Thursday, February 28, 2013

Paralysis (Micro Fiction)

Pic by Aqseer
Simranjit Kaur scrunched her dupatta to the nose, widening her eyes to stave off the itchiness.

Paddy fields were deadly incubators. The pesticide combined with stagnant water making toxic fumes that rose over the railway tracks, curling into her second class compartment where she sat alone, numb and unmoving. She willed the train to move. “Sixty, fifty nine, fifty eight” went her ninth round of reverse counting.

Her mind was treading sluggishly, images fogging and swirling. She recalled her mother, distraught at the birth of a daughter and the harm it would do her social status. There she was again, waving at Simran to come help in the kitchen instead of riding the farm tractor. A steady stream of sepia shots permeated Simran’s throbbing head...memories of plucking gourd with her grandmother and trailing her feet in the tube well canal as the motor pumped rhythmically into the narrow canal wending farmwards.

“Was that the ghuggi bird trilling, the local dove?” she would wonder from under the dupatta covering her face, on many a meditative noon spent prone on a jute cot under the Kikar tree. The dull shuffling of buffalo hooves returning from the river invariably kept pace with the darkening sky. Twilight on the Sangha Farm was bleak, made sadder by the moans of the muttering hens, picking their way into the coop.

Just as the family women made busy over the makings of supper, her grandfather would stride in, holding aloft a brown paper bag of hot jalebis. Indulgent in the aftermath of a profitable day, he would rib her on her ambition “How can I set you up in a petrol pump? That now, is your brother’s privilege. He will bring us a plane in dowry at his wedding while I will have to gift you one, at yours.” 

She smiled thinly at the image of the hot clay oven that the family women used to singe their arm hair while sticking in the rotis, no waxing needed at the beauty parlour! Inhaling greedily on the cold air now, her thoughts wandered to the farm dogs that would be trotting in from the fields for their last meal of the day. Strangely enough, there was nothing in her mental rerun from her joint family married home.

The train belched, metal clatter jolting her back. She heaved up slowly, peering cautiously through the grimy window of her coupe. No sign yet! The horn wailed raucously, signalling departure. A movement caught her eye, right there near the entrance gate. Simran ducked swiftly, adrenalized out of her dark stupor. She hurried into the train toilet, her mind racing. Her brother-in-law would have found the body! Jaswinder had been her only support through all of her marital torment. He had finally put his foot down that morning at the family’s eternal denial mode, offering to visit them and counsel his older brother.”

“Too late!” she flinched dolefully, dropping her bloody kirpan through the rickety toilet bowl.

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