Bloggers Marathon Challenge – Day 2
“Legs!” thought Saraswati as soon as she overcame the shock of falling on the fallen Activa. All of a sudden, the place was full of legs, legs that had not been there before she fell on the scooter. Dazed, she wondered, “Where did these legs come from?”
It wasn’t just legs. She was worried about the buzz of human voices as well and the light pressure on her arm. Someone wearing a dark blue nightie with large white and pink flowers on it was bending over her and tugging at her arm, making an attempt to help her up. She realized with a shock that it was Zubeida Ahmed, who lived next door to Agnes D’Souza.
Suddenly, the mystery of the legs was solved when Saraswati realized with a pang of dismay that her property was overflowing with neighbors and that these neighbors were buzzing non-stop about the fallen Activa. The unthinkable had happened. Saraswati’s worst nightmare had come true. Her interest in scooters was now no longer a secret. The whole world knew about it. Saraswati wished she could sink through the earth, like Sita did hundreds of years back, and disappear from human view.
She mutely allowed Zubeida, Zuby to her friends, family members, and neighbors, to pull her up. Leaning heavily on Zuby and speechless with horror, she stared at the little neighborly crowd.
Anthony and his wife Lucy were staring at the fallen Activa in fascination, almost as if they had never seen a fallen scooter in their lives. Standing as close to the Activa as possible, Kusuma was asking nobody in particular, “Boorunda? (Did it fall?) Yencha? (How?)” John’s wife, Jenny, was standing near Anthony and Lucy, intently listening to Lucy’s inaccurate version of the latest happenings. Sadananda was standing right in the middle of the road and talking about scooters in general and the Activa in particular. He was least bothered about the fact that nobody was listening to him. Ambika, mother of 12-year-old Sharath, and her mother-in-law along with Zuby’s mother-in-law were standing under the jackfruit tree and watching in silence. Imtiaz, Zuby’s seven-year-old son, was on the scooter, pretending that it was a horse. “No wonder I saw so many legs,” thought Saraswati in misery.
“Are you alright?” asked Zuby. Saraswati nodded dumbly.
“What happened?” asked Kusuma. Saraswati stared at her in agony.
“Did the scooter fall?” asked Jenny, who had just absorbed Lucy’s version of the story. “I thought it was an accident. Gosh, I was terrified. Fortunately, the baby was sleeping and did not wake up.” Saraswati was close to tears.
“What were you doing with the scooter?” asked Kusuma.
“I was cleaning it,” mumbled Saraswati.
Kusuma nodded knowingly. She knew very well that Saraswati was not cleaning the scooter, but decided to maintain a discreet silence.
“But how did it fall?” shouted Sadananda. Being hard of hearing, he strongly believed that those around him were hard of hearing as well. “Doesn’t it have brakes?” Everybody ignored the old man.
“I think it is the end of the world,” groaned Anthony.
“No dear,” assured his wife Lucy, taking his hand in her own. “It is just that Saraswati’s scooter had a brake failure.”
“Ah,” said Anthony. “Is the scooter damaged?”
“Saraswati Aunty,” shouted Imtiaz. “Doesn’t this scooter have a horn?”
“Imtiaz!” squealed his mother. “Get away from that scooter! Get away and go home!”
Saraswati buried her head in her hands. “What is Imtiaz doing here? Why isn’t he in school?” she thought.
Finally Zuby said something very sensible. “I think we should try to lift it up.”
Saraswati was willing to lift anything, even a mountain, to escape the situation. She had never been so embarrassed all her life.
“Oh yes,” she mumbled and grabbed the scooter by its handlebars. The thing did not budge an inch.
“I will help you,” said Zubeida, grabbing the scooter by its seat.
The two women moaned, groaned, tugged, and sweated before finally losing their balance and falling over the scooter with a squeal. When Imtiaz laughed like a fiend out of hell, Kusuma pulled them up with a moan and a groan and a few words of wisdom.
“Is it jammed or something?” Jenny demanded to know.
“Get a man from somewhere,” suggested Anthony. “You women can’t do it and I will have a cardiac arrest if I try to lift a scooter at my age. When I was young …”
And Anthony began telling everybody who cared to listen of all the heavy work he used to do in his youth. He informed Jenny, who appeared to be the most attentive, that he used to kill pigs, hunt wild boar, drive trucks, and climb coconut trees when he was a young man. “The modern young man has no strength,” he declared. “My son huffs and puffs whenever he climbs a flight of stairs. Absolutely no stamina! You wouldn’t imagine the work I used to do as a teenager. Real hard work! Work that squeezed the sweat out of my pores! The modern young man …”
“But how are we going to get a man at this time of the day?” said Kusuma. “What about your husband, Saraswati?”
Saraswati gazed at her feet, clutched her forehead, and groaned. She did not want Rajesh to know that the scooter had fallen. She wished she had never touched that beastly scooter. Rajesh would never allow her to forget this.
“Call Rajesh,” said Jenny. “Does anybody have a phone?”
“Oh, I have a phone,” said Saraswati. “I will call my husband.”
Relieved at this opportunity to get away from her neighbors, she fled indoors, found her smartphone, and dialed Rajesh’s number. She was dimly aware that Zuby and Kusuma had followed her in and were standing right behind her.
While Kusuma badly wanted to listen in, Zuby had no such intention. She just wanted to get as close to Saraswati as possible. Ever since Agnes told her, at one of their evening gossip meetings, that Saraswati had passed B.Sc. in the first class, Zuby had been desperately seeking a chance to speak to Saraswati alone. She needed a favor from Saraswati and she needed it bad. So she stood near Saraswati when she spoke to her husband and thought about her problems while Kusuma shamelessly expanded her ears and lapped up every word.
“Hello!” boomed Rajesh.
“Raj, please come home!” said Saraswati in a small voice.
“Hey,” said Rajesh worried. “What’s the matter? Aren’t you well?”
“No, I’m fine,” said Saraswati, “But please come home.”
“What do you mean you are fine but I should come home? Don’t I always come home for lunch?”
“Raj, please come home.”
“Eh? Come home? And who do you think will do my work here? Your father-in-law?”
“Raj, I don’t know how to deal with the situation. All the neighbors are here. Please come home.”
“What are the neighbors there for?”
“Raj, the scooter fell down and nobody can lift it.”
Raj was silent for such a long time that Saraswati thought there was a network error.
“Raj!” she cried frantically as Kusuma almost danced with excitement behind her. “Raj! Hello! Hello!”
“Hello! I am here. Do you want to damage my ear drums?” said her husband, annoyed. “Did you say something fell?”
“Yes, the scooter!”
“Whose scooter fell?”
“Raj! Will you please stop eating my head over the phone and come home? All the neighbors are here and I don’t know what to do.”
“But whose scooter fell?” bellowed Rajesh. Saraswati jumped a foot into the air with a squeal of agony, held the phone away, and began massaging her ear. “I wish you would speak clearly. Whose scooter fell and why should I come home?”
“Raj, your … I … I … mean our scooter fell,” said Saraswati, beginning to sob.
“Our scooter fell? How the hell did our scooter fall? Didn’t I place it on its main stand?”
“Sob … sob … uff … sniffle …”
“Are you crying? Didn’t I tell you I am coming? Alright … I am coming. Stop crying.”
“The neighbors are here. Should I make tea or something? I don’t know what to do.”
She was alarmed when her husband kept quiet for full ten seconds. Finally, he said, “Why tea? Make kori rotti (Kudla’s traditional chicken dish) for them. If you want, I can get the chicken.” Then, without speaking further, he disconnected the phone.
“Is he coming?” asked Kusuma.
“Yes, he is coming,” said Saraswati, looking dull and heavy.
She was far from happy as she knew very well that this was not the end of the story. It was just the beginning, and it was a foul beginning.
To be continued …