The light was really too much here. But it had a calming effect on Sudesh’s nerves. Any moment, the sermons would come. Sudesh knew he still had a few hours left, so he might as well take a peek at his wife – even if it meant for the last time.
She was definitely in a bad state. Her fair skin, marked with the clots, her once silky hair, now lanky and wild. How he had thought, a long time back, that she was the most beautiful woman in the world – especially the day his mother had dragged him to meet her – to arrange their marriage. Bloody hell! He must have been mad.
“Shh…shh….,” his insipid mother was wiping away his wife’s tears, “Don’t cry, Shweta. I promise he won’t hurt you again.” Shweta bawled louder and his mom crooned more.
He felt a heat of lividity crawling up his soul. This was hilarious. Now his mom thought that she could stop him? When had she been able to stop him before? Not the day when he had thrown his sister off the terrace. Not the day he had pushed his wife off the stairs. But, his mother sounded so firm and determined, supporting someone else’s daughter, he almost admired her for her new-found bravery – well, almost.
It should have been him, not his mother susshing his wife as she whimpered. Like he always did. Crooning at his wife while she lay half conscious in the bedroom or admiring her love and bravery when she tried to hide her bruises from the family. As he got up towards her, there was a knock on the door. His mother ran and threw it open, “Harsh, thank God you’re here!”
“Keep calm, Ma,” Harsh gathered his mother in his strong arms and gently kissed her on the forehead. “How is Shweta dealing with this?” His eyes anxiously searched the room and his eyes narrowed on the huddled figure of Shweta. His face contorted with pain at the bruises marked generously on her exposed parts.
Harsh always had been the champion of his Bhabhi and Sudesh despised his brother for that. And also for being the blessed one in the family. Blessed in love, blessed with money and now… This train of thoughts brought out the new wave of anger, his rage too profound. How dare she? Another round of spanking would really do her good.
Sudesh walked nonchalantly towards his brother, expecting a fight. He got none. As usual, Harsh was too self obsessed to notice anyone else. Harsh ignored him and walked towards Shweta. Well, they did have a strong bond, Sudesh snickered and she had got what she had deserved. Rotten whore!
Sudesh’s face turned red as Harsh hugged Shweta. That sneaky creep! He had been carrying on with his wife for God only knew how long. But his mom intervened, “Harsh, not now! Not until we’re ready to face the society.”
Sudesh slumped against the wall. His mom was encouraging this? His own mother? “Ma, please don’t cry! What had to happen has happened.”
“But why, Harsh? Why did he treat his own wife like an animal?” his mother lamented. Why the heck was she asking him?
“Ask me, budiya!” he thundered.
But his once-timid wife with anger blazing in her eyes shouted, “Because when he first hit me I didn’t protest. For I am a good, Hindu wife. I’m supposed to take all the bullshits and not cry out in the public.” Shweta was panting, her bruised lips looking grotesque, as she let out her inner anger. Harsh, ignoring his mother’s restraining hand, rushed towards Shweta. She rested her puffed face against his well toned chest and quietened down.
Sudesh laughed mirthlessly at this little scene before him. She was the one who was carrying on with his brother and now she was being declared as the victim? That was carrying feminism a bit too far. He had enough. They could all take their attitude and go to hell. The anger from him was now palpable. He could see his wife was getting a bit nervous. Good. She knew him very well. All the years of hurt and abuse had attuned her to his every mood, he thought smugly. “But what shall we do now?” Shweta asked still clutching to Harsh. She looked scared as she should, thought Sudesh grimly.
He walked towards her and looked dispassionately at his lying body on the floor, covered with flowers, his nostrils stuffed with cotton and wisps of smoke creating dancing tendrils in the air.
“But Ma, the police will question her,” Harsh told them. “But don’t worry, this is a case of self-defence and she won’t be arrested.”
Sudesh really wished he could punch his brother’s face. All those stories, where ghosts had superhuman power were fairy tales. He could not even blow away the wisps of smoke coming towards him.
Self defence? Is that what they would call it? Yes, maybe that would be their only way to escape punishment. He saw a look passing between his wife and Harsh. A look of camaraderie, a look of love and an unspoken treaty – a treaty to forget him completely. “Why don’t you go and make tea, while I go over the answers with Ma? Ma is still emotional about his death. But she understands.” Harsh walked her towards the kitchen.
“Do you think Ma will tell the police that you had hit him on the head?”
“Well, I didn’t have a choice, now did I?” Harsh told her firmly. “You don’t worry. Just go and make tea while I talk to Ma.”
Sudesh felt the pull. The air around him had started vibrating gently like a suction pulling him back. He used his will power to stay, just for a few moments more till…
A huge blast resonated in the air. Flames broke out in the kitchen as the burning, screaming body of his wife came lashing out, her hands waving wildly like the flaming torches in the Olympics. The stunned expression on Harsh and Ma’s face would make his days worthwhile in his hell bound afterlife.
Sudesh felt peace engulfing him. Now, hell would be habitable for his heart was at peace – his revenge complete. Thank God he had cut the pipes of the cylinder, before he had started hitting his wife, intending to burn her alive that day. He could not finish his job because Harsh had hit him on the head fatally. Sudesh remembered the nauseating pain too well. He touched his head and found that the cut had disappeared leaving only a humiliating memory. His evil smile broadened at the sight of the grievous Harsh, wailing loudly.
He watched his wife falling over his body engulfing him with the flames. Their bodies merged together felt so right, as it should be, till death do us apart. He let the suction pull him back as he got ready to meet his maker. Whatever the judgement would be, he was now happy that he would not be standing in the queue alone.