Sunday, 30 May 2021

Jyotsna Jha, Prose 500 2021 Longlist

In the Wrong Story

After a long wait, a woman about her age, carrying a wailing baby in her arms came into the drawing room to greet her. She was in a sari and she was beautiful in a traditional Indian way.  She must be his sister. Sachin often mentioned the baby fondly.

‘I’m sorry, but Sachin is away on a patient call. Can you wait for him?’ she asked.
So he was already seeing patients. She was impressed.
I could wait forever for him, she thought as she nodded her head. 

The baby’s cry grew louder.  ‘Aaccha baba,’ the woman said tenderly in mock irritation as she opened her blouse to draw the baby to her breast.  
Erin was embarrassed by this intimate scene and spoke hurriedly to hide it. ‘It’s wonderful that Sachin has started seeing patients even before completing his degree.’
 

The woman looked up surprised, ‘Sachin is a practicing doctor since the last 3 years, ever since he finished his MD.’   ‘He also teaches at the NIMS hospital,’ she added with pride.
The baby lost his mother’s nipple. The woman guided its mouth to her breast again.
‘It’s surprising that an English woman would see a doctor in India without checking his credentials.’ She laughed but her face had a frown.
After a long silence Erin’s voice came out as a low moan, ‘You must be Anusha, his sister!’

The woman looked up with a start. A look of alarm crossed her face. ‘No, I am his wife.’
She was looking very carefully at Erin’s face. She gave a nervous laugh before starting again, ‘So Sachin has been talking to you about his family. Actually, he did mention you once while talking to me on the phone. You see, I was with my parents for three months for the birth of my baby. You had a skin problem of some kind, he was saying...but you look fine now...     

Erin slumped into her sofa.
The baby was now crying loudly again, making his mother increasingly edgy. ‘I think he needs his bottle. Just give me two minutes,’ she said gathering herself.

Erin did not lose a single minute. She hurried down the staircase, and walked furiously down the narrow road. Scenes played themselves out in her mind like a motion picture—the boat rides in the river, their long conversations, Sachin kissing her on the sofa and then leading her to his bedroom, the bus ride to Canning, images of their visit to the Sundarbans danced around her— blinding light, dark twisted trees, and surprisingly, the solitary black-tailed Godwit perched on the tree, majestic in its isolation.  

As she crossed one narrow alley to only enter another, the lights suddenly went out.  
‘The damn power cut again,’ she cried out ferociously to have a grip on her racing heartbeat. The road was plunged into darkness and she could hear strange voices all around her, but she knew she had to find her way home.   

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