AUTHOR : NAVAL LANGA
EXCEPT TINA, ALL subjects in my life is dead. When I came into this city, my new home, Tina, my daughter was one and half years old.
I am not so attractive that a man or a just-out-of-the college chap would look at me and try a whistle. No. That is not the case. Even if the young lads and elderly, too, hardly miss to rub their eyes on me, while I go for shopping or for a walk in garden.
There are people, generally young ladies, who prefer to widen their lips at me, looking like they are smiling.. The shopkeeper, the washer man, the black smith, the goldsmith… all have found pleasure in this looking occupation, and perhaps talking about me.
I am not a politician or a member of local body or the council, but those who faintly know me, raise their hand in acquaintance when I am seen in market. Why do so many people are so much interested in me?
Everyone has found me unique. In fact I am not.
The sole reason for the people’s behavior is simple: I am an un-wed mother. To be more simplistic, my child, my daughter Tina is not a child borne out of a legally married man and woman. And to be a single mother in a small town like ours is not less than becoming an unwelcome revolution itself.
Now let us forget the last decade.
BEFORE TEN and half years I had acted in a decisive manner. That night, midnight in fact, was as dark as it could be and the December wind was as cruel as it could be. I moved on a barren road, having no feel of the chilling wind. The perspiring provided me with sufficient stock of heat for body, my body that was slim in size and fearful in shape.
Bubbling fear assisted the blood-stock to run fast in the veins. My hair might be considered black, silky and effortlessly curly, but I knotted it in backside, so tight that it could not split on face. It could frighten me more.
The city had no reason to worry for a woman of young anatomy and trembling limbs. They hardly take notice of those who are unable to inflict any damage upon them. But I had reason to hide my oval face of thirty-two years, enveloped in fair complexion of skin.
One turn at a grocery shop and I stumbled on cobbled pavement. The stones were slippery as there was unexplained rain. A passing vehicle splashed dirty water on my clothes; a policeman having fine teeth and ruffled clothes groaned at the vehicle. There was no other sound, except the not-so-encouraging clinking of my own teeth.
The policeman’s eyes, resembling to an owl’s, rolled over my physique. I mended my clothes. Anyway I disliked being stamped as a wanderer-at-night. With a quick shiver that ended in belly, I tried a domestic-woman smile. He swung his cane. I smiled at his cane, too. I do not remember how I could manage acting like that.
My target, a dark blue building, slept calm. The electricity pole, standing as a mute fielder on point, sent pathetic light all over porch of he building. The porch had nothing but empty cans, old newspapers and dirt.
Ten-minute distance between city railway station and the house was mountainous. Why was I apprehensive of the neighbours while entering that house? The neighbours, all except a short woman residing just opposite the pole, regarded me as a domestic bird. Had anybody seen me, had there been daytime there would have been a quick and long shout: ‘Hi Sheila Ma’am’.
Wristwatch alerted me. I was in the house, in the porch. It was not a good idea to enter in such a way at one hour past midnight, and that too when I was on a mission for which no one could be proud of.
Looking around cautiously, I searched out the iron key. Anyway I operated a key, the key about which I had no idea how it was in my purse. The keyhole marked its non-use by a squeak. It seemed unopened since a month perhaps.
Swiftly entering in, I closed the door from inside. I went immediately on my target and rechecked the materials in my hand: a small cupboard-key, short purse, some hairpins, and silken hand-gloves. I managed my fingers into the gloves. No switching of any light. No window opening.
To walk in dark was not difficult for me on that floor : I had passed years, five years there.
DARKNESS IN HOUSE was not as dark as my life. A groaning vehicle stopped at corner of the street. Feet to head tremble shoved me into a corner. Blood ran as water in a tap; thirst captured throat. I had full confidence that I was not a woman of courage. But it was the call of time.
I immediately swallowed the poison of dislike, the poison of hating myself for what I was doing. Got collected within minutes, and looked out from glass shutter of a window. My presence was not a target of the car. I slipped in interior, the interior of house I used to call ‘my home’ before two months: the house that had thrown me out for no reason. All the walls smelt intimacy. The velvet wall-piece, that I had designed, spurted out acquaintance at me, but I opted for neglect, pretending I knew nothing.
The bedroom with scattered papers on floor had a slice of light though a window. I was not there to sleep on the bed. It was the thing I hated most.
One man, one man having thin moustache but hard hand, a man who had lived with me, promised to marry me, but had remained committed only one thing: money. He had raped, yes raped, me for five years on the same bed. People called the man as my husband, de facto. He was the man who had all the observable ingredients of a gentleman, if fidelity to his job and attachment with family were to be excused.
Hoping for a married life, I had suffered all of his tyrannies until he kicked me out, up to the pole at the street-corner. ‘I will kill you if you come here again.’ He was not drunk on that night: he was on barking spree. He gave me nothing, nothing from my gold ornaments and bank balances. Only he allowed me to keep Tina.
The cupboard was before my eyes. No one was there to stop.
I wanted to steal all the contents.
The trembling key entered into heart of the cupboard, but my hands acted precisely. I collected the entire available paperweight, the money, from an inner box, securing everything in a purse I had tied on my belly. While doing so, not a single trace of regret or sense of guilt visited my mind. Search for my own golden ornaments ended in a corner drawer: two rings, a chain, and four bangles.
Had I been alone I would have not taken such a step. Stealing from the house that was not my own, now. But I had a daughter, too; the daughter that was given to me in exchange of not demanding anything from the joint property. But the little girl, with uncontrolled smile, liquid blue eyes, and golden hair must have a future: that was what ‘Ma’am Sheila’, I, had resolved.
I was executing the resolution.
I clean swept the drawer.
If newspapers were to be believed, my husband, husband de facto, was absconding. No one resided in the house. I waited for sometime, until duty of the policemen ended, till the milkmaid had gone. I waited for some activities to start on the road. It would make my street loitering simpler, a morning walk in early hours, I thought.
It took no time to fetch my little fairy from the place I had left her sleeping. The child was still sleeping like a fairy. The fairy had pleasant eyes, charming face and a history of one and half year’s breathing on the earth.
The mother took next breath after stepping on railway platform.
“Mom, where are we going?”
The mother had no idea about the answer. I had no address of my own. But I knew I was going out. Out of the place, out of the life I had lived, and out of the city I had been.
The train’s whistle alerted my one-and-half-year hope of the life. I went to a milk stall, bought half a dozen pouches, an empty bag, and a towel. Travellers must have some luggage, I recalled.
The train ran on its track. When the woman, who even feared in darkness of night, boarded train she had money in purse, her daughter in arms, and a future that was not promising in any respect.
The train ran safely; the train ran without any accident; the train ran for ten and half years. No one snatched my purse; no one asked what I earned and how I lived. Nor anyone inquired about the luggage, the inadequate luggage. Only some thirsty eyes targeted my body. My not-so-small breast failed to be a non-target.
I was well on guard. The train passed through long tunnels; it crossed the bridges, laden with unvisited risks; and stopped at stations for giving me some time for respiration. The rolling of iron wheels had led me into a land where I was allowed to earn, I was allowed to eat, I was allowed to breathe and cook—whatever I preferred.
During the running of the life-train I heard that Tina’s father had been absconding from the eyes of the debtors. The government had sealed his house after my visit on that dark night. They had seized all the assets in the house. Tina’s father, it is rumoured that, had gone to another country, living with a woman who is older than him and a wealthy widow.
Now I had no reason to say that I had a man in my life. I preferred to be known as single mother.
I have now one home—at the address of my choice. The thief in me had managed it in exchange of ‘the paperweight’ and the gold. It was my desire, a deadly desire to give my daughter a future, the future brighter than mine.
Tina is hope of my life.
Tina is the name that is four and half feet high and as long as twelve years. The name is really beautiful, sharp tongued, and capable of riding on a bicycle for a race.