She was at the edge of the estuary waiting to see if the sun returned. The estuary was calm, unlike the noisy sea. Who would have thought that the river was meeting the sea here? Here, where the river slyly opened its boundaries, changed her rules and readily gave up her character to bind with salt water. Like a newfound faith… like renouncing everything you earlier stood for, in a moment of change. The sun returned as if it knew she was waiting to check its integrity. It was a game they played everyday.
The gold zari border sat heavily across memsaab's body, staring at itself in the mirror. Did it like itself as much as memsaab liked her reflection?
When memsaab left the large quiet room, she took a chance and stared at the face in the mirror. The face had a fast-forwarded sadness of old age, of desolation. But at least she knew how many times the sun dipped into the sea and how memsaab played with her bunch of keys. Could anyone else know that?
She heard the jingle of keys.
"What are you waiting for here, you dumb head? There are things to do, how many times do I tell you? Hey bhagwaan, why do I get such servants? Machines are better…much better…I should get some from foreign…."
She saw the bed of the bathroom rise with water, as she cleaned utensils. It formed a small river. Where was its sea? What was the character of water…it quenched thirst and cleaned us but it could also swallow us in one of its gulps. Somewhere in the stomach of this water, lay her parents and Chutti and Gotia. What appetite did it have for a three-month old baby like Gotia? Or for the old bones of her parents? She heard the noise of the keys getting louder: "You dumb head…how much water have you wasted…running the tap like your father's tank….Arre! How many times do I tell you….fill the bucket, close the tap, then wash. See how the water has entered the room!"
So the water broke its limits again, its rules, its boundaries. Was this an estuary too? A noisy one? Not silent like the place she often reached to or like time that formed an estuary with tomorrow as slowly and slyly as the evening swelled its banks to accommodate the night.
She sat on her haunches once again in her dung-floored hut, being watchful of the pot cooking rice. There was a noise; his legs came, swaying like the flailing roots of a banyan tree, before they motionlessly lay on the bed.
"Sangeeta …Sangeeta - I'll marry you…I am tired of living with this barren bitch", he said in a voice spilling of drool. She looked at the mirror above the bed. Broken and distorted, it witnessed such things daily. Hot tears rolled across her face. The mirror could handle another day, not she. Was tomorrow going to be another day? Or the same day, again?
As she floated spirally downward into sleep, she thought: "Why didn't the water take me along too?"
…She was at the edge of the estuary. The sun was smiling at her as it slyly bobbed on the water. She was startled to see a wave of purposeful force coming at her from the opposite direction, but at the same time knowing it would come. Cutting through the submissive water like a 15 foot half-hidden ship, it opened its snout. She felt herself slipping into the soft insides, un-fearful of its fence of teeth, till she was in its belly, till she felt the embrace of its stomach like the warmth of a womb, like God's embrace…a tight circle of love.
Ask and………… it shall be answered………………
……………………..Seek ……………………………..and you …………………..shall find
Knock ………………………..and the doors shall be opened………… to you.
Day broke. Birds chirped. It was a different day. A new one, after so long.
She tied back her hair and set for the river, pots in hand. There was a crowd collecting some distance away, near the estuary. She left her filled pots under the shrub and went along the banks. They were talking about crocodiles. Last night an estuarine crocodile had been spotted. It would be dangerous to live here unwarned, they were saying.
She remembered her dream. Was it real?!…
Raghu, the cook met her half way. "Why haven't you reached the mansion yet? Memsaab has been asking."
"I'm not going there. Tell memsaab".
"Pagli, what has come over you? What will you eat, if you don't go?"
She turned toward him with a smile.
She wasn't Kamli.
"I will search for new work where a memsaab treats me better. I cannot repeat another day in sameness. Go." she said as the calmness of her voice descended into the estuary.