The Boy WOnder - IV

by sanaryamni
A Virgin is spoiled

For that extra wood in the fireplace, to keep the hearth warm and the cheeks rosy mummy worked freelance for the local boutique run by a dismal Marwari who went by the generic name of Lalaji. She was a master of the craft, having been honed at the skills of creating Aari work, applique designs with mirrors and beadwork, and glittering sequined saris and ghagras with ruffles, when still a toddler at the lap of her loving and equally artistic mother. For women in rural India with creative instincts, this was the most legal expression of their artistic talent. Mummy’s work was in great demand, and visitors to Lalaji’s shop always insisted that none but she does the embellishment on their wedding fabrics, though he had many experienced, older artisans. Mummy could have struck out by herself, but it was hard to go to door to door to seek work, and there was no Internet then to advertise your wares. Since everyone came to Lalaji, who enjoyed a near monopoly in the business, mummy went to him too. Mummy didn’t regard herself as his employee; she took on work on contract, as much as she could handle with all the chores at home. She worked till evenings at the shop, which had the bulky raw material and machinery, till the kids dropped by to take her home. Paro while returning from her tuitions would pick Vasu from his tennis club on her cycle, and from the shop the three would happily trudge homeward. Paro had strict instructions to wait outside while Vasu would climb in and take her away; Lalaji was known for his roving eye.

The shop was in a basement in Lalaji’s three-storied home. Untold generations of Lalajis had lived and died there, and they kept adding a storey to the rickety building every 50 years or so. No one knew if they had any permits for it, but the building thrived, fanning out like a wrinkly tree above the wretched undergrowth. He sat there by the door at the bottom of the stairs, presiding over the till and peering over his bifocals at his flock and his newspaper in turns. Mummy had a table in the far corner, next to the trial rooms, behind the wooden racks overflowing with fabrics and sacksful of sequins, glitters, buttons, mirrors, and other clinking, shining stuff.

Lalaji often sat by her table while she worked, and engaged her in inconsequential natter. She was by far the most superior person who’d ever worked at his shop, or for that matter the most superior person he’d beheld so closely, and the fact that she was only in her early forties while he was in his late fifties, and that she was so beautiful, taut, and curvy, while he was so gross that even a mangy dog wouldn’t accept feed from his hand, had him firing on all cylinders to create an impression on her. He was quite clearly taken with her. He took her civility as a sign to steal onward with his amorous advances.

On a day when the kids were late and most workers had left he perched atop the usual stool and watched her busily poking embroidery floss with a needle into the muslin fabric stretched across the embroidery hoop in her lap. She was terrific with her designs.

‘Late today, my dear,’ he said. ‘…The kids?’

She nodded and went on drawing a neat pattern on the cloth. ‘Vasu has a match today’, she said with a hint of pride. ‘They’re having zonal selections.’

‘Sports, eh! That boy has certainly picked up those inches from nowhere. I had to stand on my toes to look over the counter to see this skinny boy asking for candy, like yesterday. And see him now, what a strong lad he’s turned out into. Good genes,’ he said, lightly touching her exposed forearm, sending chill goose bumps up her arm.

She started and poked the needle into her thumb, where a small dot of blood appeared. Lalaji jumped, and grabbing her thumb began to suck greedily at it, as if he were drawing venom from her body. Mummy withdrew her hand sharply, and stared at him, speechless.

Lalaji wiped his mouth at his sleeve, and leered at her. ‘Sorry, cannot control myself around you.

A beautiful woman, such as yourself, needs a man to take care of her and hers, isn’t it?

It must be lonely, passing the unending days without the comfort of a man, is it not? Sleeping all by yourself night after night, with no one to keep the bed warm for you. To turn and find the other end empty.

You should take a break from struggle now, your place is here,’ he said, pointing ceilingward, ‘and not there,’ pointing deskward.

‘Lalaji, I know my place very well, I have been there,’ she said pointing her chin upward, ‘ and I have been here,’ she said, pointing her chin downward. ‘And Vasu is all the man I or my house is ever going to need, and there he is right now’.

Vasu, standing at the doorstep, with a wide grin on his handsome face, though in 9th standard was already as tall as the door, and nearly as wide. ‘I made it’, he announced, and stepped off the stair to hug his mother. Mummy didn’t bother with the courtesy of introducing her beautiful children to Lalaji and traipsed off without a look over her shoulders. But the sharp, unblinking eye of Lalaji had not missed her exquisite Paro. This was the first time he had set his bulging, pallid eyes upon her. Never had he as in that brief moment gazed upon one with such smooth, fair, and unblemished skin. With dove-like hazel colored eyes that stared shyly at her feet, Paro had wafted in and out of his dreary shop like a glowy fairy, leaving in her wake a shimmery mist, as if his entire stock of gold and silver dust had come alive around him. The thought of seeking her fair hand in marriage for his eldest eluded him, and instead, a mad desire, to possess her for himself seized him completely, conceived in no less a measure by her being so defenseless and so poor and therefore so within the reach of a rich man.

Next day at the same time Paro came calling at the shop again. She was alone. She breezed past Lalaji, knocked at mummy’s desk, and was out on the landing before he could take in her sight and refresh his eyes.

‘Where is your son,’ Lalaji asked as mummy climbed the stairs.

‘He’s gone for the zonals to Chandigarh. I told you he made the selections’.

‘Oh, congratulations…when will he be back?’

‘In a week,’ she said, slamming the door after her.

A week, a week was a lot, Lalaji thought. He began to quiver in excitement, and started to fondle himself slowly.

A few days later, when Lalaji couldn’t bear it any more, he began to switch the lights off in the shop at 5 pm, three hours too early. He asked his workers to take an early day off.

‘What’s up Lalaji,’ the tea boy asked. ‘You want me to stay back?’

‘What for, to drink the tea all by yourself? I have to go for a family function at my sister’s, you dog born! ‘

‘Oh, so today you will have to shell out some money. No wonder you are in such a jolly good mood,’ the urchin said laughing, ducking a shoe that Lalaji threw at his face.

‘Git, harami,’ Lalaji said, swatting him with the newspaper and missing; the boy was nippy on his feet. It infuriated Lalaji even further that the others were openly laughing at the way the little brat mocked him and made faces behind his back. Some said that Lalaji took the boy’s needling because he was his bastard child- from a 16-year-old girl who had worked at the shop many years ago and disappeared, only to return much later one night to leave the little urchin at his door. Lalaji took him in and ever since he’d been the tea boy, not much good for anything else. Lalaji could thrash him till his shrieks sounded off two blocks away, that is, on those rare occasions when he was able to lay his hands on that slippery bugger to discipline him for all his harmless mischiefs, but no one else dare touch the little lad, for Lalaji seemed in a strangely convoluted way fiercely possessive of him as well. He was his alone to beat.

‘I’m taking this work home. Lila is getting married in a week’s time’, mummy, who never bothered with the daily antics at the shop, told Lalaji while leaving.

‘Yeah, take your time,’ Lalaji said, softly laying a hand on the bare part of her shoulder. She recoiled, as if touched by a slimy crawly thing. ‘Go home and sleep,’ he said after her, rubbing his hand instinctively across his mouth.


The boy, who watched keenly, began to lick his palm and roll his eyes like Lalaji, and was up the stairs and out in the street before Lalaji could grab hold of the glass paperweight and strike him in the forehead with. Mummy briefly looked over her shoulder at the chuckling urchin before she continued homeward.

It were only after Lalaji had doubly ensured that the last person had left and he had kicked the tea boy who was still loitering near the shop door, clutching his stomach in some apparent amusement, out of sight, that he returned to the basement and switched off all the lights and fans. Then he trudged upstairs and locked the shop. He looked around to make sure no one was on the dark street before he climbed to the first storey and ordered his surprised wife to make him hot milk with cinnamon, pepper and crushed almonds. It was an ancient homegrown trick for sexual vigor, traditionally given to the Indian groom on the wedding night.

Lalaji considered his wife so ugly that he’d instructed her to be out of bed before he opened his eyes on waking, because he believed his day would be ruined if her face was the first blighted thing he set eyes upon. She now wondered if in his twilight years her husband, who, after she had dutifully borne him four children, had never brushed a hand against her ample curves even in his deepest sleep, had had a change of heart. She checked her reflection at the bottom of a shiny pot and decided that despite the double chin, the hairy mole, the long years of neglect and self-indulgence, and not to forget the thick moustache, she was still desirable. She slapped her groin to warm it, adjusted her overflowing breasts in her blouse, applied dusky ittar to her hairy armpits, and after serving him piping hot milk, which she on second thoughts had also topped with thick malai, went to her bed to lie in wait for her man.

Her man, after quaffing the ordered refreshment, peered into the street once again to make sure it was empty, and then quietly slipped out of the house. He unlocked the shop again, flicked on the switches, and sat at his table in wait.

Dot at 6 pm, the landing door opened, and steps came down clomping on the wooden stairs. The door opened with a squeak, and an angel appeared at the doorstep, lingering to take a surprised look around the empty shop.

‘Is mummy here?’ a soft voice floated to Lalaji’s ears.

‘Yeah, she is. Gone to freshen up in the toilet. Be back in a jiffy. Come, wait here,’ he said, inviting her to the chair at his table.

She stood demurely, shyly looking around. ‘Where is everyone else?’

‘They left early. My nephew’s mundan (hair shearing) ceremony; I had to leave early.’

She nodded and folded her arms across her belly and stood staring at a point on the wall, away from him, not taking the offered seat.

Lalaji popped open two cola bottles. In one he snuck a couple of Rohypnol tablets while she was looking away and offered to her. She shook her head. Lalaji rose and forced the bottle in her hands. ‘It’s a celebration,’ he said, ‘ enjoy’!

Paro hesitated and then drank the cola in one long gulp, just to keep the man away. Lalaji shuffled back to his chair behind the desk and waited.

Soon enough, Paro began to sway on her feet. She grabbed the chair and slumped on it. She wiped her forehead and yawned. ‘When is mummy…coming?’ her speech was slurred and she found her vision blurring. It seemed difficult to keep her eyes open. She suddenly felt relaxed and incredibly drowsy.

‘You must be weary, child. Come lie down a while,’ Lalaji took her gently by the hand helped her on her feet. He led her to the end of the room where the mattresses had been piled, behind the stuffed, overflowing wooden cabinets. ‘No no,’ she resisted feebly, but her legs crumpled under her and she lay down. She turned on her side and was soon fast asleep. Lalaji stood above her, approving her loveliness. Then he tiptoed to the door and climbed out into the street. It was deserted. A fog had descended and other than a few dogs barking in the distance, there was no one. He walked back in and locked the door and drew the curtains.

He came to the back of the shop where Paro lay on the floor. He threw open his dhoti and sat on his knees beside her. He gazed spellbound at her ruddy limbs and flaming hair. He raised her arm and ran his lips on her soft down. He fondled her firm and small breasts, and ran his hands down her belly to between her thighs. Even while unaware, she had instinctively pressed them together. He parted them gently and stroked between them. Then he undid the string to her salwar and gently pulled it off. Next he slid down her panties. He brushed softly his hands on her creamy thighs, now pink in the bitter cold, as if they were of gold. He raised her kurta to reveal her rich, velvety breasts, and greedily wrapped his mouth around them; slurping and snorting like a pig at his feed. As his desire grew and vast lifeblood stormed its gates, he, parting her legs, rushed in. She winced in her sleep, as he tore open the dank gates. He heaved for a while against the limp body under him, and not satisfied, he folded her knees to her chest, raised her hips, and penetrated her small anus. Her tight sphincter clamped down hard on his flaccid shaft, giving him an exhilarating feeling of gratification. He pushed hard and deep, and shortly after he exploded inside of her, disgorging his meager gametes, and fell back depleted beside her. He wrapped her in close embrace, holding her, gazing upon her for a long while; he had failed to arouse again, however hard he beat or spat at himself. Cozy in the warm body snuggling next to him, satiated of his lust, the effects of hot milk and herbs began to steal on him, and feeling pretty sedated himself, he himself fell into deep, undisturbed sleep.

Paro came to after a couple of hours. Groggy, she couldn’t recall what she was doing on the shop floor. But when she felt a heavy arm and leg on her, she sat up with a jolt. Further horror awaited her as she realized she and the old man by her side were naked from the waist below. She felt violated, and a sharp, sudden pain tore through her privates. She reached down to feel herself; her hand came up slimy and bloody. She shrieked in horror, her scream bounding off the empty walls of the tiny, smothering basement. She collapsed against the cabinets, wailing at her nakedness and abuse. No one heard her; except the tea boy who had been lurking in the shadows of the black street, waiting, listening, and watching. She quieted down when the old man stirred in his slumber, and gathering what she could of her befuddled wits, her tattered body, and her worn clothes about her, she shuffled to the door. There, in the deep fog of her sedation, a tiny ray of awareness peeked through to tell her she was still naked waist down. Sobbing, she slipped into her salwar, and clip clopped in her cheap, plastic slippers through the empty, silent streets to her home.

Her mother was asleep already, probably tired out, while in wait for her. Her food and milk lay cold by her bed. Paro decided not to wake her mother, she had worries enough already. She tiptoed to her room and tore away her sullied clothes. Crying, she washed herself from the bucket in the toilet; the white floor turning red and mucky, so that there was no place clean. She scrubbed herself all she could but the foulness that filled her from one end to another she could not clean. Sprinkle all the clean water she would upon her person, her filthiness would not carry forth out of her. Exasperated and overcome, she slipped into a dry robe and fell into a dazed sleep in her bed.


The winter sun was high above the rooftops; its mild warmth spread like a comforter over Paro, when her mother decided enough was enough, and woke her up with a hot glass of milk, to make up for her lapse of the previous night of not waiting up for her daughter. Finding the house empty, and the bed warm and inviting, mummy had quickly rustled up a pan-full of puris and sabzi, eaten some, kept more for Paro, and dozed off.

She now gently removed the wayward brown locks that had scattered across her beautiful daughter’s face, a little sad this morning, and smiled down at her proudly. Paro purred, stirred at her mother’s soft touch, and yawned happily. Then she became mindful of the aches on her body, and in a flash recalled the last evening. She sat up suddenly, staring around her like a hounded animal. She blinked at her mother. She was glowing her usual angelic self- she didn’t know anything. In horror Paro realized she’d left her soiled clothes in the bathroom.

Mummy shook her head and smilingly offered her the glass.

Paro pulled herself up on her elbows and leaned against the headrest. Mummy put a pillow behind her, watching with motherly satisfaction as Paro gulped down the milk, the usual white moustache forming around her lips. Mummy wiped her mouth with the edge of her thumb.

‘We got a surprise off yesterday. I thought I would only lie down awhile- never realized when I slept off,’ mummy chirped, and then, added with a little concern; ‘ How are you feeling?’

Paro shook her head and looked out the window at the Neem swaying gently in the breeze, still losing dusty leaves.

‘That’s fine- I washed the clothes.

You’re a big girl now. You should carry your pads on you when you know they’re coming. You’ll embarrass yourself.

Aren’t they early but?’ her mother said gently.

Paro bit her lips and clenched her fists inside the quilt till they turned white to stop the oncoming rush of tears. She began to tremble.

Her mother, noticing her child’s anguish, and feeling that she had perhaps been too harsh after failing in her own responsibilities the previous night, reached out, and comforted her. Paro, too frail to control her rush of emotions any more, burst out crying.

‘Don’t take it so badly darling! Anyone can make a mistake. I am not upset! Now get up and come to the kitchen for breakfast. I must leave for work soon. It’s the wedding season and I have a lot of bridal dresses to finish- I promised Lalaji’. Mummy said cheerily to raise her daughter’s spirits and made to leave for the kitchen.

‘Mom! It’s not my periods!’ Paro screamed, tearing herself out of her mother’s embrace and reach, and recoiling to a far corner of the bed. ‘Can’t you see! Are you blind?’

‘What happened?’ her mother trembled. ‘Who did this to you my child?’ She slid into the bed with her daughter and held her tight as her tender body twisted with sobs. They were like that for a long time. There Paro narrated her the events of the day past, as much as she could remember, and as little as possible to keep her mother from hurting. The sun seemed to rise above them and then quietly depart, leaving a fuzzy, sad, fog-cloaked day behind.

When the two were done crying mummy asked, ‘have you told anyone of this?’

Paro shook her head.

‘Why me? Why this poor family? Why us? What is the fault of this tendril?’ mummy looked heavenward and lamented. ‘You made me an orphan! You took away my husband! My brothers avoid me. My in-laws don’t want me. You left me all alone in this world; you heaped miseries upon my brood and me. Yet I never asked you for anything, yet I never blamed you for my condition! I never for a moment stopped believing in you! Why must we make still more sacrifices? Aren’t you satisfied with what we have suffered so far! Why don’t you be done with it and finish us off!’

‘Mummy, are we going to the police?’

Mummy shook her head. It would bring shame to them. Worse, Paro would never get married. And once word spread, there would be many more swine lurking around for an opportunity to prey upon her. In India it was the girl always who got blamed for the rape… she was of easy virtue! She had it coming! She brought it upon herself. This was bound to happen one day! Little miss hot pants couldn’t handle her overflowing hormones.

What was that girl doing at that hour in a closed shop with an unknown man?

What was her business there?

Why did the mother leave the shop early for Lalaji to be conveniently alone when Paro came?

Even if she had the gumption to go to the police they would never file an FIR. Recognizing it as an opportunity to milk a rich man, they would squeeze Lalaji and then release him. He would in all certainty cite impotency and age in his defense. They would blame the poor family for blackmailing a respectable member of society. Her brothers would in all probability try to talk her out of going to the police, or use it as an excuse to shut her out permanently from their rich lives. They had moved on, and had their own to look after. Her in-laws… it was hopeless. Vasu was just a child. He would be heart broken! He might even end up doing something foolish!

‘Don’t speak of this to Vasu’, mummy commanded. ‘Or to anyone else!

Swear on me!’

‘Mummy, what are we going to do?’

‘You are not to worry. I will not work at Lalaji’s again. You will never head into that street again, understood?’

‘Can I finish school?’

‘Let me think’.

‘Are we going to move into your brothers’?’


‘How will we manage mummy? Oh, I am so sorry mummy!’

Mummy held her close and they rocked gently on the bed, tears, unstoppable, streaming down their cheeks. They were beaten; beaten by their poor fortune, by their poverty, by the lack of a strong male in the house to protect them, by their faith, which perhaps wasn’t strong and unshakeable enough. Mummy, a deeply religious woman, fearfully rued the few moments during the especially trying times, of which she seemed to have had more than a fair share, when she’d doubted the almighty’s presence. It was time to face up. To confront Him and to ask Him! He’d better give her some answers that she’d long waited to get from Him. Afraid of the many Lalaji’s roaming without, she bolted the doors and windows to her house and cowered within with her gods.

A devout Vishnu worshipper, mummy shut herself in her prayers. On Poornima, the full moon night, she put out a photo of Vishnu and a Vishnu Yantra and lit up ghee lamps and incense and made offerings of yellow flowers, sweets, and tulsi leaves. She fingered her 27 rosary beads four times, chanting the Om Namo Naryanay and Om Vishnave Namah mantras a 108 times, never stopping, for water or breath or bread. She fervently prayed to that Supreme Preserver, the Lord of three Lokas, the Base of the World, resting on the mighty 1000-headed serpent in an ocean of milk to cast his lotus-eyed gaze upon her and lift her from the seas of her sadness and destroy her fears. She begged him to reincarnate on earth and protect the righteous and the weak and punish the ascendant evil. She spread her mantle entreating Him to grant her serenity and surmount this vast hurdle. Above all, she did not ask that burning coals be heaped upon Lalaji’s head, all she could bring herself to crave was that the male line and wealth that gave Lalaji the license to devour lesser beings like themselves with impunity, be obliterated, for the sake of all the meek faithful. After many days spent in supplication and self-flagellation, which frightened the fear out of poor Paro, she was physically, mentally, and morally spent. She let Paro touch her parched lips with water, and a little bread. Having surrendered herself completely to the Supreme Being, mummy opened the doors and let the light and the world into her home. She bid Paro to school and herself to the holy man under the banyan.

He was bearded, wore saffron, and spent most of his time dreaming, contemplating on His opulence. A vast throng gathered daily about his detached person and chanted prayers and devotional hymns well into the twilight. They organized mass langars and the poor and the needy came to fill their hungry bellies and hearts at his feet. Whenever he came awake from his trance he ignored them and walked barefoot about the brick lined courtyard, caressing the flowers and the leaves that leaned into his outstretched fingers. At times he did speak, to one picked out at random from the hordes, nodding and smiling patiently behind his inscrutable flowing beard. At times he would deign to address the multitudes, quoting from scriptures and exhorting people to be good. At times, he simply sang or clapped along with the ecstatic satsang. It was him that mummy sought out that day, for an outpouring of her soul, for a release of her suffering and for rediscovering that life-direction divine providence seemed suddenly to have wrenched from her feeble, widowed, impoverished grasp. God hadn’t spoken to her all these days that she had been in prayer; He would perhaps speak to her now, through this medium.

She sat in the courtyard among the wretched and the downcast with her head bowed, waiting for the holy man to find her. The sun vanished over the treetops and a chill fog descended upon them. Slowly the crowds began to disperse, to get on with the business of life. She wrapped her warm blanket close and waited, her chin tucked on a folded knee. It became dark but the holy man had not emerged from his trance. A sewadar, a helper, gently nudged her to leave, but she shook her head and remained sitting on the cold brick lined floor, shiny with use. After a while it was just she and the man under the gnarled Bunyan left in the courtyard. He opened his eyes finally, perhaps sensing her presence. She was the one he cast his first gaze upon, enfolded in a blanket a solitary dejected soul, teetering on the brink of hope and desolation. He smiled, rose, and ambled over to her, taking time to deeply inhale the cutting fresh air and the smells of verdant earth and its living, crawling, still beings.

He placed a hand on her covered head. ‘Come inside, it is cold’, he gently bade her.

She rose at his touch and followed him into his modest living quarters. He sat facing her at the end of a rich quilted rug.

‘I have seen you,’ he remarked.

She nodded. She knew.

He chuckled softly, making light of her distress. ‘What is it that so overwhelms you, child. What makes your faith quiver so?’

‘We are poor, god-fearing, respectable people, my lord. I have never though ill of others. I have worked hard to bring up my children as good people after god snatched away their father untimely and left me all alone. My daughter…she is such a child…an innocent soul, and this man…this man that I work for…he…’ she couldn’t manage to finish her sentence, her body was wracked with sobs. ‘Why me? Why us?’

‘Have you sought the police’ help?’

She shook her head.

‘You should have. Sometimes god works through men on earth- you should trust the system he has put in place here. But I understand the shame you would be afraid of. The vermin that stalk the land!’

They remained silent for a while. The guru wasn’t going to suggest any outlandish recipes to help her. He had no tricks to heal her with. He had no miracles to lay up. It sometimes completely evaded him why people thronged at his abode day after day when he had nothing to offer. The word of god was there in the scriptures for all to read, there were fat purveyors, interpreters and divers agents of religion in gilded places of worship, in marble-domed, steep arched spires stirring the skies with their pomposity and presumptuousness, why then him? The good lord appeared to him in all his opulence and glory and he was content to be enraptured in his senses, but beyond that he could do little for the multitude that came before him to be blessed. He did not know of a way he could share the divinity that pervaded his ecstatic being with others, or he would have, gladly.

‘What do you want of me, sister?’ he asked nevertheless, as he could no longer bear her sorrow unmoved.

‘I want you to save us. I want you to purify my baby. I want that Rakshasa, his bloodline and his arrogance cast forever into the bottomless pits of Naraka, deprived of a chance of rebirth for all times.’

The guru smiled indulgently and shook his head. ‘I understand your pain. Alas, I can do none of those things. But I want you to leave room for the wrath of god, for vengeance is his, he will repay. What this man has perpetrated is heinous indeed, and impending things will hasten his afflictions. But you, will not return evil for evil, instead give blessings so you may inherit blessings yourself.’

‘Bless him, o lord?’ she looked up bewildered.’ How so you command me? I want to dig a pit and take flight from this shame.’

‘He will persecute you in one city; you will flee to the next. You will not finish going through cities. . Cease, for you have a better possession and a long lasting one. Fear not, have faith.’

‘Is that all? You would have me go home and carry on as usual?’

He nodded.

‘What is the guarantee we will be safe? Where is the guarantee my prayers will be answered?’

‘Where is the guarantee for anything; it is all fickle and transitory. If your prayers are as per God’s will, the answer will be yes. Do not disbelieve; stand firm in faith, have patience. Come before him with confidence and love, not with doubt, ignorance or presumption, and your prayers will be answered and you and your family shall flourish and ripen’.

‘You promise, my lord?’

‘I can’t promise, but I know good men of the lord who can- high-ranking men in the police visit us often. So strange- a god man must lean on the common man- but so true. Yet again, have faith,’ he smiled again. ‘It is late, go in peace, and look after your own.’

Mummy prostrated before him, and bowing, with her hands folded, she walked backwards out of his abode.

A worried Paro was waiting at the gates to their home. She saw mummy coming from a distance and ran forward to hug her. ‘Are you okay, mummy? Where did you go? I was so worried,’ she asked, clinging to her. Mummy opened her blanket and wrapping Paro inside it, she walked home.

‘What happened?’

‘Nothing. But everything is well now.’

Are we going to shift?’

‘We are not going anywhere. This is our home and nobody will push us out of it. Try and forget the past- I know it will be hard. But with each other’s help, we can do it. Not a word to Vasu, remember? And promise me, you will be careful from now on?’ Mummy clasped Paro’s hands and looked imploringly into her eyes.

‘Yes mummy, I promise,’ Paro said, relieved that the mourning was officially over. Hope and unbeatable optimism, those incorrigible things the young have, shone through once again in her light brown doe eyes.

Mummy had realized no God was going to reincarnate himself just for her troubles, which seemed so trifling in this wide world. Nor was any god man going to finish her business for her. It were better that she assumed whatever avatar that was required to plod on in this life.

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