, my eyes were beautiful once you know, and everyone said so. But just looking at them now made my heart hurt. They looked so sorrowful, so uncared for, not that you can have eyes taken care of well, or can you?
…I am in a wrong state of mind today, can’t really think well. All I can think now is, it hurt last night.
Surely he didn’t mean it, he was angry and drunk, surely he didn’t realise what he was doing. He is my husband, he loves me. He had been angry once in a while before, but he had never hit me before last night. Okay, he had slapped me once or twice, but that was not domestic violence, or was it?
Last night he kind of lost control of himself, he kept on hitting me, hurting me, like a stranger. He didn’t feel like my husband, he was rather a vicious uncontrollable stranger. I was more worried of his foul words and cussing, than him hurting me, I knew our son Sunny was listening. He gets scared easily, the poor thing. I had to bite my lips and swallow my screams, so I didn’t scare my little Sunny. I didn’t want him to feel sad or worried.
I ran my finger over my forehead, my sindoor was smudged, making it look ominous. Oh wait, is it blood smudged with the colour of the sindoor? I had to wash it off, I rinsed my forehead over and over, the blood red vermillion, and the vermillion coloured blood all in one, trickled down my face. It hurt.
“Shanti”, someone called my name and rang the doorbell.
I wiped my face quickly, adjusted my sari and ran to the door before she rang the bell again.
I opened the door, it was my kind neighbour, Shivani Mishra.
“Hello aunty, how can I help you?”
“Needed some sugar, but…” She stopped midway. “Are you okay Shanti?” She asked her eyes piercing into my face.
“I am fine, please wait, will get your sugar in a minute.” I was eager to get the old woman out of my house; you know how the stories run. Soon they would be making fun of my husband coming home drunk and hitting me at their stupid kitty parties, or did they do something else at the kitty, I wouldn’t know. I was not allowed to join those parties you know; Naresh felt they were a waste of time for women.
It hurt, the legs, I couldn’t move fast enough.
“Shanti, you are almost limping and your eyes are so…., did Naresh hit you again?”
“No aunty, I fell down the stairs last night. Don’t worry, I am fine.” I handed her the cup of sugar.
“You can trust me, I can help you.”
“I am fine,” I lied to the kind old face, it hurt to lie, but I did.
She nodded and with one more skeptical look at my face she left.
I sighed in relief when she left. Naresh would be up soon, and would have to leave for office. He was working extra time on Saturdays; he was such a hardworking man. Sunny had a day off though, so I could go at a slower pace. I quickly made his breakfast, scanned for any dirty laundry lying around, he hated a dirty home in the mornings, he was such a clean freak, my Naresh.
I could hear him move upstairs, hitting the showers, getting ready. I quickened my pace, scanned for final touches before he came downstairs.
“Good morning,” I said.
Naresh barely looked at me; he was in such a hurry.
He always did that; ignored me, after he had a drunken night and some incidents of hitting. I think he felt ashamed of his behaviour, that’s why he kept silent.
Naresh gulped down his coffee and toast, and was out soon. I could hear his car revving out of the driveway. I was alone; again, Sunny won’t be up for couple more hours. I was sure Naresh won’t be back for lunch, he never was, and he had stopped taking a ‘dabba’ long back. He was a fashionable guy, my Naresh, he liked eating out. Or maybe he didn’t like my cooking. It always made me sad to think that he didn’t like the food I made. Sunny was crazy about my cooking though, which was a bit encouraging.
I made myself a cup of tea, a full one you know, with lots of sugar and milk in it, and sat down with the morning paper. It hurt, sipping the tea hurt; it burnt my lips, which were still swollen. He was so drunk he didn’t realise he has hurt me so bad. He was fine when he was sober, his temper only surfaced only when he was drunk. Poor Naresh, I might have to visit guruji once more, may be a havan, the holy prayer in front of the fire, would help him to calm down his temper.
The day crawled by as it usually does, amidst the cooking and the cleaning and Sunny’s demands, the maid’s gossip, and the day did crawl by. I was getting nervous as the sky started to get darker and the night was creeping in. I managed to put Sunny in bed early, Saturdays were the worst, even Sunny knew it. His dad would go drinking with his buddies after work. And it was wise to stay away from him when he came home.
It was well past midnight, and I was almost dropping off the couch when his car entered the driveway. I knew not to fuss when he came in, Naresh hated when I fussed over him. I just opened the door and stood by the corner. Naresh came in, smelling strongly of a woman’s perfume. I tried to ignore the weird smell of alcohol, perfume and sweat fused into one. Naresh sat down, eyes blood red, he searched for something.
“He’s asleep,” I said. “Do you want any food?”
“Do I ever have dinner at home on Saturdays? You stupid woman!” he grunted.
I stood quietly. He needs time to cool off I thought, I started walking backwards slowly not uttering a single word.
“Where are you going? You think you can walk away and not answer my question? “
“I was just letting you cool off,” I stammered.
“You think I am drunk, you bitch, you think I need to cool off?” He screamed at me inches away from my face.
It was my fault I know, I must have cringed, flinched or made a face out of fear.
He started hitting me. “How dare you pull a face at me, you worthless woman.”
“Naresh, please, stop.” I begged, but it was too late.
And soon the world around me became a blur, I could hear him shout but could not understand his words, his hands ripping my hair, slapping my face, his fowl breath on my nose. I could feel Sunny peeping out of his room and shaking. I bit my lips, I didn’t want to scream, I didn’t want to scare Sunny you know, the poor kid. I was slipping away from me, from my mind.
All I could think was that it hurt.
More short stories
Papa Dearest – Parents are often unaware how their behaviour impacts their kids.
The Devata – Bond of love amongst siblings become exclusive when the sister assumes the role of a mother; for an orphan she becomes a ‘Devata’ – Goddess
When Heart Probes – Talking to Mumma, asking and answering… A little girl’s story
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