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The Protest
by Archana Sarat (Prose - Short Story) | Published On:

She had to protest. She looked around the place to find something on which she could shower her anger. Her breath came out in short, hot bursts through her nose. Her upper lips grew moist with the heat of unwept tears. She couldn’t be there any longer.

She had to protest. She walked down the street ignoring the curious eyes peering at her tears—uninvited tears that came down her eyes, hot and blazing. She pulled in her lips and bit them to stop the scream that was threatening to burst out. The pain was acute. It started somewhere inside her left breast, travelled up her throat and was stuck at hervocal cord. She had to throttle it down. If she opened her mouth, it would escape and her anger might dissipate.

She had to protest. She walked into her house and looked around. The vessels containing the rice, dal and brinjal curry, which she had cooked in the morning, waited in a corner for them. What a mockery—as if they were a happy family! He loved her brinjal curry cooked with crushed peanuts and garlic. Still, why did he do it? How could she have not guessed? She could see herself emptying the pot of gravy into the shithole they had dug up for the kids. Kids! What would the kids eat then? No. She couldn’t.

She had to protest. She looked at their wedding photo on the wall.With a dark brown wooden frame on all four corners and a sheet of glass on the front, it always drew a smile from her. But not today.She looked so thin and young with an enormous, gold-embellished, red ghunghat covering her face. She could be anyone. It was only ‘he’, who could be seen, who mattered in that picture. Should she break that? Would that be a protest? Wouldn’t that just make it easier for her husband’s new bride to hang up her picture? No. She shouldn’t.

But, she had to protest. She opened her steel trunk and looked inside,searching for something to help her in her venture. She found her Aadhar card.

“If you cannot sign, you can make a thumb impression here,” the man had said.

“Bah!” She had scowled at him, snatched his pen and scrawled out the alphabets of her name with the help of the tattoo on her inner forearm.

“Can you write your husband’s name?” The ridicule in the man’s voice was unmistakable.

Her mother had been smart; she had prepared her for this eventuality.While her inner left arm carried her name, the inner right arm had a tattooed impression of her husband’s name. She had spent many days,drawing those letters, on the sand with a stick. Those lines and curves of his name had sent butterflies fluttering around her tummy. 

She took the Aadhar card and went near the stove. She put in a fewsticks of the dried wood into the stove and lit the fire. Then she picked up the hollow stick lying beside the stove and blew through it.The flames blazed a bright orange. Then, she picked up one of the wooden sticks from the stove and pressed the sizzling flare, on the end of the stick, into her inner right arm. It burnt through her skin,erasing her husband’s name and her shame. “Aah!” She said in relief.

She felt she had protested.

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