The last laugh : A short-story in two parts.
It started raining in the evening. It was nearing sunset and with only two or three dull clouds in the sky, it all started slowly with a drizzle. As night progressed, thick black clouds gathered, it picked up momentum and now it was raining very heavily.
She was alone in the thatched mud hut situated a little distance away from the village and was one amongst a few more such huts. She was waiting anxiously for him. He had to come from a long distance away. He would have started in the morning of that day, after changing two buses midway he would have reached the other side of the river that flew in between. He had to walk in the waist deep water, cross the river to this side and then walk again a mile or so from there to reach her. In spite of all this ordeal, she thought he would come; he would definitely come that night to take her away from there.
Nothing was there in the hut due to nonuse since long. A lot of filth had accumulated in it. A hen with its chicken made its settlements at two or three places on the dusty floor and appeared to have changed between them as it wished.
There was no wind in the evening when it started drizzling. Now heavy wind blew from this direction to that direction making heavy heaving sounds as it blew. Whenever she heard the heaving sound of the wind, she got nervous but quickly regained her composure. The flame on the wick of the oil lamp shivered as the wind blew and at times, it appeared that the wind would surely blow it out but it somehow managed to retain itself and threw dim light around.
It was two days since she had a decent meal and she was feeling very weak. As she knew she had to pass through this phase, she was prepared for the ordeal. Since evening, she stood at the threshold of the mud hut and did not move from there even when the heavily blowing wind sprinkled rain on her and made her clothes wet. She had her gaze fixed on the path that brought it to the house from a distance, which remained empty since evening on that day.
He would come; he would definitely come….she told to herself a hundred times until then and comforted herself. He would not ditch her, he was not like that, he was definitely a good man, she thought to herself again.
It was still raining heavily and she feared that there might not be any respite until the morning next.
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Her name was Ganga. She was the daughter of a father who was a drunkard. He rarely did any work and always depended on the earnings of his wife, her mother. Her mother never used to sit idle, worked very hard, and struggled to run their family of three. Out of her daily earnings, she gave money for his drinking lest he would beat her. He used to return home late in the night and normally fell asleep. In case he did not fall into sleep, he used to pick up quarrel with her on one pretext or the other and beat her in the end. She withstood all this without uttering a word. She looked beautiful and her beauty made him suspicious and cruel. She used to weep inconsolably at times but only within herself and without any noise. Ganga grew up listening to the sobs of her mother beside her before falling into sleep and some times, it appeared to her that her mother sobbed even in her dreams. Ganga heard her mother say one night that she was very fearful of her little pretty daughter’s future since she inherited all her beauty and looked even more beautiful.
As feared by her mother, Ganga’s father gave her away in marriage to the wealthiest man in the village who owned every conceivable stretch of cultivable land around the village. He was a very strong and bulky man and appeared like a wild buffalo and when laughed, his laughter sounded like the howling of a wily wolf. People of the village, therefore, were used to refer to him in private as ‘wolf’ in disdain. He already had two marriages with two women of his choice but they both died childless. One fell in the nearby well and the other fell in the large village pond. He always said both these occurrences were accidents but people never believed him and they knew that he only killed them or got them killed.
Ganga’s father tried to convince her that it was for her comfort and better living only that he decided to give her away in marriage to the wealthy wolf. However bad people might think of him, he was a wealthy man and she would be his wife, which would make her live the remaining life with all conceivable pleasures on earth. Ganga’s mother vehemently objected to this idea of his, but in vain. She firmly believed that he would have taken a lot of money from wolf in return. However much she tried, she could not stop the marriage happen and in helplessness cursed him to death. As fate had it, she died a few days after Ganga’s marriage and her father disappeared. Where he went nobody knew.
Marriage made Ganga’s life miserable. She felt all of a sudden all alone with no one else she could call her own. She hated wolf and made it clear to him on the first day itself after their marriage that if ever he tried to lay his hands on her she would bite him to death. He took it very lightly and on that night, when she was sleeping he tried to pacify his desire and pounced on her like a mad dog. As she said, she bit him and bit his cheek so hard that it was only out of providence that the piece of flesh that she held between her teeth did not come off. He squealed in miserable pain and was horrified to look at her as she looked a real bhadrakaali with the blood stains on her teeth and fearful gasps. He writhed in pain and was almost in tears. Looking at him, she spat the blood out onto the floor as he went away from the room cursing expletives.
He never tried to touch her again.
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