The sky lit up an orange hue as I looked up. An occasional swallow chirping and heading home. To its cozy nest perhaps. I wondered if the swallow had a family, if it had little ones to feed. It also made me wonder, what the swallow would do if its nest was attacked. A gory thought to entertain perhaps when the sky was blissfully serene.
What makes us entertain such thoughts? Of death , destruction ?. I was amused at my own inner workings. Leaping from one thought to another. Appreciating the beautiful sky and hurtling towards the possible destruction of the nest. As I am deeply engrossed with my thoughts, I notice the dampness everywhere. The walls were olive green now. A thick coat of moss breaking only at an odd stone jutting out of the wall. Was the mason lazy?. Why had he not aligned the stones without an odd one breaking the pattern? The quality of workmanship probably is inherently tied to the money. Or is the money tied to the social standing of the mason?
I remember him working on this wall. A swirl of beedi smoke identifying his presence. A middle aged man with a limp. Strongly built with thick clumps of hair dotting his arms. His skull cap gave away his religion. Nothing much to differentiate him from our men. A cheerful smile, an easy camaraderie and a resolute back. A man at his peak of prowess perhaps? Dad surprisingly got along well with him and his workmen. Despite his misgivings of their community, he never refused work for them.
It was the time of turbulence. Men eyed each other suspiciously. For us , the women folk, all this seemed superficial. We had our fights, but we knew it was not vicious. After all, how would we birth if it was not for the midwife of their community?. Yet, the gradually creeping distrust was visible in everyone’s eyes.
I was young , dreamy and as beautiful as any woman could be in her heart. I dreamed of life far away from the cobbled streets, away from the veil of distrust and animosity.
The screams rang out loud. I heard men rushing out. Some of them grabbed the rusty old rifles. Fear is an entity which engulfs faster than a drop of lime in a glass of milk. You see the curdling later, but the presence is already felt. The door was violently pushed open and I saw fear. Fear in my dad’s eyes. I almost laughed, he did look like the scarecrow he was arduously rigging up in the fields the other day. He grabbed me hard and hugged me. It was a brutal hug, yet I sensed a deep warmth for me from his heart. He said in hushed tones “ forgive me daughter, I cannot protect you”. He yanked me from the bed and pulled me towards the well. I recoiled with horror as I realized what was happening. I thrashed around , and begged to be let go. He was crying, the human in him had vanished and what was there was a dead lump of insanity. He looked at me, a yearning of paternal grief. He said his prayers in a hushed tone and pushed me.
Falling down is a beautiful act. If not for the vile situation, I would have loved the splash of water on my cheeks. The clingy wetness soaking my clothes. The water rushing into my mouth would have been fun, if not for the realization that it was not the long deferred swimming session promised by my dad. I heard a shot ringing out loud. My father had pulled the trigger on himself. Survival takes over love. The heartache of losing someone becomes secondary when our own survival is at stake. I heard a loud cry. The mason peering into darkness and shouting ‘ Beti, oh beti, what did your father do!’ why, why did he do this!!" , “oh god, I came too late, too late to save her from the wolves but I lost them to fear.”
The orange hue of the sky was sharply receding to the all familiar grey. As I look around, the moss on the walls of the well acquired a shiny glow. I look up and wonder, wonder if the nest is safe.