How incredibly stupid they all had been: all the elaborate clothes, the cosmetics, their blissfully ignorant daydreams. She herself, while proclaiming to be different and discerning, had been easily led to the slaughter. The gilt and the trappings had faded away too quickly. She had fought like a trapped animal against a feeling of stagnation and being settled in — but inertia glued her and now a hideous acceptance had wriggled in insidiously. The physical situation remained the same, almost, but the emotions had undergone a subtle change, so subtly that the mind became aware of it only much later. The change had been too slow and subtle for heart-ache — only a rare poignant, awareness that slithered in the recesses of the mind like a snake in the grass, leaving the top unruffled. With her newly acquired knowledge she wondered with disbelief at their unsuspecting innocence — not a doubt had crossed their sure and confident minds.
Waves of tinkles rippled out, jerking her mind. Four o’clock. Rolling out of bed she went Into the kitchen. Above the clatter and clang, the waves of memories came again. No dowry, she had insisted. Be practical, my dear. An engineer is worth sacrificing your Liberation, her mother had assured. But she won a vital point: she was permitted to meet him alone as often as she liked and then decide. At their first meeting he had taken her out on his motor bike. Sitting behind him with hands clutching his waist she felt self-conscious; but with the wind whipping about her with the roar of the motor bike, a thrill coursed through her body. After that there had been no need to decide. Movie theatres became their haunts. Sitting in the dark, holding hands, she felt herself happier than the flickering lovers on the screen. Her friends’ envious glances added an edge’ to her thrill. When love — or what she took for love — came, college ideals became irrelevant. it had not even occurred to her to stop and think. The intelligent woman was now a girl in love.
The knocking had gone on now for some time, but her mind — assailed by the clang of metal on metal and thoughts — had not taken notice. Now the tapping had risen to an impatient fullisade. Suspending her work, she went across and opened the door.
He came In. “You have come early?”
Her mind was still dazed. “Finished my files quickly. What happened today?” He asked it every time he came home from office, almost automatically. She was still standing at the door, leaning against it.
She had run across to him and said petulantly “You’re late I walled all day!” He had taken her in his arms. “One would think I had been away for a whole month Instead of a day!” he had teased. “It’s still honeymoon for you. But I am a working man, darling!” His voice was tender and he had kissed her. “Nothing happened.”
He had removed his shoes and walked into the bath-room without a word. “I’ve prepared many dishes for you. You must eat it all and praise me. Or I’m going to cook nothing for you anymore.”
“The sweetest and the best dish Is here.” And he had kissed her again….
Sumati closed the door and went into the kitchen, He soon followed her and squatted on a small mat she had laid. She served him silently. A little later she asked: “Is everything all right?” He nodded over the plate his mouth full. .
“My dear fellow, my cooking won’t be like this everyday. So be warned!” She had playfully wagged her finger at him. They were eating at a restaurant, a week before the wedding. “Darling, whatever you cook will be delicious for me.” His eyes laughed at her.
“Let us see how long this ardour lasts,” she had shot back.
“For ever and ever.” She had laughed at the serious demeanor he had assumed.
His hunger satiated, he got up. She then served herself.
“Mother, mother, I’m home!” Sumatt hurriedly washed her hands and rushing, opened the door. “Honey!” she exclaimed and picked up the child. After exchanging several kisses she set her down.
“What is there to eat?” “Now, now. Naughty girls get nothing to eat”
“I’m good! I’m good.”
Sumati laughed at her daughter stamping the ground in a fit of childish anger.
“You’ll have to wash your hands.” “After that you’ll give me something good?” “We’ll see.” Sumati’s face was solemn, but her sparkling eyes belied It.
“No, no, Go away! I won’t speak to you.” The child’s face was flushed. “Father has come home!” Shrieking, the child ran into the room where her father quickly picked her up and kissed her cheeks. Sumati was still laughing. She ran up and snatched the child away. Her husband chased her. Sumati was laughing breathlessly when she finally collapsed on the bed. Triumphantly he seized the child and before she could realise it, had kissed Sumati. The astonished child let out a cry of delight at its mother’s flushed and confused face. Abruptly, the child’s face took on a look of bafflement.
“Mummy, Mummy! The clock has stopped!” Her voice held a note of disbelief — clocks never stop. In a ‘trice she was up on a chair, attempting to unfasten the glass-cover. Sumati had a premonition; she wanted to stop the child but she could only look on helplessly. She opened her mouth, but what she might have spoken was drowned by the crash. The glass had shattered; the bob had come apart; it lay a few feet away, shining malevolently at her.