Short Story – Wild Jasmine — Paramita Satpathy


forest was aflame.

was the second half of May and the temperature hovered around forty-five
degrees Celsius. The sky poured out molten heat. Like a thirst-tormented
monster the sun sucked up life from every living cell, in man, animal or plant.
There was nothing they could do but surrender meekly to merciless Nature.

newly constructed road snaked around the mountain; the work was still on at
some places. A few villages stretched out along the road-side. Small huts in a
row reached into the forest. On their walls, made of dried-up branches and
clay, rested low, sloping thatched roofs. 
A few had tin or asbestos roofs. Halfway down the looping road stood an
asbestos-roofed concrete house with four or five rooms, which served as the
Anganwadi (play-school) as well as primary school. It was also used sometimes
in the evenings for literacy programmes for the elderly.

children had stopped coming and the primary school was closed for the summer.
But where were the children who used to come to the Anganwadi?  The heat must be keeping them away, Rina
guessed.  They should have been there at
least for their mid-day meal. The cooking-gas had run out four or five days ago
and no refills were to be had in the village. 
The erratic supply of electricity had broken down completely and no one
could tell when it would be restored. Cooking over a wood fire in that heat
would mean getting oneself roasted. The house turned into a furnace as heat
came streaming down the asbestos roof. There was no respite either inside or
outside the house. Rina kept moving in and out, splashing her face from time to
time with the water stored in an earthen container


sound of a motorbike was heard outside. Who could it be, Rina wondered. Nobody
was expected at that hour. It couldn’t be her brother Tuku. He had gone out at
day-break to attend some meeting, somewhere inside the forest. It was, he had
said, an important meeting and workers from all corners of the state would be
coming. Tuku would be late: it might be evening or even night by the time he
returned. Rina kept the front door open on account of the heat. She walked out
of the courtyard and tried to look out through the open door, stretching

motorcycle with two men astride it had pulled up outside the house. Their eyes
strayed across the open door. Should Rina come out and ask them what they
wanted? Perhaps they were new here and wanted to ask the name of the village or
the place that the road led to; or maybe they wanted to know something about
the construction sites. It was not unusual ; many people came inquiring. But it
was the timing that troubled Rina. Two strangers arriving during the scorching
and deserted afternoon was not usual. Rabi Jani, the tribal domestic help at
the Anganwadi, had not yet come. She had kept some pakhala (boiled rice soaked in water) for him in a bowl and covered
it up. Rina waited for the two men to leave. But they did not go ; nor did they
get off the bike. There was no one in the vicinity she could call in case she
needed help. Rina was feeling ill at ease. It might be wiser to shut the door

we get some water to drink?”

heard one of them speak as she was about to close the door. She stopped
abruptly and looked up at the riders. 
Two young men, in T-shirts and trousers, were looking at her
expectantly. Both wore caps. Perhaps they were on their way to attend to some
work but the heat and thirst had made them stop, Rina thought. They dismounted
and after parking the bike moved a few steps towards her. She was a little
frightened; should she slam the door in their faces? But they appeared visibly
tormented by thirst and heat. They had probably travelled a long distance.  They might be in genuine need of water. 

is so hot here ; our throats are parched. There is no shed nearby where we
could take shelter for a while,” the man who had been driving the bike said,
looking at Rina, and sat down on the verandah without waiting for her to say
something.  The other man stood on the
road, looking ahead. She paused for a moment – the two men were not looking at
her. She drew a breath of relief and went inside without a word. She returned
in a minute carrying two metal tumblers filled with  cool water from the earthen pitcher. The two
men almost snatched the tumblers out of her hands and gulped the water down.

more !”

 Rina could read the urgency in the man’s voice
even though neither of them looked at her directly. This time too she went back
without answering, taking the empty glasses and came back after filling them
with water. But this time, while returning the empty glasses the man who had
been riding  pillion gave her a plastic

you please fill this bottle ?” he said politely.

could not refuse, but she was worried within. Who are these men? Did they know
that she was all alone there? What if they followed her into the house?

none of her misgivings came true. She filled the bottle and handed it back to
the man.

thanks,” the man who had been driving the bike said, smiling gratefully at her
and started the engine. Rina went inside, closed the door with one quick
movement and stood leaning against it. “Many thanks”, she muttered to herself
and smiled. She was soaked in perspiration. It was unusual to sweat so much in
that dry scorching heat.

Jani’s main task was to get firewood and two pitchers of drinking water for the
Anganwadi. He also filled the earthen vessel in the courtyard with water for
washing and cleaning. Besides, when the school was open and more water was
needed for the children, he filled a few plastic buckets for their use. Rina
had to humour him to get him to do all these chores.  Rabi Jani was given a midday meal at the
Anganwadi in return for the work. But that day he had not shown up at all. Rina
was left to herself in the lonely, blazing afternoon.       

next  day —

was late afternoon. Rina cycled to the market for some groceries, leaving Rabi
Jani in charge of the house. There was no news of Tuku. He had said he would
come back by evening, or at night if he was delayed. He had taken Rina’s mobile
phone with him. Of course, a mobile phone was not of much use in these parts :
most of the time the siganal was too weak or entirely dead. But Tuku had not
returned at night. Rina waited for him until midnight. Night faded into morning
but he did not return. Nor was there any sign of him at noon. Where was he?
Rina was worried. Tuku had been wandering over the countryside, God knew where,
for the last two or three months. He had opened an S.T.D. booth in the market
down below but it remained closed on most days. Tuku did not seem to have any
interest in the shop. Unmindfully, Rina rolled her bicycle down the winding
road. The beep of a motorcycle
horn behind her made her swerve to the left. The motorcycle stopped by her
side. Rina looked at the rider. It was the man who had come to the Anganwadi
yesterday asking for water.  But he was
alone now, his friend was not with him.

two glasses of water saved our lives yesterday,’ he said. ‘I’m glad I got
another chance to say thank you.’

got off the bicycle and smiled at the man.

it always this hot here?’ the man said in a low voice, as if speaking to
himself. Rina did not reply.

you belong to this village?’ he asked again, looking at Rina.

shook her head. ‘I work in the Anganwadi and stay there. My home is in a
village near Kesinga,’ she said casually.

come here for the first time,’ the man said. ‘I’ve been moving from place to
place in this heat for the last seven or eight days, supervising the

did not react to this. ‘My name is Ratan Singh. I am from Chandikhol. Do you
know the place?’

shook her head.

you going somewhere in particular or just roaming around?’

was going to the market’, she answered.

going there too’ the man said. There was a note of eagerness in his voice.

got on to her bicycle.

I get some water the next time I come to your Anganwadi?’ he asked, gazing
intently at Rina. She did not say anything but a soft smile flickered across
her face.

thanks again’, he said and started the motorbike.

was dark by the time Rina returned from the market. From a distance she saw
Tuku sitting on the veranda.

you been ? There was no news of you,’ Rina said 
with anxiety in her voice.

tell you everything, didi Give me something to eat first. Is there any pakhala left?’

stood the bicycle against the wall and hurried inside carrying the groceries.
She came out soon with a bowl of pakhala
and a plate of fried potatoes. She put the food before Tuku and sat by
him peeling an onion.      

do these people think? Can they crush us under their feet? Reduce us to dust?
They want to build their factories on our land and suck away our blood.’ Tuku
muttered, looking into the darkness, as if thinking aloud. He had forgotten his
sister sitting near him. His hand had stopped in the act of raising food to his
mouth. His mind seemed to be elsewhere and he appeared to have been gripped by
some deep, overwhelming passion. 

blabbering !’ Rina said. ‘You have been wandering about for the last two days.
You haven’t  even eaten in these two
days.  Finish your pakhala first.’

voice broke the spell.      

shall fight, didi. We’ll not let them move even a step as long as we live we
will fight to the last drop of blood in our bodies. And after that, you,
didi, and all the tribal women and girls must take the lead.’ Tuku said, still
looking into the darkness, as if he was making a prophecy.

kept quiet. They sat there in silence for a few minutes. Tuku lifted the rice
from the bowl to his mouth absent-mindedly. Rina looked at the bowl and went
inside to get some more rice for him.

are these boys up to?’ she wondered. 
Tuku did not say anything clearly. He just kept mumbling in broken
sentences. They were conducting meetings in unknown villages, somewhere deep
inside the forest. He told his sister just that much – nothing more, although
she tried to pry more out of him. This time he had stayed away for two days
without any information. Rina felt a shudder of fear. She let out a deep breath
and came back carrying some more rice in a small bowl.

 Rina had hoped that the heat would come down a
little in the next two days but instead, the temperature went up. Tuku had gone
away somewhere early in the morning. He had been in a great hurry. Rina had
mashed some soaked chooda for him.
But despite all her persuasion Tuku went away without taking any food. The
Anganwadi children had not shown up either. Probably no child will come today
as well, Rina thought.

sound of a motorbike was heard outside. Rina came out of the house. It was as
if she had been waiting for someone. It was the same young man, Ratan Singh –
but he was alone that day.

really very thirsty today. Can I have two glasses of that refreshing water?’ he
said, getting off the bike and moving towards the house.

smile appeared on Rina’s face; she went into the house and came back carrying
two glasses of water, one in each hand. 

you have electricity here?’ Ratan Singh asked as he sat down on the veranda.

but we’ve had no power in the last four days. There is a table fan but it is of
no use without electricity.’

was no storm or rain recently — then why the power failure?’ Ratan Singh asked
looking at her.

knows? Perhaps the wires melted in this heat. It’s nothing new. The electricity
goes away regularly for ten or fifteen days every month.’

is no one here to talk to, not even down there in the market,’ Ratan Singh said
as Rina picked up the empty glasses. ‘Do your parents live here? I think there
is a school  here as well ?’

only my younger brother lives with me. There is a school but it is closed for the summer vacation,’ Rina

the children come regularly ? Is there a teacher?’

 ‘ Only a few come.  They used to come in larger numbers when
mid-day meals were provided but now they come only when they feel like it. A
teacher has been appointed but he’s just as irregular as the children.”

about your brother? What does he do for a living? Is he educated?”

much, he passed Matriculation but we couldn’t afford to send him to school
after that.  He has opened an S.T.D booth
in the market and is planning to stock provisions and a few other things.”  She tried to sound carefree but her voice was

I must leave now. Thank you.”  Rattan
Singh walked back to the motorbike. He looked at Rina, smiled and started the
bike. “I shall come tomorrow.” Rina could not understand if it was a promise or
a proposition. Her face reddened.

afternoon, Rina was feeling a bit restless. She walked to and from the front-yard
of the house many times expecting Ratan Singh at any moment. Why should he want
to come, she asked herself. What would she say to him if he did come ? An
unidentifiable disquiet had taken possession of her. But Ratan Singh did not
come. Noon passed. The sun blazed down. Rina rinsed her face and hands, spread
a straw mat on the floor and lay down. 
Suddenly the sound of the motorcycle reached her ears. She got up
hurriedly and rushed out.

“I’m  not just thirsty today but hungry too. I
could do with some tea,” Ratan Singh said softly to Rina and smiled.

smile touched Rina’s lips and lit up her face.

your brother  home? I thought I could
meet him if I came in the late afternoon.” Ratan Singh said.

he may be at his booth.”

right, I’ll wait here for the tea.” He sat down on the veranda.

no milk,” Rina’s said, her face flushed with embarrassment.

you have tea leaves and sugar?” Ratan Singh asked. She nodded.

tea will do.” He flicked a smile at her and Rina disappeared into the

was no gas. She would have to use dry leaves to start a fire and prepare tea,
Rina thought bitterly. But at last the tea was ready. Rina came out carrying a
cup of tea and four biscuits on a plastic plate.

It took you a long time!” he said.

no gas,” Rina smiled awkwardly and turned to go inside. “I’ll get a glass of

sit here,” Ratan Singh said.

put the glass down near him but did not sit down.

It won’t be like this much longer in this village,” he said. “ Life will
change. You will be able to get gas easily and there won’t be power failures.
There will be a bigger market and more shops. Better schools, may be a college
as well, and a hospital and doctors. The look of this place will change
totally.” Ratan Singh did not look straight at Rina while saying all this
although he sat facing her.

stood there silently listening to him.

you know what we are doing here? We are constructing a road that will connect
this mountain to the larger one behind – a real wide concrete road on which two
large vehicles can move side by side comfortably, not like the narrow one you
have now.” The note of assurance in his voice had remained unchanged.

they going to blast the mountain and dig mines there?” Rina returned

not exactly. But whatever will be done will be for the good of everybody. All
the people living in these villages will prosper from the project,” he said calmly.

How will they be better off ?”

will get jobs. Not just that – they will get cash, good clothes to wear. They
will live like real human beings. They will become civilized.” Ratan Singh went

do you mean by ‘real human beings?’ ”  Rina asked acidly. “They are as much human as
those you call ‘civilized’. They feel pleasure and pain just the same way as
the others; summer and winter have the same effect on them. The only difference
is that they are poor. But they do not feel deprived in any way. Have they ever
begged for your charity?” Rina grew excited.

But  you must admit that they have
benefited from the government’s programmes. There are schools for their
children, bore-wells to provide drinking water. Electricity has come to many
villages. Medicines have become available. 
Can you deny it?” Ratan Singh asked.

I admit there are some changes, but most of it is just eyewash. The less said
about the government schools the better. As for healthcare, there is neither a
doctor nor medicines in the village dispensary. The power supply is down more
often than not.” Rina sounded bitter.

Jani arrived with buckets full of water hanging at each end of a bamboo pole
balanced on his shoulder. He paused a little at the doorstep and glanced first
at Ratan Singh and then at Rina. He went inside to keep the buckets and came
out. Without saying anything to Rina, he walked away and soon disappeared in
the dusk.

we go for a walk?” Ratan Singh asked Rina in a tender voice. “Will you show me
round the village?”

waited for a moment, turned and closed the door from outside and fastened it
with a chain. She stepped into her slippers and came down the two steps onto
the road. They walked along the track that passed by the left of the Anganwadi.
There were no other houses in the neighbourhood.  The huts in these hill-side villages were
built one behind another in a row, at a little distance from each other. One
village was at least ten or twelve kilo meters away from the next.

you may say, life is hard for the people here. Don’t you think they deserve a
few modern comforts?” Ratan’s tone was calm.

why should they have to give up their traditional ways for the sake of these
modern comforts ? Would your people
be prepared to do it ?” Rina’s words erupted suddenly, as though they had been
kept suppressed somewhere inside her for a long, long time. “Can you claim that
the life you live is the best?” Rina went on. “These innocent people mind their
own business ; they never hurt anyone or try to grab another’s share.  In what way are they inferior?”

are becoming too serious; that was not what I meant,” said Ratan. “ Whatever
the government is doing is for their good. They may not understand this now but
they will surely realize it later. I agree that they have been living a life of
their own, but trust me, no one intends them any harm.” Ratan Singh pleaded.

were both silent for a few moments. “ Perhaps it would be a good idea idea to
wash them clean, dress them up in expensive clothes and  put them in cages, like animals in a zoo, so
that the rich people from the city could come and gaze at them,” Rina retorted

really care about them, don’t you  ?”
Ratan Singh’s voice was placating.

I have been living among them for the last two years, babu. Believe me, you
cannot find such peace anywhere else.” Rina’s voice was as calm as Ratan’s.

call me babu 
my name is Ratan.’

walked on in silence. The sun had set. A film of darkness was beginning to
spread across the sky. A soft cool breeze blew through the trees, relieving the

a sweet smell ! What is it?’ Ratan Singh stopped and looked around to trace the
source of the fragrance.

Look at that tree on your left, it is a wild fig tree. What you are getting is
the smell of its ripe fruits.” Abruptly, Rina stopped. “ Can you recognize this
other smell?” She looked at Ratan Singh. “ It is the fragrance of wild jasmine.”
She picked a bunch of soft white flowers from a shrub nearby and handed it to
Ratan Singh.

jasmine”.  Ratan Singh’s hand touched
Rina’s, holding the bunch of flowers. Neither said a word. The forest was so
unusually quiet that even the sound of a leaf being blown away by the wind
could have been heard.  Rina held her
head lowered.

is it that all white flowers bloom only in the night ?” she murmured, looking
at the ground.

white flowers!” Ratan Singh said gently. He cupped her face in his hands and
lifted it close to his own. Their lips met.

shall come tomorrow at this time. I am building a small two-roomed house for
myself a little above the market, two or three kilometres away. The house that
I have rented, in the market place, is too far away from the work site. When
the new house  is built I shall take you

walked back along the path, hand in hand.              

*                   *                 *                *                  *                    *                     *                     *                 

was surprised to find Ratan Singh in front of her house so early that morning.
They usually met in the evenings. Only last evening they had spent quite some
time in each other’s company in Ratan’s newly constructed house. What could
have been so urgent as to bring him here early in the morning?

Tuku was away. He had left at about noon yesterday and not returned. She walked
up to Ratan Singh. He sat astride his bike. He looked flustered ; his hair was
dishevelled and his eyes were red and swollen. An unknown fear seized her. What
could have happened?

is Tuku? Is he at home?’ Ratan Singh asked awkwardly.

 “I don’t know; he could be in his booth in the
market,” she replied

did he go?” His voice sounded distant, as though he was a stranger.

Early this morning”  Rina replied, her
voice quivering. “Why? What is the matter?”

murdered Pradip last night. His dead body was found lying in the market early
this morning. He was stabbed in the stomach. The police are searching for the
killer ; he cannot get away.”

stood rooted to the ground. She had seen Pradip for the first time when he came
to her house with Ratan Singh on his motorbike, asking for water.  Later, she had met him a few more times at
Ratan’s new house. Who could have killed him ? 

must leave now,” Ratan said. “ We shall talk later.” He started the motorcycle
and rode away. Rina stood still on the verandah, leaning against the wall. Her
mind was in turmoil. Who could possibly have murdered the man? Where had Tuku
gone since yesterday? She had lied to Ratan. Had Tuku been responsible? No,
never; her brother could go to any length, but murder…  Rina knew how tender his heart was. Last
year, the gentlemen who came to inspect the school had wanted to go
rabbit-hunting. But Tuku had prevented him : “ I don’t like any kind of hunting
!” he had declared firmly. Rina remembered how stubborn her brother was. Rina
was afraid she would be dismissed from her job at the Anganwadi, but
fortunately nothing had happened.

are you meeting that contractor so often?” Tuku had asked her sometime back.

we just see each other occasionally. There’s nothing to it,” Rina had replied

careful, didi ; these are not good people. They have come here from the city
with a purpose — to blast the hills and rob the poor tribal people of their
land and their homes. We should have nothing to do with them”, Tuku said

had no answer. What could she have said to her younger brother? As it was, he
was away most of the time. She could not tell him that she was in love with
Ratan Singh,  that they had decided to
get married. She couldn’t tell him what she thought of Ratan – that he was not
an evil character, as Tuku believed, but a compassionate man, full of sympathy
for tribal people. She would talk to her brother one of those days and try to
explain things to him, but with this sudden turn of events all her planning had
gone haywire.

was evening ; Tuku did not come back. Rina waited for him with bated breath.
Night came and  departed. It was another
day. There was no sign of Tuku – not that day, nor the next. Four days passed
but Tuku did not return. On the fifth night there was a soft knock on the door.
Rina was jolted out of sleep; her body was trembling in fear.

Didi, open the door.”
Tuku’s voice came from the other side of the door. Rina jerked the door open.
Tuku and three or four other boys stood outside.

there something to eat?” he asked urgently.

had not cooked. She was not able to think properly. She rushed into the
kitchen, soaked some chooda in a bowl of water, strained out the water and,
after adding some sugar to it, handed the bowl to Tuku and his friends.  Then she slumped on the floor, worn out.

didi, the police are after us.
But we haven’t killed that man. You must trust me, didi, some others murdered him and are trying to frame us.” Tuku
was gasping for breath. Rina’s gaze travelled to the pistol and knives which
they had put down on the floor. She was startled, as if she had seen a snake.

are nothing didi, just for
self-defence. We are wandering here and there, hiding ourselves from the
police. We are compelled to keep these things, just in case. Do you have some
money?’ Tuku asked impatiently. 

hurried towards her tin box and took out all the money from it, including the
small coins. She counted the money – five hundred fiftysix rupees in all — and
handed it over to her brother. Tuku snatched the money from her hand. He and
the others went out through the backdoor and disappeared into the darkness.
Rina felt her legs weakening and sat down at the very place where she had been
standing. She sat huddled up through the rest of the night. When it was
daylight she got up somehow and attended to the domestic chores with much
effort. A few Anganwadi children had turned up; she gave them some singing
practice. She thought she would cook for them but she felt so disturbed that
she had to abandon the idea. She gave each of them a couple of biscuits and
sent them back. Rabi Jani came in the afternoon. “Shall I get water ?” he asked

 “Have you seen Ratan Singh?” Rina asked him
and he shook his head.

 She secured the front door and came out onto
the road soon after Rabi Jani left. She began walking in the direction of Ratan
Singh’s house, hoping that Ratan Singh would come riding his motorbike at any
moment. But the road was completely deserted. She trudged on. By the time she
reached Ratan Singh’s house, about three kilometres away, she was out of
breath. It was quite late in the evening. To her disappointment, both the rooms
were locked from the outside.  She sat
down for a while on the verandah to rest her legs. There was not a soul around,
nor was there any chance of getting a little water to wet her parched throat.
She half ran, half walked back to the Anganwadi. She spent a sleepless night,
sick with worry.  In the morning she decided
that she must find Ratan Singh at any cost. If she did not find him in his
house, she would go down to the market and look for him in his usual haunts. “I
must, by any means, make him meet Tuku, explain everything and remove the
suspicion and ill feeling they have for each other”, she kept saying to herself
all day, as if reciting a litany.

moved in and out of the house gripped with anxiety, waiting for the sun to set.
She did not have the patience to wait for dusk : she took out her bicycle,
locked the door and rode away. It would take 
her some time to reach Ratan Singh’s house, riding uphill along that
winding road.

a little distance from the house Rina hid her bicycle behind some wild bushes
by the roadside and soft-footed down the road towards the back door of the
house to avoid being seen by any passer-by. The back door was open. Rina could
see a big car parked outside the house. Perhaps Ratan Singh had company. She
usually came to this house only if Ratan Singh asked her to, because most of
the time he was out, or with friends.

hesitated a little. Should she go in ? Most probably there were others in the
house along with Ratan Singh. It would not be wise to go inside. Maybe she
should call him out.

undecided, Rina moved towards the house, a step at a time. Instead of entering
through the back door she took a turn to the left and stood below the window.
Standing on tip-toe she stretched forward a little and tried to peeep through
the window. The sound of laughter floated out through the room. Rina waited a
while hoping to meet the boy who cooked for Ratan.

tribal people are so simple that they will never suspect anything, even if
someone cuts their feet away under them,” Rina heard someone say. It was Ratan
Singh’s voice.  

those boys are really smart.  It was they
who killed Pradip”, someone else remarked. 

worry, we’ll get them soon. I have managed to trap their leader’s sister and we
will come to know of their whereabouts from her.” It was Ratan Singh again.

could not believe her ears; could this be Ratan Sigh speaking?

You are an expert at trapping girls !” a voice said admiringly. “ Otherwise,
life would be boring in a place like this. What is she like?”

A real masala dish ! Wait until
you get a taste !” Ratan Singh said. A burst of vulgar, raucous laughter

turned to stone. Her head whirled. She was not able to decide whether she
should go in and reveal her presence or return unnoticed.

 “ But aren’t you afraid of AIDS, brother? We
need to take precautions.”

Yes, you must be careful. Anyway, the road will be built in a few months and
then we can all go home. Why bother?”

Pradip’s death must be avenged.”

turning, Rina moved back carefully, step by step. The jungle was so dangerously
quiet that the sound of a foot treading on a dry leaf could have been heard.

was no time to take the bicycle out of the place where she had hidden it. She
ran blindly through the forest, trampling the wild bushes and undergrowth,
getting bruised and scratched by the spiky creepers that were entangled with
one another. She seemed to be running for her life, as though the men in the
room were chasing her.   

surprise awaited her at the Anganwadi. The front door was open. A friend of
Tuku’s was pacing about in front of the house; perhaps he kept vigil over the
place. He stopped when he saw Rina. Without a word she half walked and half ran
into the house. In a corner of the veranda sat Tuku and some of his friends.
Rina did not wait to look at them properly, nor did she say anything to Tuku.
She ran straight into her room.

forty-watt bulb in her room gave out a very dim light because of the low
voltage. Rina stood before the small mirror hanging on the wall. She was
startled at the sight of her reflection.

you know, didi? The fellow that
murdered that contractor has been caught this afternoon. There is a rumour that
the killer belonged to a rival group,” Tuku said standing at the door; there
was  eagerness and relief in his voice.

turned and stood facing her brother. Tuku stopped short. Even in that dim light
he could see the scratches on his sister’s face; he could see the thin line of
blood that trickled down her cheek. She had not worn a dupatta over her dress. A portion of the left sleeve of her kameez was torn and hung awkwardly.
Tuku stood still as a statue for an instant.

Didi, what happened? Who has done
this? Tell me !” The grimness in Tuku’s voice was frightening.

 Rina stood woodenly holding her head down.
Tears had begun to well up in her eyes.

Didi, I am asking you something!”
Tuku roared. His friends sitting on the veranda heard him and came there.
Standing behind him they tried to peep through the door.

was he – that contractor babu
and his friends”, Rina’s tone was calm and clear. She fixed her eyes on Tuku’s
face. She did not blink even once while she said this although tears ran down
her eyes.

are they?”

his house.”

shifted her gaze towards Tuku’s friends standing behind him.

uttering a word Tuku turned and stormed out of the room. His friends followed
him.  Moving with the speed of lightning
they reached the other end of the veranda and the clash of metal on metal was
heard.  Rina tried to see – there were
knives and other weapons in their hands that glittered in the dim light. Tuku
and his six friends leaped away like wild animals and melted in the darkness in
an instant.

stood still at the threshold holding the door in both hands and kept looking
into the darkness. Tears trickled down her eyes.

from Odia by Snehaprava Das

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