The light from outside was blinding me!! I wanted to pull those windows shut against me. And more than anything was the sound of the child –screaming, crying and kicking up havoc. The baby is now four months old There never seemed to be silence in the house these days. It was either the child screaming or its mother speaking to it loudly in some crazy language.. She seems to have come to terms with living alone with me now.
She is in the kitchen now boiling milk. There is one more maid in the house these days. She comes in during the morning and leaves in the afternoon. Between the three women there seems to be a lot of chattering going on. One of them is sitting on the steps leading to the attic. I am shocked!!! No one had ever approached the attic without a sense of fear in the old days. They seem to take me so casually.
I want to make my might known! I decide to bang shut the door leading out of the kitchen area into the room where the child now lay.
She jumps as the door shuts with a bang.
“How did that happen I wonder” she asks the others.
“ I don’t think there was any wind. Why don’t you people put the stopper on the doors ..” she grumbled as she walked out to open the door.
I waited for her to reach the door. This was my moment! She tries to pull the door open but it refuses to budge. She braces her knee against one of the doors and tries to pull the other one. I laugh inwardly … It would take her more than that to pull an unyielding door open inside my four walls.
She calls out to the two others. All of them try to have a go at opening the door. They take turns and then pull at it together. The door knob comes out in their hand. I am hysterical with laughter. How were they going to open the door now without a knob?
The sleeping child wakes up hearing the noise and starts wailing. It causes her to panic. She starts banging on the door and pulling at it.
“Bring a crowbar from the store room downstairs.” she instructs one of the maids. Neither of them want to go. They are scared of the dark rooms downstairs.
“Okay both of you go. I will wait here” she says angrily.
It is mid afternoon and the sun is beating down. Her face is bathed with perspiration. She continues trying to pull at the door with her hands. Her nail gets caught in the gap between the door and the frame and the finger starts bleeding. In sheer frustration she starts banging on the door.
The child is yelling loudly now.
The maids are here with the crow bar. She starts using it to pry open the door. With one knee braced against the door frame she uses all her strength to try and pull open the doors. Shoulders heaving she moves the crowbar and suddenly it opens with a bang as she falls sprawled on the floor. The maids run inside and pick up the wailing child.
As she takes the child from them she looks at my walls with sheer hatred. She raises her foot and starts stamping on the floor as though to injure me. I am amused. Did she really think that her stamping would have any effect on me ? The maids are trying to calm her down but she continues to stamp.
I begin shaking with laughter. But strangely the shaking continues, even when I stop laughing and when she stops stamping.
“Did you feel something shake” she asks the other two women.
“No it was only your anger …” said the younger girl.
“No “ she says quietly.
I agree. It was not her stamping that had caused the shaking.
It starts again. This time more vigorous…!!
“Oh my God we are having an earthquake” she exclaims as she picks up the child and starts running downstairs. The women followed her screaming.
I stand helpless. I do not know why I am shaking like this. It seems like there is some force that is trying to dislodge me from the depths of my foundation. The cracks on my walls deepen as they begin to bulge outwards. I do not know what to do. I can hear parts of me breaking and falling.
So, this was an earthquake..!!! Did that mean my end was near? I refused to give up without a fight. My floors caved inwards but I held steady. I was not going to crumble and fall like a pile of rubble. The trees were now falling on me. I could hear the women scream and run about in the compound.
It was then that I made that decision. If I was going to die I was going to ensure that the humans who had planned for my destruction went down with me.
But rooted as I was to the ground I was no match for the mobile humans who had now moved far away from me. I could see them run towards the open playground on the other side of the road.
I got ready for death as each part of me began to be wrenched out piece by piece until I began to crumble downwards. The ground seemed to swallow me as I fell down into the same saline earth which had held me up for so many years.
I had lost the battle.
Even nature had turned against me…..!!!
The massive earthquake that had rocked the city was the front page story in every newspaper the next day. Thankfully .Anita and her son were spared as also the two maids. Shyam who had rushed in from his assignment found them a week after his arrival , huddled together in a refugee camp. He sobbed with sheer relief.
When the aftershocks subsided and it was safe to travel, they moved to another city , far away from here. Shyam sold what was now a vacant plot of land to a construction company who wanted to put up earthquake resistant buildings in the city. There was no litigation regarding the land. You see, the other claimant to the property along with his family had perished in the terrible earthquake.
Today Anita is a very happy woman. She lives in the small house with wide windows and a tiny garden. Both the maids, live with her now. The younger one has completed her school leaving exam as a private candidate and has enrolled for a vocational course. The older lady helps Anita bring up little Aditya who is now a happy toddler. Shyam has invested the money he has obtained from the sale of the land in a lucrative business . He does not want to ever leave his family alone –even for a single day!