In One Evening

The sun dissolved in the western sky, as the moon rose. The clouds seemed to hold no more interest as well as they streaked behind the sun washing up any yellowish-orange remnants in the palette. The creations of God headed home hauling in their forage.  Man alone defied and defiled nature.

As the celestial events wrapped up, another chain of events were unfurling.

Hungry and lost, those disproportionately big round eyes sought comfort – motherly and food. Unsteady feet crisscrossed the road luckily dodging men and their machines. Its nose picked up where sight failed – garbage piled on one side of the road adjacent to a building. Immediately hurrying the puppy almost reached it when it was kicked aside by a burly man. Whining, as to its heavenly maker, the scruffy puppy got up and made its way to the bounty.

Nirmala’s father, like the nimble pole walker, stretched his hands on either sides as per the norm and rushed across the road to satisfy his favorite daughter’s desire to eat samosas at the very moment. Money, just like his love for his daughter, was in abundance.

Sales fizzled as night approached. After sending out a parcel of samosas, the waiter cleaned up the place. Leftovers and rubbish were promptly dumped in the adjacent plot. Swishing its tail, a brown cow reached the place to check its contents. Gow mata*1 ate what was offered to her – spiced plastic covers and rotten vegetables.

Nirmala greedily devoured two of the five samosas and ran away to play. Meanwhile the helper came out with a bowl full of dog food for the pet, another desire of the darling daughter. Setting it near the dog, she went inside and brought out a cover with the leftover samosas in it and started for home. The master looking at the leaving helper was immediately reminded of his dirty slippers. He told her to wash it, muttering curses about a stupid mutt that he had the misfortune of kicking with his brand new footwear.

Not wanting to budge from its bounty, the puppy laid down on the steps of the building. In a haze of acrid smoke, the relaxed waiter came out of the shop not even sparing a glance at the skeletal form sleeping on the steps. Away the beedi went with a flick of his finger, a single red amber with an undecided fate. With the shutters half closed, sat the owner, alone, checking the day’s earnings, the numbers swirling in his mind.

Sharp eyes sought the activity. Standing against the compound wall like any other group of gossiping friends stood two silhouettes. A dog’s sharp bark followed by the shrill laughter of a little girl stirred their thoughts. Reigning in their concentration, they stood watching. The day was being wrapped up at the store, adrenaline rushed through their veins. Trembling fingers were clutched into a fist and relaxed – anticipation, a peep into the luxurious future readied them.

Trapped in his thoughts with the green notes close to his chest, the shopkeeper pulled the shutters down and was going about his routine when a squeal made him jump. Turning around his eyes zeroed on the scruffy mongrel looking at him with a pained expression. The watchful pair of gleeful eyes thanked the maker for the distraction for because by the time the shopkeeper could gather his wits they had gathered his bounty.

Shock, astonishment and fear formed a kaleidoscope on his face. Before his vocal cords could flex, he heard another squeal – a high pitched one – the one of death accompanied with the thunderous sound of a vehicular motor. The cogs in their wheel hurried as the cogs in his brain collapsed in a heap – useless and clueless.

Wailing and shouting, Nirmala ran out the already open gate followed by her worried father and a curious servant. The canine lay sprawled on the side of the road in an increasing pool of blood. People flocked to see the tamasha*2 unaware of a life altering event for another victim few feet away. The man of the house carried away a bundle of thrashing arms and legs with the servant hurrying behind him cooing words of comfort in those little ears.

Lack of further exciting gossip topics made the mind of the crowd as they slowly made their way back with their own versions of the happenings with a little condiment thrown in. Frantic hands flew over the screen requesting support. Sometime later the night air was pierced by two vehicles responding to the call for help. The man in the uniform looked all business while the waiter looked on. The fourth one, brother of the hapless, stood beside him in silent solidarity as the shopkeeper bumbled his way through the course of events.

Two pair of sweaty and dirty hands counted the green notes. While both rejoiced, one of them was worried about the bike as well. He cursed the mutt that sprang out of the blue and which might now cost him some of them notes.

Tear stained cheeks were now resting on fluffy pillows as the father stared into space. Worried what new bout of tantrums the dawn might bring he moped his brows and wondered in amazement as to the inverted moods in the house.

Two big eyes looked at glassy ones as they lay on the pyre, wisps of smoke curling around it. The civil servant left leaving behind the trio. The waiter hung around to see if he could be of any help. While the brothers sat in the shop discussing, he lit his trusted brand of beedi. Shutters were closed sometime later as people parted ways.

Away the beedi went with a flick of his finger, a single red amber, once again lighting the pyre.


*1.Gow mata – sacred/attributing a maternal status

*2.Tamasha – drama


The author, Yamini Abhinaya Balasundaram, is the mother of an innocently naughty son. An avid reader and writer, she would love to sprout a few more hands.

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