Saturday, September 22, 2007 5 reflections

The 100th Sin

The 100th Sin
a short fiction by ShaKri

The lukewarm milk, as she had always preferred it, had now dozed off into its usual stillness. Whining about Nandini’s infinitely exhausting routine of not finishing her bedtime drink, was her mother. It had been almost half an hour past the little one’s bedtime when the woman came barging in as always.

‘So you are repeating the same bloody stunt again, is it?’ she screamed at the dwarfed silhouette that sat hunched scribbling into a diary. ‘You and your stupid drawings. I will burn that damn thing one day and maybe then I can get rid of you once and for all.’

She approached the child menacingly with a glare that had always haunted Nandini.

‘Ma no! Ma please no ma!’ she screamed back as the adult struck an instant battle with the young pair of hands for the leather-bound rectangle.

‘Shut up!’ the woman continued ‘I am going to take this with me today and pour kerosene on it and burn out all the bullshit you keep doodling in it. Why? Shall I do that? Will he come and rescue you then? Tell me! Come on!’

The tussle suddenly erupted into a bizarre bitterness and the book went flying out of their hands landing onto the vacuumed carpet of the dimly lit bedroom.

'Now listen to me,’ the woman hissed in assertive command as she twisted the young wrists that were already throbbing in excruciating pain. ‘I see you with that bloody book one more time I am going to send you to boarding school where they will make you work like a dog and eat from the garbage. Do you want that? Tell me! Should I do that?’

‘No ma…please no ma…don’t ma…please…’ Nandini wept as her mother smacked her face a few times and watched the tears flow down from the puffy cheeks of her wailing child. A perverse sense of satisfaction clouded the woman’s eyes.

Silence prevailed the next few moments as the child wept in lonesome misery. ‘You are a bad omen,’ she finally said. Her tone was cold and direct. ‘Every thing you have brought with you the last seven years has been nothing but misfortune. Had I known this I would have given you up the moment you were born.’

She then let go of the girl’s hands and stomped out of the room clutching the glass of milk. She switched off the light in the room and slammed the door shut behind her before yelling back ‘Now stop crying and go to bed!’

Nandini continued to weep in silence as hushed voices emerged from outside.

‘What happened this time?’ said a male voice.

‘What do you think? The usual,’ responded the mother opening the tap in the kitchen sink. ‘The little bitch is at it again. What else can she do except make my life a living hell! Same old drawings of whatever the hell it is she draws about. Sick of it…’

‘Relax…its going to be OK…she is only six. Its just meaningless dribble. It’s a phase!’ the male voice seemed to attempt soothing the enraged woman.

‘Oh shut up. You don’t know anything. Now help me with these dishes and let’s go to bed. I have to get up early tomorrow and take that thing to school again.’

Nandini’s gasps and moans loomed large across the blackened room that shared the girl's grief. She sniffed a few times before getting off the chair to switch the light back on in the room. She then walked towards the book wiping her tears and picked it up.

Silence enveloped the tension that had exploded within those walls just a few moments ago. What had seemed like an unending war of words and screams now felt like a valley that hadn’t heard a human voice in years. The timed drip of the tap in the kitchen was the only thing now audible in the emptiness that was Nandini’s life.

She walked up to the table and sat down to write again. Her wrists were aching but she knew she had to do what she was about to. She had been given clear instructions.

She opened the last page of the book that contained several tiny lines sitting next to one another in neat rows. Some of them were dark and purposefully marked while others were slanted and written when she had been in more painful scenarios. She took her hand all the way to the end of the row sets and etched a new entry clutching the pencil carefully between her fingers. She then closed her diary silently and folded her hands in a soft prayer murmuring something to herself.

It was past 2am when he finally arrived. Nandini had been so tired from the night’s events that she had completely forgotten to switch off the bedroom light. The flick of the light button awoke her from her deep slumber.

She rubbed her eyes and pouted at the glowing silhouette that she had gotten so familiar with over the years.

‘Blue uncle?’ she whispered as he had instructed her to refer to him.

‘Yes my dear,’ he said as he approached her bed. ‘I got your message,’ he said as he picked up her diary and slowly flipped to the last page.

‘Uncle..uncle…’ she began enthusiastically as he sat down next to her.

‘What is it, dear?’ he said in that ever soothing voice Nandini had fallen in love with.

‘Ma hit me again today,’ the little one squeaked with an unmistakable ache in her tone.

‘I know baby,’ he said as he held her tiny hands in his. ‘Let us see what happened here.’

‘Aaah!’ Nandini let out a hushed scream as he caressed her wrists gently back to health.

‘Magic uncle…’ she said and giggled as she noticed the red streaks disappear. ‘Uncle…how is pa?’ she asked him with concern filled eyes.

‘He is fine. He misses you. He loves you very much.’

They sat in silence for a few moments as he slowly counted the lines on the last page of the child’s diary.

‘Blue uncle…can I see him? Ma says I was two years old when I killed him.’

‘No sweetheart,’ said the voice caressing Nandini’s tired locks, ‘His time had come. So I called for him. You had nothing to do with it. I explained this to him as well. He knows. So don’t ever say that again, okay?’

‘Ma hates me blue uncle…she thinks I killed him. But I love her…’ the child continued as she looked into the peaceful eyes of the only friend she had ever known.

‘Yes. I love her too, child. Which is why I have to take her with me tomorrow.’

‘Oh…’ Nandini gasped at this statement. ‘…is it a hundred already?’

‘Yes. I had promised you a hundred. So now I have to keep my promise, right?’

‘Yeah...’ the girl responded her voice brimming with innocence.

‘But don’t worry. I will make her sister, your Paachi aunty, take care of you. You will love it there. You like Paachi aunty’s dog Jimmy right?’

‘Hmm…yeah…’ said Nandini as she played with his golden flute.

‘But always remember, dear’ he continued. ‘If you want to keep seeing me…you should never tell anyone about it okay? Don’t forget that. Will blue uncle’s little Nandini remember that?’

‘Yeah…okay...’ she said looking at his blue skin that shone even in the dark and scratching her puffed cheeks in short yawns.

‘Good girl. Now go to sleep, baby. It’s late,’ he said getting up. ‘Tomorrow make sure you cross the road near the school exactly three finger counts later, ok?’

‘Okay…’ she said as he counted her tiny fingers for her with his hands. ‘One…two…three.’

They both laughed at this with the familiarity of very old friends.

He kissed her on the forehead and walked away into the darkness once again with his saffron robe following his swift legs. She sat staring at the emerging black that surrounded her for a few minutes before collapsing into a deep slumber again.


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