“Abhi aaoge, toh dwaar nahi kholenge”
To opening latched doors, and being mesmerized at what lies beyond them.
There she was, at the dimmest corner of their bedroom, head bent into her knees, a black notebook on the floor next to her, crawling inside herself. I saw her through the half-closed door, the very one Neer had slammed an hour ago. She looked seemingly still, not even a single sound of sobbing, strange. Sometimes I think she likes it this way, she likes to see him break her, pound her, take on her. I kept looking at her for a generous amount of time, but no, the only thing that looked back at me was the semi-colon tattoo at the back of her hand. He won’t be back soon, I know, but I couldn’t tell her this, she would hear but never listen.
“I met Durga when we were in high school. She wasn’t always like how she is now, fragile to say the very least. She was flamboyant, if I could, et al, sum her up. She was fire, and she stood upto what she was expected to be, namesake and otherwise. Yesterday, she broke my favourite coffee mug. I think it was on purpose.”
He buzzed off in his Toyota at 10 and now it’s almost 1; he’s not coming back, at least not tonight, I should probably tell her. But I think she knows it too, a little too adamant, too reluctant to believe any of what I say. She’s beautiful in a different way, a little captive, conceding, pacified, like hurt hasn’t got to her yet. I better make my bed now, Neer might be back early, and he’ll need his triple strength filter coffee.
“Durga isn’t the same anymore. She looks faraway, always distant. I hate it. I hate her. I think she knows about me, but if she does, she would have asked, swore, confronted. But she didn’t. I hate her because she makes me hate myself. Should I end it?”
If I could’ve, I’d have loved her the way Neer never had. But I can’t, if I did, I’d be on the news by now. These days it’s really getting funny, and sad. I feel homesick, for the home I never had. This is a beautiful house, a mansion is what would be a more appropriate word, well lit, well furnished. People who pass by could’ve admired it, but they don’t see it, for the gates are higher than the house itself. This house isn’t for living, it’s for people to get locked in.
“We shifted to our new house today. I think it’s beautiful, but Durga, she hasn’t spoken a word. What is she, eternally depressed? But I’ll make sure she’s okay, and why not, she should be more than okay, I build a palace for her, a fucking fortress. She’ll have to live here, and die here.”
“I’m breathing, but that’s just it”, she had told me once. Just that sentence, and nothing more, nothing in the last three months. She doesn’t talk, and he beats her up. She still doesn’t talk, but he’s never there to see it. The other servants say he has a mistress in the city, not that I care about him, but I think if it’s true, she needs to know about this. But I don’t know, and I can never dare to ask, he is my master, he feeds me.
I could’ve saved her, but I don’t think she wants to be saved, because if she did, she could’ve done it for herself years ago, when it had all begun. He killed her every day, and yet she didn’t die, getting closer each day, the circles under her eye getting darker every time I saw her. Looking at her, I’m compelled to think, maybe there is something beautiful in bondage. But I’m only a butler, and a big, big coward, I do not understand this.
I’m not going to wait for Neer to return, and I’m certainly not going to make his filter coffee. Here and now, I’m going to do what I should’ve done five years ago, I’m going to shut the door behind me, and leave.
But before that, I’m going to do one last thing. Some might say it’s murder, but I know, I’m going to set her free, and soon, she’ll know it too.