‘Veera, you remember all that I told you right?’ asked Meena. Little Veera holding her mother’s hand and walking along nodded solemnly.
‘Tell me all that you understood’, asked Meena, tugging at her daughter’s small hand curled within her own.
‘I should not be anywhere near Maalik (Boss). I should not talk to him or make noise around him. I should play quietly behind the kitchen. I should not be heard nor seen.’ Veera dutifully rattled off the instructions her mother had given her all week.
Veera had been sent to her grandparents in the village last year and had come back to her parents now. She looked forward to accompanying her mother to the house she worked at. While her mother washed and scrubbed the never-ending stream of vessels in the kitchen, Veera sat in the verandah behind the kitchen, playing with the dolls her mother made out of rags for her.
Though she could not remember much from her previous visits with her mother, Veera did remember that the lady of the house, Maalkin (mistress) was very kind. She gave Veera laddoos to eat and frocks that were so beautiful that Laali didn’t want to wear them, lest they get dirty.
The only person everyone feared was Maalik, whose ire and bellowing voice preceded him. Even though Veera was but a child she could feel the tension in the air when Maalik was in the house. Everyone stood to attention, they spoke only in answer to his question and made themselves scarce as much as possible.
Meena repeatedly urged Veera to stay put under the shade of the tree, whenever Maalik was around.
As Veera and Meena reached the ornate gates of the beautiful house Veera wondered if it was bigger than before. She didn’t realize that she had asked this question aloud, till her mother laughed and answered, ‘No, they have just painted it white. It looks so beautiful doesn’t it?’ Meena asked.
Veera nodded in awe, it did look very beautiful. As they walked towards the kitchen located behind the house, they were both startled by a huge crash. They quickened their steps and made their way forward.
Mother and daughter entered the kitchen to see the servants sweeping up what looked like shards of broken dishes and spilled food.
‘The Pooris the cook made for breakfast didn’t puff up right, so Maalik upturned the dining table’, the manservant explained as he binned the broken crockery.
The Cook stood in a corner of the kitchen, twisting a napkin in his hands, ‘It is not my fault Maalkin, the Pooris had puffed up like they always do.’ he pleaded.
‘I know, Kanhaiya. I know’, the Maalkin replied, her lowered eyes sharing a silent apology.
Veera heard and witnessed the stories of Maalik’s temper every day. The upturned dining table was a very regular occurrence. As was smashed crockery. The staff was fired with alarming regularity and newer ones were hired. Only Veera’s mother, Meena, the cook Kanhaiya and Maalik’s manservant remained constants.
Winter had set in when Maalik had an accident and fractured his leg. While the family and staff heaved a silent sigh of relief at him being immobile, they were all the more cautious as his irritability increased. Meena became even more strict with Veera, urging her to not budge from her assigned spot under the tree.
The cook had made a Winter Pickle, Maalik’s favorite and as the staff was carrying jars to put them out in the sun, little Veera bored of playing under the tree decided to help. She carried a small jar carefully and walked behind her mother to the vast lawn where the Winter sun shone down. As she placed her jar down she spotted a butterfly so beautiful that she looked at it mesmerized. It seemed to look back at her too before it flew away. Veera ran behind it, chasing it so that she could look at it again. She didn’t realize how far she had run, till she stopped abruptly, right before Maalik, sunning himself in his easy chair.
He put down his paper and glared down at Veera, frozen in place. Meena came rushing in, as did the other help. Veera and Maalik locked eyes, and then Veera asked, ‘Why are you always so angry, Maalik? Is it because of your strange mucchi (mustache)?’ There was a collective inhalation of breath. Maalik stroked his handlebar mustache as he glared down at this chit of a girl, and then he laughed and laughed some more.
Everyone stood with their mouth agape, they had never seen or heard the Maalik laugh.
This post is a part of Blogchatter Half Marathon.
My theme for the same is Navras – The Nine Emotions of Life. I am writing Fiction for this theme.
This story is written for Veera which means Courage.
Read my story for Karuna here
Read my story for Hasya here
Read my story for Bibhatsa here
Read my story for Adbhut here
Read my story for Bhayanaka here
Read my story for Shringara here .