WHEN MRS SHARMA found herself locked out of forty-two Foley Feild
– yes, that is Feild, not Field – her first instinct was to cry, which was
ridiculous because Mrs Sharma rarely cried.
The last time she had cried was right after
her hysterectomy, but that was on purpose. Her son, Raj, and his dumpy wife had
come to visit. She knew that she looked a bit grey and frail from the
operation, and so had decided it would be a good time to ask for the house. The
house she had always wanted. A house to die in, she said. Add to that a few
tears and, bingo, the house was hers. He had made the down payment, and she
paid the mortgage with her pension and the rent from the townhouse. Well, it
wasn’t a big deal – she had given birth to him, after all, and they spent more
money on that damned dog of theirs than they did on her. If she hadn’t made
plans for herself, they would have eventually chucked her into a nursing home,
like her nephew had done for her sister, Ganga.
Ganga had lost it in there, repeating the
same phrases about how she didn’t want to collect the milk, make the dough,
dust the cobwebs and so on and so on: echoes from their house in Rupali
Society. It was the nursing home that killed her. Mrs Sharma had told Ganga’s
son as much at the funeral and, for good measure, threw in a curse that he be
reborn as a rat. He looked like a rat, too, which was a sure sign that it was
going to happen. Needless to say, she no longer spoke to him, or any of Ganga’s
other imbecile brats.
If Ganga were still
around, she would have a spare key. She was the only one of Mrs Sharma’s five
siblings who Mrs Sharma had kept in touch with. Raj would be at work,
and he only visited at the weekends. Sometimes, when he was busy, he would skip
a weekend. Today was Monday.
As Mrs Sharma stood in her garden, tears
filled her eyes and turned the solid house watery. It was no good thinking like
this. She blinked the tears away, and focused once more on the house. It was
the best house she had ever had. A three-bedroom, semi-detached in the suburbs.
Mostly white people here, away from all those spitting, gossipy Indians.
Although she had been disappointed to learn that her next-door neighbours were
black. Not even pretty black, that nice freshly fried puri colour, but proper
black. She had feared loud music all night, but so far they had been
surprisingly well-behaved. When she had lived in Kisumu with Harish, they had
been surrounded by blacks. Well, anything was better than that crowded house in
Rupali Society where six of them had lived with no privacy at all under the
watchful eye of their mother, a woman who had something against people sitting
down. That journey, by ship from Porbandar to Mombasa then by coach to Kisumu,
was exhilarating. She thought she was getting out, escaping to a life of
luxury. Whenever the coach slowed down, she heard the Africans shouting ‘Jambo!
Jambo!’ and thought they were selling gulab jamens, her favourite sweets. It
was only afterwards that she learned that ‘jambo’ means hello in Swahili, and
that life in Kisumu was no luxury. Then there was the flat in the middle of
that dirty Irish neighbourhood and, when the kids got older, the townhouse.
That had been OK until Harish had died and a new influx of Indians had come in.
Besides, all that up and down over two flights of stairs had started killing
her knees. Now, however, she finally had it: a proper house of her own. Except
that she was locked out of it.
She had been putting the bins out for
collection. Normally, she went out the back door and dragged the bins out to
the front from the back garden and through the side alley. This morning,
however, she had used the front door, walked around to the back and, by the
time she had dragged the bins to the front, the wind had blown the door shut.
She couldn’t remember why she had done it that way round, but that’s what
tended to happen nowadays: she’d be confounded by a slight change of routine,
of the normal way of doing things.
The wind picked up, lifting her thin sari
and making the leaves rustle. The sky was gathering heavy clouds. Soon, it
would rain. Her tulips, red and yellow, had already closed their petals. They
were lucky; they could shut themselves up in their protective little houses
whenever they wanted.
Mrs Sharma tried the
back door again. Undeniably locked. The sliding patio doors were sealed shut.
They were double-glazed, as were all the windows, which also remained
obstinately shut. She made her way to the front of the house via the alleyway,
running her fingers along the rough, hard bricks as she went, admiring the
impenetrable, foolproof nature of the building, but at the same time feeling
trapped by it. Brick after brick packed tightly together, not a gap between
them. Halfway down the alley, she remembered the window. She looked up. A
little sash window with red and green stained-glass patterns, older than the
other windows, was positioned halfway up the stairs, about a metre above Mrs
Sharma’s head. If there were one window she might be able to get through, it’d
be this one.
She went to the front of the house and
wheeled the green recycling bin back down the alleyway, parking it directly
below the window. She tried climbing on top of it, but the bin was very high
and Mrs Sharma was not in the habit of hauling herself up on to mountainous
objects. She tried again, placing both hands on the flat surface and using all
her strength to pull herself up. Years of lifting babies, rolling chapattis and
scrubbing surfaces finally paid off: her arms held out while her flip-flops
scrabbled against the side of the bin, and she managed to plonk herself on top.
She stood up and realized that the pleats of her sari had come undone. She
quickly re-pleated them and tucked them in. Her head was now level with the
window, and she could see inside. She tried to push the bottom of the window
upwards. It rattled in its frame, but was locked. If she could just put some
more strength into it . . . but it was no good. She sighed. The first drops of
rain began to fall. She looked around. Propped against the wall at the garden
end of the alleyway was her trowel.
She climbed slowly down from the bin,
trying to ignore the pain in her knees, fetched the trowel and went through the
whole palaver of getting back on the bin again. This time, she pushed the tip
of the trowel in the little gap under the window and used it like a lever.
It took a bit of effort, but the locks
snapped and she was able to lift the window up. She stuck her head through and
breathed in the familiar smell of cloves and incense. Then she placed her hands
on either side of the ledge, pushed off from the bin with her toes and started
to wriggle in.
About halfway through,
she found herself in a regrettable position. The front of her body was
suspended mid-air above the stairs, while her lower half was stuck outside. She
was balancing precariously on her hips, flailing around to keep herself steady.
It was like swimming in space. She hoped nobody was looking. After a few
seconds of this, she decided that the best course of action would be to reach
for the banister. She stretched her hands out and almost fell down head-first
in the effort. She needed to get a bit closer. She continued to edge herself
nearer with her swimming action, then made a desperate grab for the banister
once more. She made it.
She pulled the rest of her body into the
house but found herself stuck again. Her toes were on the windowsill and her
hands on the banister. She had to get down, but how? Her arms ached and her
legs trembled. The bottom half of her sari was clinging to her calves, wet now
Well, she couldn’t stay here forever; she’d
just have to jump. She counted to three, but found that she was still hanging
on after ‘three’. So she said three Hare Krishnas, knowing that if she didn’t
do it this time it would be a bad reflection of her faith. She pushed off the
windowsill and her body went flying forwards. Her feet stumbled on the stairs,
but her hands steadfastly gripped the banister and she managed to steady
herself. She released her grip and warm blood rushed to her arms. She sat down,
and began to laugh. She had done it!
Once she had returned to her senses, she
went up to her bedroom and took up her usual place on the rocking chair by the
window. The patchy grey sky was spitting rain onto the empty street below. She wanted
to tell someone about her little adventure, but could think of no one to call.
Mrs Sharma put her glasses on and started
to read her weekly copy of Garavi Gujarat. A car swished by, but didn’t
stop. At around two o’clock a group of girls, who should have been in school,
walked past, shouting and shrieking. She watched them disappear at the end of
the road, taking their laughter and exaggerated gestures with them.
She went downstairs at 3.30 p.m. and made
herself a cup of chai and a plate of cornflakes sprinkled with lemon juice,
salt and chilli powder, and settled down for the most interesting part of the
It had stopped raining when Mrs Sharma
moved the net curtain back and opened the window slightly, letting in the cool,
pond-smelling air. Shortly after, the red car belonging to the black woman
pulled into the drive of the neighbouring house. She got out with her son, who
was about eight years old. His uniform, which was neat enough in the morning –
although Mrs Sharma had noticed that he’d neglected to tuck in a piece of his
light blue shirt – was now completely dishevelled. The bottom of his left
trouser leg was caught in his sock, and the right one was scuffed on the knee:
chalky grey scratches surrounded a patch of slimey green. If Raj had come home
like that, he would have got a slap. The mother, followed by the boy, went
inside their house.
It was Monday evening,
which meant karate. At 5.30 p.m. they would leave the house again. This time he
would be dressed in a white costume, which looked like something they might
make you wear in a mental institution were it not for the yellow belt tied
around his waist. When Mrs Sharma first moved in he had worn a white belt,
which completed the asylum look perfectly.
In about fifteen minutes, the black girl
would walk home with her friend – another black, but an extremely pretty one
with long limbs and a graceful manner. Presently, they rounded the corner. As
they got closer, Mrs Sharma listened carefully to their conversation, but, as
usual, she couldn’t comprehend what they were saying. She understood the words
of course – Mrs Sharma had always prided herself on her excellent English – but
these girls used them in ways that made no sense: ‘Mr Fenton is safe’, ‘that
film is sick’, ‘Darren poked me on Facebook’.
Mrs Sharma didn’t know what the face book
was, but everyone seemed to be reading it nowadays – she had even overheard Raj
mention it once.
The girls reached the house and, as usual,
the pretty one waited while her friend walked up the drive and unlocked the
door. Then she raised her arm and waved elegantly, like the gesture of a Kathak
dancer. Mrs Sharma waved back silently from behind her curtain.
A car growled closer; probably the
newlyweds at number seven coming back from work together. They did everything
together. They even wore matching colours. This morning she’d been wearing a
purple dress while he’d sported a purple tie. Mrs Sharma didn’t know if they
really were newlyweds, but they did act as if they were. She was waiting for
the day their nonsense would come to an end, when they would finally start
behaving like normal people. However, the vehicle that came around the corner
was not the newlyweds’ silver Golf, but the little white van belonging to the
builder who lived opposite Mrs Sharma.
Mrs Sharma had a
magnificent view of his house from her window, but felt this was wasted on such
a boring person. The builder lived alone, hardly had any visitors, and drew his
curtains as soon as it got dark. Sometimes she’d catch the flicker of the TV in
the front room, but the lights were always out by ten. Mrs Sharma knew he was a
builder because of the things he loaded into his van and because of the way he
looked. He had a beer belly, thinning grey hair and wore dirty T-shirts coupled
with cement-flecked jeans that exposed his backside when he bent down. The only
element of surprise was that he’d come and go at irregular times.
The black father, ranting and raving like
an idiot, came home shortly after his wife and son had left. When she’d first
moved in, Mrs Sharma thought he had serious problems, until she realized that
he was actually talking on the phone.
The nurses, who lived next door on the
other side, would follow at around seven, because they had left at eleven that
morning. Although their shifts changed regularly, they were usually on the same
schedule and left and returned home together. They probably organized it that
way so they’d be safe when they worked nights. Sensible girls. Today, however,
by the time the nurses came walking down Foley Feild arm in arm, Mrs Sharma was
She awoke to the familiar whirr of
machinery, punctuated by the occasional thud, clap and tinkle of breaking
glass. At some point she had moved from her chair over to the bed. She lay
there for a few minutes before realizing that she had forgotten the recycling
bin in the alleyway. The lazy dustbin men would never collect it from there.
She got up and hurried to the door, re-pleating her sari as she went. She used
the back door, and dragged the recycling bin to the front, but it was too late;
the truck had already passed.
Irritated, she dragged both bins into the
back garden once more. As she was doing so she glimpsed, on the other side of
the fence that separated her house from the black house, a little window
positioned like hers in the middle of their wall. An idea flickered in her
mind. She dismissed it, but as she ate breakfast, settled down in her rocking
chair, watched the newlyweds leave wearing navy blue, the family with the blond
boy in the wheelchair get into their Jeep, the blacks get into their two cars
and drive off, it kept coming back to her with renewed force.
When the street was
quiet once more, Mrs Sharma went downstairs. She tied her house keys to a
handkerchief and in turn tied the handkerchief to the end of her sari, which
she tucked into her waist so that her keys dangled from her hip. She went
outside, fetched her trowel and walked with it by her side towards the black
house. The exterior was more or less like her own house, although the rose
bushes were not as well-tended. The windows reflected images from the street,
and gave no indication of what lay within. Birds chirped, and in the distance
cars breezed past on the dual carriageway. Mrs Sharma turned sharply off the
street and walked down the alleyway between the black house and the next.
Their sash window was exactly like hers.
She went to the back garden to find something to climb on; she couldn’t very
well drag their bins in from the front drive.
Wet tennis balls, once yellow but now
mouldy green, an upturned bucket, badminton rackets and a home-made barometer
lay scattered in the garden. Mrs Sharma contemplated the plastic garden
furniture; the chairs would be too low and the table, although a good height,
would be too wide for the alley.
Even so, she decided to take the chairs to
the alleyway and stacked them one on top of the other, just below the window.
Then she put the upturned bucket on the chairs and stepped on top, feeling the
plastic give beneath her weight. She quickly manoeuvred the trowel into the gap
between the sill and the bottom of the window and wedged it open. Then, she
started to wriggle through. A strong smell of coconut . . . a tinge of
something burnt . . . a whiff of aftershave. She moved more quickly this time,
afraid someone would see her, and muttered ‘Hare Krishna’ as she inched her way
further and further into the house.
The carpet was beige, the banister was a
dark polished wood and beyond was the open door of the living room. Before she
knew it, she found her feet safely on the stairs and her hands once again
gripping the banister. She paused to catch her breath, and wondered what to do
She made her way cautiously down, the
softly padded carpet compressing beneath each footfall. In the hall, a few
pairs of shoes surrounded a shoe cabinet. Mrs Sharma shook her head. All they
had to do was perform one simple task to help keep the place tidy. Near the
front door, an electricity bill lay on top of a pile of post. Two hundred and
eleven pounds! They spent a lot. She took a few steps into the living room:
school books, newspapers and a laptop were scattered in much the same fashion
as the items in the garden. It reminded her of those days in the townhouse,
when she was continuously trying to return things to their rightful places.
Kids. She was glad she was rid of hers but, despite herself, felt a pang of
She stepped out of the
living room and continued down the hall. The dining-room door was closed. Maybe
someone was in there, she thought as she crept past. Perhaps a sleeping
grandfather, whom she had never laid eyes on. Or worse, a mad member of the
family, or a criminal under house arrest. Her fears faded as she passed the
door and entered the kitchen, where the smell of coconut and charring were
Black specks surrounded the sink, where
someone had scraped off the surface of burnt toast. She had to resist the urge
to tidy up, and felt sorry for the mother. Mrs Sharma could not fathom how she
had coped with working and running the house when her own children were young.
Just looking around, it seemed exhausting.
She opened a cupboard at random: pepper,
thyme, salt and a bottle of some dark brown powder labelled ‘jerk’. She opened
the bottle and sniffed it. She could tell it was spicy, like garam masala, but
different. She untied the handkerchief from the end of her sari, making sure
the keys did not clink, and laid it out on the kitchen counter. Then, she
tapped a bit of the jerk stuff onto the handkerchief and wrapped it up before
closing and replacing the bottle.
What would Raj think, if he saw her now?
He’d put her into an asylum for sure. A thought struck her: How on earth was
she going to get out? She couldn’t go back through the sash window; she’d
need to put something on the stairs to climb on just to reach it, which would
be far too dangerous. She tried the back door that led out from the kitchen –
it was locked. She tried the front door. Locked. Where did these people keep
Then, as obvious as daylight, she saw the
windows. She went back to the kitchen and opened the one by the sink. She
picked up her handkerchief and keys, climbed on to the counter and out the
window, pushing it shut behind her. She went to the alley and moved the bucket
and chairs back to their previous positions as accurately as possible, and
At home, she walked
through the rooms of her house. It seemed as if she had not been here for
years. It was like wandering through an Ikea store: unslept-in beds, empty
wardrobes, perfectly positioned ornaments. When she had moved out of the
townhouse she had told the kids to pick up their stuff, or else she would throw
it away; she was not a storage centre.
Exhausted, Mrs Sharma
lay down. A couple of hours later, she awoke with a growling tummy. That
evening, instead of watching the street from her rocking chair, she made
herself a chickpea curry with some chapattis, using the powder in her
handkerchief instead of her usual mix of Indian spices. The curry tasted hot
and peppery with a hint of cinnamon. Satiated, Mrs Sharma went to bed with the
knowledge that she had discovered a taste for something new.
The next day, as she watched the residents of Foley Feild leave,
she calculated which house to enter next. Her gaze rested on the newlyweds, both
wearing black cardigans. Delightful thoughts of disturbing their wardrobes to
prevent them from ever matching again danced in Mrs Sharma’s mind. She waited
until the nurses, who lived next door to her on the other side to the blacks –
and directly opposite the newlyweds – left. Then she waited another ten minutes
before prowling towards her targeted house with her trowel. Just as she was
about to duck into the alley she noticed a white plastic box flashing a red
warning light, fitted above the top right-hand window. A burglar alarm. Mrs
Sharma’s plans were diverted, and she continued down the street past the house.
Quite a few of the
houses had alarms. At the end of the road she crossed over and started walking
The houses here were on the periphery of
the view from her window, so she didn’t know much about their inhabitants. She
passed an old English woman pruning the rose bushes in her front garden. Mrs
Sharma knew that she lived there with her husband, and that they didn’t go out
much. The woman smiled at Mrs Sharma, and Mrs Sharma smiled politely back. She
imagined making friends with the woman, going over for a cup of tea poured out
of a floral teapot into a dainty porcelain teacup. Isn’t that what happened in
English neighbourhoods such as this? But Mrs Sharma left the old woman behind
and carried on until she neared her own house. Then she panicked.
What was she going to
do now? Go back home? And then what?
As she approached the nurses’ house, she
noticed that they did not have an alarm. Not her ideal choice of house, though.
Nurses reminded her of her time in hospital. They were all sensible and overly
cheerful, which irritated Mrs Sharma. She had always tried to give them a hard
time when they fussed over her – not that it’d had any effect.
She turned into the alley.
The bins were at the back and Mrs Sharma,
now quite the expert, wheeled them into position and soon scrambled through the
window, feeling that familiar rush of excitement as she landed on the stairs
inside. She went upstairs and through the open door of the master bedroom,
expecting a tightly made bed and hospital-like cleanliness. But the bed was
crumpled, clothes and odd pairs of high heels were strewn on the floor, and an
ashtray overflowed on to the dressing table, crowded with perfumes, cosmetics,
a hairdryer and a brush tangled through with hair. Mrs Sharma wondered if she
were the only one in the street who knew anything about housekeeping.
She trod carefully around the room, picking
up dresses and uncomfortable-looking knickers, inspecting them before dropping
them onto the floor again. The nurses wouldn’t be able to tell if anything had
shifted. At the dressing table, a half-smoked cigarette that looked like a bidi
lay beside the ashtray. She sniffed it: marijuana. When they were young,
just before Mrs Sharma got married, she and Ganga went on a trip to Punjab,
where they had some bhang. She remembered feeling elated and relaxed at
the same time after drinking that sweet, milky concoction. She would have liked
to try marijuana again, but she didn’t smoke. At least the nurses were having
She picked up a small pot labelled
‘anti-wrinkle cream’. She looked in the mirror and inspected the lines on her
face. The deepest were two vertical furrows on her forehead, just above her
nose. She opened the pot, dipped her finger into the cool, white cream and
rubbed it into her skin. She looked at herself again. It made no difference to
her wrinkles, but made her forehead feel silky. Mrs Sharma had always used
The sound of an approaching car disturbed
her thoughts. She put the jar of cream down and went to the window. It was the
white van. The builder got out and stood at his door for a moment. He searched
his pockets, then stooped down and fiddled around with the potted plant by the
doorstep. He straightened himself up, opened the door, and disappeared inside.
Mrs Sharma went
downstairs and left via the back door, the key for which was, thankfully,
inserted in the keyhole. The following day, Mrs Sharma tried to gain access to
the house where the blond boy in the wheelchair lived, but was confronted with
a monotonous brick wall. She ventured down a few different alleys between other
houses along the road and discovered they were all the same: none of the houses
on that side had a sash window.
She wandered up and
down Foley Feild and came to the horrible realization that all the other houses
she was familiar with on her side of the road had burglar alarms. She went home
and sat by her window, gazing listlessly at the street, locked out.
On Friday afternoon, Raj called.
‘Mum, I rang a couple of times this week
but there was no answer. Is everything OK?’
‘I was out.’
‘Oh, good. Keeping busy then.’
‘Are you coming round this weekend?’ she
Raj hesitated. ‘Shalini and I were planning
to go to Ila’s this weekend.’
‘Ila?’ repeated Mrs Sharma. The leaves on
the trees seemed to beckon her. The builder came out of his house and got into
‘Mum, are you all right? I know it’s not my
place to say, but you two ought . . .’
Mrs Sharma’s gaze fell upon the plant by
his doorstep. She stood up. ‘Yes, yes, say hello to her from me,’ she snapped.
‘Really? That’s great –’ But before Raj
could finish his sentence Mrs Sharma had slammed the phone down and was
She crossed the road and looked at the
plant. The ends of its leaves were yellowing. It needed to be watered more
frequently. She looked under the pot, then raked her fingers through the dry,
crumbly soil. They touched something smooth and cold. A key! She quickly
removed it from the pot, brushed it off, inserted it into the lock and turned
The house seemed strangely feminine. Photos
of the builder with a wife and two children crowded the living room, and floral
plates and porcelain ornaments sat atop every available surface. It was
cluttered. Mrs Sharma couldn’t stand clutter.
Upstairs, the box-room
walls were papered with old football posters, their corners peeling away. The
bookshelves were empty, apart from a couple of dusty tennis trophies. On the
door of the other bedroom, a handmade sign informed visitors to ‘Keep Out’. Mrs
Sharma peeked in: a bottle of crusty, glittery nail polish, a dried-out feather
pen, a tall CD rack holding just one abandoned CD. Mrs Sharma closed the door
and continued to the master bedroom. Before she had the chance to look around,
she heard a vehicle.
She muttered ‘Hare Krishna’ as she crossed
to the window. It was the white van! She hurried out of the room and started
down the stairs, but could already hear the rumble of the engine in the
driveway. Silence. She turned back. Maybe she could climb out of a window on
the second floor. She panicked as she heard the sound of the key being inserted
into the lock. The front door opened, letting in the gentle rustle of the
outside world before it was shut again. Mrs Sharma looked out the window of the
There was no way she could escape. She
frantically looked around for a place to hide, trying to ignore the movements
below her. Opening the wardrobe would make too much noise. Heavy footsteps
ascended the stairs. Mrs Sharma got down on the floor and slid under the bed.
Sinister clouds of dust puffed up around her in the dim, close space. Two big
boots entered the room and stopped in front of the bed, which creaked and
compressed as the builder sat down. For a moment Mrs Sharma thought she would
be crushed to death. Surely he could hear her breathing, as she could hear his.
He took off his shoes and socks, the sour
smell of sweat attacking Mrs Sharma’s nostrils.
He stood up. A zip was undone. The jeans
came down, with a pair of boxers inside them, and the builder stepped out of
them, one foot at a time. A T-shirt landed on top of the jeans. The wardrobe
door squealed as it slid open. Some things were taken out and put on the bed.
The builder lifted one foot, then another onto the bed. He was, unmistakably,
putting stockings on. Then some more movement and Mrs Sharma saw him step into
a pair of high heels, which walked to and fro, then left the room. He was
clearly a nutcase. She had to escape. She scrambled out from under the bed and
ran to the stairs. Sounds could be heard from behind the half-closed bathroom
door. When it opened, a big woman with red hair and a floral dress came out.
Mrs Sharma and the woman
stared at each other for a moment before they both screamed. Mrs Sharma bolted
down the stairs, with the woman stomping after her. A high-heeled shoe went
flying past Mrs Sharma, but she kept going. She opened the front door and ran
across the road to her house, frantically trying to fit her key into the lock,
sensing him behind her. She stepped inside and closed her door, but when she
peered through the peep-hole all she saw was an empty street and the closed
door of the builder’s house.
She went upstairs to her chair and sat
down. Her whole body was trembling. She continued to watch his house, but there
was no movement. It remained solid, still. After about an hour, when her
heart-rate had slowed down, she noticed a movement behind his net curtain at
the window opposite hers. His dark shadow remained there, and he appeared to be
staring directly at her. Could he see her?
She thought about
calling Raj, the police even. But what would she say? How would she explain?
When the black woman and her son came home, their staring
competition ended. He retreated from his window. Maybe she had imagined it?
But a minute later, he came out of his house and walked over to hers. He was
dressed as the builder. The unfamiliar sound of the doorbell – an obscenely cheerful
ding-dong – sang his arrival at the front door. Mrs Sharma sat perfectly
still. The doorbell rang again; twice. He knew she was in. He couldn’t murder
her in broad daylight, could he? She knew she could scream loud as a suburban
fox in heat. She got up and went cautiously to the door. She opened it. The
builder towered above her, his face red.
‘What you saw you had no business . . . ’
he growled, waving his big hands in her face.
Those hands could easily strangle her; she
wouldn’t even have a chance to scream. Who would discover her body? She would
rot, alone in her house for days, before anyone came. A sense of despair and
loneliness came over her.
The builder paused in his tirade. Mrs
Sharma looked into his eyes and realized that he was like her, all alone in a
house that had once held his
family. A moment of
recognition passed between them, and his hands dropped. He looked down, then up
again. ‘If you’re, you know,’ he mumbled, ‘maybe you’d like to come over for a
cuppa sometime.’ He turned abruptly, and walked back across the road.
A cuppa? thought Mrs Sharma.
She’d never heard anything so ridiculous in her life! A woman like her going
over to a strange man’s house for a cup of tea?
That weekend, however, as she whiled away
her time, she contemplated his offer. No, it would not be right for a woman
like her to go over to a man’s house to have tea. But maybe he wasn’t a real
man. Maybe he was like a hijra. After all, hijras were very
powerful. Shiva himself was half female, half male. Maybe he was a woman
trapped inside a man’s body. Sometimes, we all get trapped in lives we don’t
really choose, thought Mrs Sharma.
So, at four o’clock that Sunday afternoon, Mrs Sharma walked across the
road and knocked on the builder’s door.
From Too Asian, Not Asian Enough. Buy the book now from Amazon