The Cracked Window

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Romance  |  House: Booksie Classic
Desolate old woman rediscovers life

Submitted: May 14, 2017

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Submitted: May 14, 2017

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It was evening again. She knew it when the gully streets woke up from its mid-day slumber to enthusiastic screams of kids playing cricket. While the entire colony despised this time of the day,only she waited with bated breath, for the game to begin. For she would then get to watch them scream,  fight, rejoice victories, make merry, get chased away, swear not to play again on the streets and make a come-back the very next day. She waited, to live the concoction of emotions the playing kids brought into her life. Rainy days and exam-time were a curse, she felt as if somebody cut off oxygen supply into her brains.

Her life had been confined to the walls of the unnecessarily huge house, an ancestral property, inherited by her through marriage. A palatial building, the ground floor of which was rented out. There was a tailor, a grocer, a gas-repair shop and a barber. Two generations ran a thriving business under her house,while paying a paltry sum as rent. She never thought of increasing the rent, she felt they were the heritage her family left for her. The rent and her husband’s pension was enough for her very lavish expenses; two meals and a breakfast per day.

She was married young, at 18. To a sailor. They had the customary arranged-marriage meeting at her parents house. She sat pretty with kohl-rimmed eyes, and colored lips. Her enchantingly lustrous hair,braided into two. She draped a linen saree in the colour ferozi, the color of a clear summer sky . He was struck by her unusual beauty. Olive skinned, sultry eyed, a curvaceous body with heavy bosom. He could spend his lifetime resting his head on her chest, counting her heart-beats, he had thought. His parents were not convinced of the match, as she didn’t meet the socially acceptable norms of beautiful. She was dark and fat. But to his eyes she was like soothing spring blossom; colorful, aromatic and exotic. It needed a big deal of persuasion and rigidity from his side, to finally convince his parents for the marriage. She, at her nonchalant best, was unaware of all the melodrama her suitor had caused. One fine day she was told she was to be married to one of the suitors. She didn’t know who it was till on the wedding day, she stole a look from within the perforations of the zardozi veil. Ok him,she had murmured to herself, as she exhaled. It hardly mattered who it was, she wanted to read books and travel places, not get married,but there were not many ears to pay heed. The first night was outrageously awkward. The make-up won’t come off her face, she was generously caked-up by her cousins to appear fair and beautiful. The soap and water ended up making her look like a racoon who had relished on a beet-root. He saw her struggling in the bathroom,and offered to help,poured some mustard oil in her palm and asked her to rub  that all over her face. That did the trick,the make-up came off. But she smelt like kitchen the entire night. 3 days went by, they didn’t consummate the marriage. Finally, one fine night, the urge was too intense to be subdued. He pulled her into a warm fondle, and made some awkward love to her. She was 18 then, and he of 23. A week passed by since, it was time for him to leave,his job beckoned.

That night she sat up carefully arranging his belongings in his tin-trunk. And, he sat up looking at her as she gyrated anxiously. The thought of not getting to see her every morning, for the next 3 months was to much to endure. He caught hold of the loose-end of her saree and pulled her into an embrace. It was the most passionate night of making-love they ever had. Two pairs of eyes, wide awake through the night, tossing and turning, losing count on the number of times they made love. At dawn, he took her leave. She stood by the gate with his mother as the rickshaw puller, pulled the cart away. She remembered crying inconsolably that one time, and never after that. It was a throbbing pain between her bosoms. Three months shall pass, she assured herself. She fondly reared his pet pigeons, the very way she saw him doing. She wrote to him religiously every week. He wrote to her back. Their letters were passionate eulogies of each other, of the nights they spent submerged in each others arms. They has fallen in love.

A month later, the letters stopped arriving. She became anxious. On a humid summer evening, a corpse  arrived in a coffin at their doorstep. She was awakened from her midday nap and told her husband died in an accident. The gas-chamber in the engine-room leaked and suffocated him when he had gone in there to inspect. Everyone in her family cried foul, she was too unhinged to rationalize, too appalled cry. The one and all then set their eyes on her, and asked her to change to the attire befitting to a widow. Then walked into the room, his grieving father, he rested his hand on her head and strictly instructed her not to don white, nor take off her jewelry. She wore starched cotton sarees and ate fish at her in-laws place, she went for family picnics, and went for purposeless rides in the family’s horse-driven tonga. She was looked down upon by her own siblings for not leading the life of a forlorn widow. But every-time she sat near the mirror and her hand mistakenly reached her silver vermilion pot, she gently chided herself and heaved a mournful sigh. A year later, after his yearly rites were over, her father-in-law called in for her. He made her sit beside him and told her she was young and should remarry, that he would find an eligible match for her. She looked at him-aghast,  refused, and stormed away from the room. Later that day she felt apologetic about her behavior. She sat beside her father-in-law’s arm-chair, on the floor, and stared at him with moist eyes. That she could never remarry and had lost the capacity  of union to any another man,was written distinctly all over her body and spoken through her eyes.

Five decades had gone by,she was all of 65. Thinner and wrinkled.. One after the other everyone took turns to take a leave from her. She never realized when her life became confined to the palatial house, and when the humongous chandelier of the living room, and multi-coloured glasses on the windows became her allies. At times she would lay awake at nights, reminisce the moments spent with her husband, yearn for his touch, for his lips, yearn to loose herself just one last time in his eternal embrace. At times she would seethe in anger, cursing the heavens, then her parents, then him, then herself. She was disrobed of love and affection before she could even appreciate their presence in her body.

Her only loyal companion was Noro, the cook-housekeeper-caretaker of the family. When she was newly married into the household, Noro was a new-born of 3 days. Noro lived with his wife and a daughter in a room on the terrace. She had arranged the marriage for Noro with the girl and bore all the expenditure. The daughter never visited her, although she financed her education. She was known to be a cranky, idiosyncratic old woman to everyone, who is always on the look-out for someone to hear her repetitive stories.

She spent her days mostly alone, reading. There was a treasure trove left behind as a library, by father-in-law. Sometimes she liked to sit in her bedroom and see the colourful reflections thrown on the widowed walls of her bedroom by the collaboration of sunlight  with her multi-colored window panes.

She hardly had any visitors, except the shopkeepers who came to pay the rent and the occasional saree vendor from whom she bought her sarees,blouses,underskirts. Her brother and sisters were all old and their children thought visiting her would mean accepting her responsibility.

One day as she sat in her library reading, her concentration was interrupted by crackling sound of glass shattering. As she slightly limped her way into her living room, she saw a ball lying lifelessly on the floor, beside it bits and pieces of the yellow glass from her window pane. As she looked through  she saw a  beam of pure sun-light penetrate its way through the broken pane. She had seen unadulterated, unfiltered sunrays after many years. It left her was thrilled. She limped towards the broken window and peeked through, not a sign a of life, then where did this ball come from.

As she turned back Noro’s wife was already cleaning the glass and cursing the pesky children who made life miserable for the residents. So intrigued was she by the ruptured glass, that she spent the rest of the evening in silence, staring at perforation like a captive looks forward to his impending freedom. The next evening she purposefully sat in her bedroom, waiting to see the culprits who broke her window. Her reverie was broken by the sudden hullabaloo on the street. As she peeped through the glass,she saw a group of children, a mix of boys and girls, some behind the stamps, some ahead of it. Some throwing the ball, some catching it. The cacophony created by them was music to her ears. The first evening went by with she peeping though the hole, the second went by too. On the third day she flung the window open. A gush of fresh air entered her room as if a new life was leased to her. Hope was back in her life.

One day such day while she waited for the children to start their play, but none came. It wasn’t raining nor was it exam time. She inquired with Noro’s wife. A notice has been served by the society to all the parents, she was informed. This left her fuming. She resolved to visit the office and place her defence in favor of the children, nobody had the right to re-write their childhood. The society’s office was exactly opposite to her house. Next evening she took out her milky white, 20 years old chanderi saree with striking red border and draped it impeccably about her body. Age could do nothing to her indomitable grace. She stepped out of her house after 40 odd years out in the open. He feet trembled, as she crosses the road, but her motive was her encouragement. The door of society office was ajar, she entered with the sole motive to rebuke them over their high-handedness. The old man on the chair of secretary welcomed her with a smile and offered her a seat. As they started chatting and discussing, a new friendship had begun. Gradually as other members started assimilating, as one could hear peels of laughter echo out into the streets, one of them was that of a woman. The edges of the cracked window pane glimmered as it caught sunlight between them.  


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