It wasn’t too late in the evening, but it was dark enough. She was humming and had another 2.7 kilometers to walk before she reached her house, and husband. It was a Tuesday evening, which meant there weren’t a lot of people on the streets, it wasn’t mid-week, Monday just got over and people would want to rot inside their houses, or somewhere far from it, making the streets empty enough.
She always seemed to be humming, happily; even though she was going to cry once she got home, she would hum all the way home, happily. “Arpitha” screamed the president of the housing board, to halt and talk to her. “We live in a gated community I know; but why do always walk through Type ‘C’ to get to your house on Type ‘A’? Type ‘C’ has these porki boys, better to be safe than sorry know?”, she’d chant the same story at least once a week. She’d smile, pacify her or make an excuse and run for it.
Her hair was long and curled at the end, she’d always try something new with it. One afternoon her hair was tied in a bun as she walked into a saloon that wasn’t her usual, far from home but on the way; walked out with a pixi cut. He held on to her hair, rolled it around his palm and punched her face, kicked her and yanked her hair if she screamed; in the process lost some hair and didn’t want to tell anyone about it.
She always walked close to the cars parked on the streets and if they were hot/warm it meant the owners had just arrived, so she’d not spend too much time staring at their house. If there is no car or it’s cold like the evening wind she’d pick the closest bench and sit there to watch. One evening she sat down to watch through Pallavi’s kitchen window; Arjun was sitting on the slab and telling her about school and Pallavi was laughing at something he said, neither of us caught it. A tear rolled down her cheek and she got up to walk home.
She bought a pair of earphones once, was very excited when they arrived and they didn’t last two minutes when she started her walk; because it wasn’t the same without the distant traffic, birds and insects screeching, kids running around laughing, screaming, Uncles chattering, giggling or talking and the aunties talking or that one singer screaming, pressure cooker whistles and strides of footsteps.
She’d get home, put her shoes or sandals into the box and step into the bathroom to wash her hands, feet and face. On Tuesdays if she was cheerful and he was going to be late she’d play Ravi Shankar but otherwise it would her regular playlist; but only after she lights the lamp, prays and lights the incense. Today Ravi Shankar was playing longer than usual, it didn’t stop when he got home to because she decided to stop breathing.