Monthly Archives: April 2009

An incomplete existence

An incomplete existence

A short story

By

Naz Shah

I just do not remember how I have reached the state of affairs in which I am now.

By nature I do take rash decisions. I do not make choices without giving second thought as to what consequences my decision will bring upon me as well as my near and dear ones, but that’s the way I am. I am a forced loner. I am using the word forced because humans are social animals and I am a human too.

I do not want to bore you by telling you about my past; straight away I will take you to my present picture.

I live in a single, rented room alone, on the first floor. This same room serves as the bedroom, drawing room, and the kitchen; I prepare my own food on a kerosene stove, and work during the day. Evenings are usually passed by sipping tea at a bus stand. It’s a very small village, with irregular and erratic supply of electricity and drinking water, a deserted and desolate place, populated with a few families one can count on the fingers of one hand.

Nothing grows in nearby areas except thorny bushes which is a source of food for camels and goats owned by most of the families which in turn survive on these animals. This little two is always full of dust, wind gusts blowing dust all hours of day and night. During peak of summer, the temperature reaches around 46 degrees celsius.

Many times I have asked myself what am I doing here but never came up with any logical reason. Ultimately I stopped thinking about it at all.

Today this stove is giving me real good trouble. It is already past noon and I wanted to cooke rice which I intended to eat with goat’s milk, because that’s the only edible food available. But for the last hour I have been struggling to fire up the stove, the room has filled with fumes of kerosene as sign of my struggle to cook something. Today again I will skip my lunch. There is no way to get help, as there is only one shop that’s at the bus stand and it is only open in the evenings.

Once a week, a bus arrives here, usually empty. Who will come to such a place except few ill-fated ones like myself? Maybe I am related to this place in some unknown way, beyond my understanding but I am here, night and day fighting with loneliness and surviving.

Untill she came.

Nobody knows who she is.

One evening as I was as usual struggling with my stove, suddenly she appeared near the door, politely asking me if she could come in. I am not used to receiving visitors or guests nor I was expecting one but there she was and for a second I thought she was not real, but then she spoke again and I realized she was real.

I have never been very friendly with people since my youth. In a little erratic and piercingly straight forward manner, I asked her what she wanted and said she should knock at the door before entering other people’s place. I never had a habit of locking my door in this place.

She was very polite in answering and patient too and in short she told me that she wanted money.

I looked at her closely now because I found her reply little awkward. She was young, close to early twenties, attractive but not beautiful, pale yellow complexion, thin built.

I replied I was not into prostitues nor did I have any money to spare. What a strange reply I gave. Later I felt bad but that’s the way I am. Without thinking whatever comes to my mind its out from my mouth. I have been in trouble several times in the past for my blunt behavior and every time I have vowed to do better next time. But I have never changed.

For a moment, she stood silently at the door, and then slowly told me that she would cook my meals, do all household chores, and would not ask for any food to eat. There was one condition; the money, whatever amount I decided to be her wages, must go to an address without fail every month.

I was really very hungry that day and dying for stove to get started so that at last I could have a glass of warm milk with lots of sugar to satisfy my hunge but the stove today was in no mood to obey me. I asked her to come in and start the stove and prepare something to eat. I sat there watching her fiddle with the stove and within 10-15 minutes rice and milk was ready and for the first time in a very long time I had the luxury of enjoying my lunch in peace and comfort. I agreed to keep her at my place for work.

That was the first and the last time I ever saw her. I always found my food ready, room cleaned , clothes washed and folded properly. I too kept my promise; every month sincerely I started sending a decent amount to the given address.

The strangest thing was that even on holidays when I was home, I would never see her but my food and other things were all done. May be she came in and did all the work when I went out to the community toilet or for a cup of tea at the bus stand. As far as her work was concerned I never had any complaints. Life moved on.

Today I was desperately looking for her. No not for physical needs that you might think of. I believe love comes first before the physical attraction. To sleep with somebody means I would have to be in love with that person first.

Actually I had been transferred to a different office in another place, and I was planning to move out on the same day, as that was the day when the bus usually came. As usual she was nowhere to be seen and I could not find her before leaving. So, I left. Using different modes of transportation, by bus, by bullock cart and by train, finally I arrived at my new place of posting and joined the office.

It had been more than six months since my arrival to this new town and all this time I kept on sending money to the given address. I do not know why! Sometimes we humans do things which do not have a logical answer or explanation always but we do them.

It was the month of December and I had lots of vacation time left so I took time off from work, packed up a few belongings and set off for the the place, the given address. I got there after travelling for three days. it was a decent village, much better than I had imagined, but sad looking ,few stray dogs here and there, nothing unusual about it. Near the bus stand I saw the post office sign, a small dirty room with no soul to be seen inside, but on my careful survey, I saw him, the stooped old chap, doing some paper work. Before I could ask anything, he asked me me what I wanted, immediately I showed him the address. He was little taken aback and kept on staring at me. I asked him what the matter was, and then he slowly told me everything.

The girl belonged to a well to do family, she was the eldest of all twelve siblings. At the age of twenty, she had run away with some scoundrel and one month later, her dead body was found in a field in the neighboring village .

Her father had died when she was sixteen, and there was huge family to be fed. Being the eldest all responsibility had fallen on her shoulder but she had different plans in her mind.
Now the only survivor was her seventy-five year old blind mother. My money was the only source of relief for her old blind lady. All her brothers and sisters had long since died in an epidemic.