It was deep into the night. Even dogs had stopped barking. Only changing notes of cricket sounds gave a semblance of time dragging itself on.
He was restless; turning and twisting on his sunken bed under the thatched roof of the hut. His every little movement made the bamboos of his cot squeal loudly in the deafening quiet of the night and then… quieted down. He was used to it. He felt as though the sound was being produced by his own body movements, by his own bones. There was nothing to be noticed in it. Cot actually seemed like extension of his body. Was it a month… less… maybe more? It has been just too many days… and nights on this cot, knitted with zigzagging ropes made of grass and coconut hair.
Her ruffled hair was flying all over her face. End of her sari was on the floor, exposing her lose, torn blouse.
“What’s wrong with you?”
Disturbed, he turned to his side. Deep etching of cot ropes’ zigzagging pattern was seen on his thin bare back. It seemed as if the pattern was his nerves and not impressions from the cot. Nerves in geometrical form! His own nerves have gone all haywire, with no symmetry; narrow somewhere, thick elsewhere, knotted at some place and suddenly getting entangled around a bone. Her flying hair! Nerves are meant to hold people together. Like nerves of this cot, keep the cot in place. Hold your nerves, they say.
“You should have told me that you can’t do this.”
A thin layer of sweat appeared on his temple. Involuntarily his palm wiped it off before it trickled down to his eyes.
“Uhh… ohhh, unnnn”, he moaned in sleep.
“I am leaving… And listen, I am taking Bubbli with me… So don’t go informing the police… How can anyone trust you with a one year old?”
With a jerk, he sat up. Instantly darkness enveloped every detail in front of his eyes. His head spun due to weakness. He held his face and waited. After recovering, he reached out for jug of water. He has been doing it for many days now, living on water. He finished it in two swigs. It had to be refilled from the hand pump. He got up. But due to next bout of darkness, he banged into the wooden pillar. He knew he had to find ways to handle his weakness. He hadn’t seen food for days. He didn’t know when he ate last. But there was an image of rice and a piece of jaggery. Was it day or night? Memory failed him, forget it… he did not want to tax brains. He moved very carefully towards the hand pump. He grabbed the handle rather heavily, pushing it down by his falling weight. Few drops of water emerged from large mouth of the pump. He kept the jug from where the drops emerged.
Straining his back, he lifted the handle and pressed it down again, and again, a few times. When the sound of filling jug said, it is half full; he stopped. His entire energy was emptied in filling half a jug of water. He turned back, took a few swigs again and put the jug in the niche. He then carefully moved towards the room; stopped at door and held onto it for support, to face the void inside. A beam of moonlight was angled across the room. Entering from a hole in the thatched roof, it had settled on Bubbli’s pillow in a small circular patch…
For a shocking moment, patch of moonlight seemed like Bubbli’s face on the pillow. He sat down near in a surge of grief… gently he picked up the pillow and hugged it tight. With his face soaked in tears, he started feeling Bubbli’s entire bed with his trembling fingers and then… lied down on it, crouching like a baby.
The patch of moonlight had now settled on his face.