Akka is going to kill me today, thought Anjamma, as she hurried along the muddy path. The
afternoon sun was beating down on her like a ball of fire. She covered her head with her saree
pallu, but it did little to protect her from the heat. She was craving some Pepsi straight out of
the refrigerator, but she didn’t have the time to stop for that at Bala anna’s store, so she just
swallowed her spit and increased her pace.
She reached a white house with wrought iron gates. She let herself in and pressed the
doorbell. After what felt like an eternity, the door was opened by a tall, heavy-set woman.
She had her hair in a messy updo and had a face that looked perpetually displeased with
something or someone.
“Finally, Anjamma! What took you so long? You know that Sir is coming home today and how
he dislikes a messy house?”
“I am sorry Akka. There was an incident at home today that caused my delay. I will get to it
right away” she said and hurriedly went to the utility to get the broom.
Once the brooming and mopping of the entire house was done, she sat down on a low stool
in the utility to wash the dishes. From the corner of her eye, she could see Akka busy running
around the house, putting everything in order. She had gotten ready and had made an extra
effort to look good. She was wearing a brand-new saree with matching jewellery. Her hair
looked perfect with not a strand out of place.
Why so much effort to look good for a husband who is having an affair with another woman?
Anjamma thought as she scrubbed hard on an especially greasy Tawa. He has an item in
another city, her friend Shanu had said. She wouldn’t have believed it if she had not overheard
an argument between Akka and Sir. She was crying and begging him to stay, and he just picked
up his bags and left. From then on, he has been visiting her 3 days every month and the rest
of the days he spent with his mistress, and Akka seemed to be happy with the arrangement.
All men are pigs, Anjamma thought.
The scar on her face burned. It was a gift from her husband for not lending him money to buy
liquor. She was 8 months pregnant with Kusum. She had stormed out of the house and had
gone straight to the police station to complain and had watched her husband being dragged
away by the police. From that day on, she had sworn she would not let her child go through
the same struggles she did.
She flinched when she remembered beating Kusum with a broom and locking her inside the
house today morning. What else could she have done? She was woken up by a couple of older
men with a 20-something boy at her door. They said that Kusum had tried to distract their
son by flirting with him and asking him to elope with her. She argued that her daughter was
only 15 and how could she convince their adult son to do anything like that?
“You are a single woman raising your daughter with no man in the house. Control your girl
and from now on she should not be seen anywhere near our son”, they had warned her and
left. She was filled with rage. She went inside, took a broom, and started beating her daughter.
Kusum cowered on the floor and between sobs and dodging the blows she was repeatedly
saying that the boy used to follow her home every day from school. He had even asked her to
marry him, and she had said no.
Anjamma knew in her heart that it was not her daughter’s fault, but she continued to beat
her anyway. She had finally thrown away the broom, sat down with her daughter, and cried
her heart out. She was enraged by her helplessness.
“Anjamma!” Akka bellowed. She was shaken out of her thoughts and hurriedly ran inside.
Akka’s appearance was completely opposite to what she had seen a few minutes ago. Her
hair was disheveled, her cheeks were red, and her eyes looked like she had been crying. “Akka
are you ok?” Anjamma asked. “Yes, I am fine. Finish off whatever you are doing quickly and
no need to iron Sir’s shirts. He is not coming today. Close the door on your way out” she said
without looking her in the eye and dragged herself upstairs to her room. Anjamma felt a pang
of sympathy for her and wondered what was stopping her from leaving this man and starting
a new life. Is it love or helplessness?
She reached home to find her daughter watching TV. She gave a monosyllabic answer to all
of Anjamma’s questions. She knew that Kusum was still mad at her after the morning incident.
She had bought her favorite cake and a bottle of chilled Pepsi from the bakery, hoping to
make it up to her. They both ate in silence. Anjamma cleaned the kitchen and went to bed.
Kusum was watching TV again and some actress was being interviewed.
“What does Women’s Day mean to you?”
“Well, it means empowerment, freedom to make your own choices, carve your own path. I
empowered myself to gather the courage to leave my husband after suffering years of abuse,
for the sake of my child.”
“You are an inspiration to all the women in our country”
Kusum turned the TV off and sat down to study. Anjamma laid her tired body on the floor bed
beside her and fell asleep almost immediately.