Those who have lost know the pain of suffering. Meena has lost a lot. She lost her only daughter; she lost her beloved grandson and was yet again facing a loss which usually hurt the most. She lost her spouse, Jamal. Her husband and granddaughter were the only people who provided her comfort. They kept her sane. Now, it was just her and Lekha, her granddaughter, against the world.
The pungent smell of death was heavy in the room. The beauty of the lavish house was overshadowed by the white of the guests, the white of the widow and the white of the cloth Jamal was wrapped in.
There was a hush of whispers when Meena stood unmoving near the podium mic. She was expected to say a few words in memory of her husband. She seemed to be at a loss for words, rendering her uncharacteristically quiet. Being familiar with the dilemma her grandmother was facing, Lekha took over and delivered the eulogy for Jamal.
“My grandfather was a wise man,” she said, “He was the backbone of our family. He provided for us. We all will forever mourn for him.”
As soon as Lekha finished, she ran outside to catch a breath of fresh air. She could barely breathe. Everyone classified that as a sign of remorse and gave her the space she required. Lekha sat on the bench outside their house. The same bench Jamal often sat on to read his daily newspaper.
Just as the Lekha was about to head back in, she noticed the shadow of a man near the gate. She could not clearly see the man, but he seemed huge. Sensing eyes on him, he fled before Lekha could recognize him. Lekha convinced herself that it was nothing out of the ordinary and headed back inside.
A few days had passed since the death of Jamal. There was complete silence in the Bohra house. Both Meena and Lekha always seemed to be lost in a haze of memories, at least that is what everyone assumed.
Meena had the sudden thought of looking at Jamal’s will. She opened Jamal’s wardrobe to look for the keys to his safe only to come up empty handed. The keys were missing. This arose panic in Meena. Those keys were the only way to access Jamal’s will and money. She started frantically searching for it. She roped Lekha into helping her find the keys.
They were mid-search when the house bell rang. Lekha opened the door to find police standing at their doorstep. She side stepped to let them in and called her grandmother to cater to the needs of the policemen.
“Your husband died of heart attack, yes?” the policeman asked Meena.
“Yes, sir. He had already passed out by the time we got to him,” answered Meena.
“Ma’am, upon further introspection of the autopsy report, a high amount of digoxin was found in his body, which eventually lead to his cardiac arrest,” the policeman informed.
Meena and Lekha appeared perplexed upon hearing this new information.
“Any suspects?” they asked.
“None,” whispered Meena.
The policemen left behind an iota of confusion and fear within the pair. An impending doom settled on their head.
The police continued with their investigation, while Meena and Lekha continued with their life. Lekha had forgotten about the mystery man she saw on the day of Jamal’s funeral until she saw him again. Up close, this time.
Lekha often took strolls in their garden once Meena was asleep. Hoping do the same that day, she put on her shoes and had barely closed the door when she felt the presence of the man. Before she could yell or notify her grandmother, the man cornered her into the wall next to their door and placed his hands over her mouth.
“Remember me, doll?” asked the man in a thick raspy voice.
Meena could smell the cigarettes in his breath. She remembered that voice. She could never forget the feel of those vile callous palms. She had never known a man as cruel as him before her grandfather introduced her to him. Varin Parikh – the man her grandfather sold her to.
“I finally have you at my mercy, doll. Your grandfather died before he could hand over our agreement papers to me. You for money. What a shame, isn’t it?” he rasped.
Lekha howled into his palm. She remembered that moment as clear as day when her own grandfather signed her over to that man for money. She remembered the cruel smile on both their faces as they watched her beg for her freedom.
She had started spiraling into that web of darkness when she suddenly felt the pressure of his hands loosen. She opened her eyes when she heard the thud of his body hitting the ground. There she stood; Lekha’s savior, her guardian angel, Meena.
“I knew you hid those keys for a reason,” said Meena to Lekha.
Meena had hit Varin with a bat on his head. Lekha slid down the wall. Meena kicked Varin’s lifeless body aside and sat down next to Lekha. They held hands in the same way they did as they watched Jamal convulse and die of heart attack. It truly was them against the world.
“Men,” Meena sighed as they both broke out into maniacal laughter.