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Short Story - Destiny's Child

 
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Destiny's Child

The incessant crying brought Smitha out to the balcony. The Iron wallah’s baby was bawling away. A thin cloth separated its tender skin from the pinpricks of the gravelly road. The rusted ‘box on wheels’ that he used to iron clothes, gave little shade to the poor child.

This scene was not new to Smitha. She knew the baby’s mother well. She worked as a maid in a couple of houses and had to leave the child with her husband for hours together, and this was the plight of the baby on most days. “Give her some thing to drink” Smitha yelled over the din of the traffic. Majeeth the Iron wallah looked at her balefully, “I just gave her some milk to drink an hour back”, he retorted curtly.

 

“She must be hungry again”, said Smitha “I will go down the drain just feeding this good for nothing burden”. Smitha’s sensitive ears picked up his cruel retort and tears of anger and frustration welled up in her eyes.

“If you can’t feed her then why did you have her?” she replied angrily.
Again Majeeth gave her a vacant look.

“Paapa, having a child is God’s will” was his remark, “You see I wanted a boy…” and his pause spoke volumes. Smitha went inside too angry and nonplussed with the conversation. The crying had only petered down and not stopped completely. Exhausted the poor thing must be dozing, thought Smitha Quick in thought, she was quick in action too. She grabbed twenty rupees from her bag and ran down stairs.

“Here buy some milk and feed the baby, don’t you dare buy any thing else. Otherwise I will tell my father”, she threatened, the only way she knew. Majeeth was indebted to her father in more ways than one and she knew he would hesitate to cross that line. Smitha’s disturbed thoughts trailed behind her, all the way into the house. She peeped out to see Majeeth giving the baby a bottle of milk. The baby’s thirsty suckling brought fresh tears into Smitha’s eyes. Finally the baby dozed off and a semblance of peace returned to their neighborhood.

Lost in thought Smitha didn’t realize that time had lapsed and slowly she got up from torpor and went about her evening chores, and waited for her mother to come back from work. “Amma do you know that Majeeth doesn’t even feed his baby daughter?” all the anguish of the afternoon poured out as she narrated the incident to her mother. Tired after a long day at work, Nirmala paid little attention and went about her routine, as all mothers do, nodding and ‘tching’ at all the correct places. “Amma you have not paid attention to a single word that I have said” exploded Smitha, catching her mother’s attention immediately.

“No Kanna I heard every word you said, but you must remember, they are very poor and a girl child seems like a burden. The moment a girl child is born they think of the difficulties of marrying her off, and of giving dowry. Our society is to blame.” said Nirmala candidly. "All that may be true, but is it too much to ask a father to feed his own daughter?” replied Smitha emotionally. Realizing her daughter was more affected than she had expected, Nirmala sat down to console her.

The futility of fighting mindsets, conservatism, and ritualism were all funny jargons that Smitha refused to accept. Nirmala finally gave up, only concluding that Smitha should not get affected by such scenes as we lived in India, a country abounding in such differences and injustices. Smitha’s young blood simmered. She promised herself to keep an eye on the baby. The resilience of human life against all odds, with a father who couldn’t care less and a mother who could not care enough, the baby grew into a little toddler (a pretty thing, under the layers of dirt). Her place was the same, a mangy cloth under the same rusted vehicle.

Smitha was rushing to college one day, when the baby’s shrieks reached her ears. A wail suddenly reached a shrieking pitch. Horrified, Smitha stood rooted to the spot. It was the baby’s shriek that finally galvanized her into action. She tore away the rope around the toddler’s hips and grabbed the child. She could not make out who was trembling more. S
eeing a piece of chapatti in her hands, a stray dog had crept upon the child, ready to pull the piece from the hapless baby, when her shrieks had alerted Smitha. “Majeeth ,Majeeth, where are you?” she yelled. She did not expect a reply, she knew he must have gone, to down a peg or two, leaving the baby tied to his cart, at the mercy of crows and stray dogs. “I will kill him if I see him” thought Smitha as she raced upstairs with the child.

“Amma, Amma” she sobbed out the story to her mother. "Calm down, we’ll do some thing” consoled Nirmala. But Smitha‘s mind was made up. She waited for her father to come back and told him: the baby was not going back. “I will take care of this baby, and I am not giving her back to that man”, she declared emphatically. There was pin drop silence as they digested the fact. Smitha’s decision was radical, grudgingly (admirably) they accepted the fact that the baby was here to stay. Majeeth and his wife came around the next day, to claim the baby, but really to ask for money in exchange. Her father settled that by willing to overlook past debts. Majeeth’s wife was silently happy, and came around the next day to thank them. The baby thrived, happier, healthier and safer. Everyone’s darling.

Smitha gave the child a new name, Vinita. A new life. A new chance at life! She changed the child’s destiny.

Contributing Story Teller Sowmya Srinivasn, 33yrs, married 2 children. Post graduate diploma in Special education, a Masters in Psychology,from Annamalai Univ. Passion for story telling, led to a certificate in Story Telling. I do story telling at activity centers and libraries, and write whenever I have time. sowmya03@gmail.com


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