I knew I was going to regret that day the minute I woke up. A strong cloud of foreboding hung over my head and after almost a year I found myself craving for a Chocolate Ganache. My stomach tore in desire as I searched my fridge for anything, anything fattening or gluttonous or sinful. All I found were bland protein breakfast bars.
I stuffed one in my mouth as tasteless flakes landed elegantly on my white tee.
How did I ever eat this shit for 365 days? I thought just as I kept stuffing not one, not two but three of those bars down my throat and simultaneously dusting off the big flakes off my clothes.
Bam, at the stroke of noon my mobile shrilled with Meghan Trainor singing that it was all about her base. The call was from Mummy. She demanded to know why I was not at her place helping her with the cooking and all the other shit that always needed to be done at family gatherings.
By the time she was done yelling at me, which was exactly 15 minutes, I was in a creased red chudidaar with a torn dupatta. I was hoping that I could cleverly conceal the tear if I wore the dupatta right, because my mother would lose a year off her life span if she happened to spot the tear.
Another fifteen minutes of almost empty roads, I entered my parent’s home. Some may call it a mansion; I called it the fancy house of terrors, mostly because my mother lived there. As I entered the drive way I saw a red Santro that belonged to my sister and her two kids. There was another that belonged to my widowed aunt and finally Munna uncle’s land rover, my mother’s younger brother.
I groaned, loud enough that the mansion’s new watchman jerked towards me, twisted his head and gave me the ‘Are you alright, lady?’ stare.
The living room smelled like a strange concoction of diya oil, motichor laddoos, marigold flowers and the stench of cigarettes. One sweep across the room and I took in my mother screaming at my twelve-year old niece to be nice to Munna uncle, my sister silently urging Mummy to leave her alone, my Father hollering at them to take their bickering elsewhere because Arnab was debating about the steel flyover, my six-year old nephew crashing into my pelvis, almost giving me a hernia and my aunt, who sat knitting sweaters in Bangalore with a glass of red wine.
In that instance I knew the reason for my daylong foreboding. It was this family, these people who I had managed to escape for past three years, while working abroad. With a sinking feeling I realised I was back where I started.
My aunt exclaimed in delight the minute she saw me, “Chintu, kitni patli ho gayee hai? My god, oh how much weight have you lost?”
But no, no way can my mother have someone else say one nice word about me. Her psychosis doesn’t allow an entry into the house without guilt-tripping.
“Anorexic lag rahee hai. All haddi…haddi.” She said giving me a disdainful look from tip to toe. “Can’t you iron your clothes? Is this how you dress for an important festival?” She directed the last two questions at me.
“I was working late.” I murmured as I hugged my aunt, dad, sister and then my niece. My sister just patted me and asked me to ignore the spawn of Satan aka Mom. Just then the booming voice of Munna uncle jarred my nerves as he enveloped me in a bear hug that crushed my breasts to his chest and his large palms cupped my butt. His beer breath whispered into my ears, “What did you do to yourself? I miss all that tush.” And he pulled me into himself hard enough to threaten an asthma attack.
That asshole, I thought as my palms twisted into a knot ready to punch him, yet freezing at the though of my mother. I stared at my sister who gave me a warning look that spoke silently, “This is Mummy’s party. Don’t ruin it for her. Tolerate our paedophilic, pervert uncle.”
I swallowed hard and stiffened, just like I used to for years as a child. After about 107 years and some months of feeling me, he let me go, as he grabbed my niece by her waist and pulled her towards him.
“Now, this girl, this sweet, little girl. She is my favorite.” And he collided her frail body into his, as my niece tried to manoeuvre herself enough to catch a breath and squeeze out of his iron grip.
Lunch was a tense affair, with Mummy going on about how horrifying it was to have two divorced daughters in the house and how she can’t ever go to any family functions without feeling ashamed and answering awkward questions. Dad sat like a potato and appropriately nodded after every exclamation my Mom made. My aunt, ignored Mom most of the times, but when she did speak it was to tell her with utter disdain that she was overreacting.
I love my aunt.
My sister sat quietly, taking in most of the criticism because, of course, she had no choice, with her man-child of a husband abandoning her; she depended on my parents both financially and emotionally. My niece on the other hand seemed to have learned the art of avoiding Munna uncle. Munna uncle on the other hand seemed to have mastered the art of cornering her at every occasion. I sat fuming, layers of anger piling up as I stuffed my face with both hands; motichor laddos in one and samosas in the other.
“Are you sure you lost all that weight by dieting?” Mummy asked. “Look at you, you are eating like a pig. You got plastic surgery, didn’t you?” She exclaimed, incredulous.
After lunch Munna uncle asked, Ria, my niece to show him her room. She murmured something about being tired, I looked around for some help to save my niece, perhaps my sister, but she was busy with Mummy inside.
“Chalo beta, how can you be tired? You slip of a girl.” He lifted her in his arms and carried her to her room. I couldn’t help but run behind both of them as Ria screamed and struggled to escape his death grip and run towards me. When she finally succeeded and landed into my arms, I held her tight and whispered, pointing to the space between her legs, “Ria the next time he touches you like that, kick him right here, right between his legs, right at his pee pee.”
“But…but what will Nani say?” She said, a troubled look marring her face.
“Don’t worry about Nani. I will take care of her.” I replied, confident even though my insides had turned to mush imagining how my parents would react to this.
By five in the evening everyone was antsy, stressed and so not looking forward to dinner at Mom’s. Except for Munna uncle, he was cheerful and perseverant as ever. Touching Ria, following Ria around, offering to make her take a nap with him.
Disaster struck when Ria and her brother were playing Lego in the dining room and Munna uncle sat down next to Ria. He dragged her towards him by her legs as she whimpered. I sat there staring at Ria and when she looked at me I nodded ever so slightly. The next minute a leg flew out from under her and kicked Munna uncle in his balls, hard.
I shivered all over and every single hair in my body stood. I was elated and I mentally thanked the lord to have made my little girl brave, a lot braver than I could ever be.
“Aaaaahhhhhh” Munna uncle screamed hard as Mummy came running towards him. The second batch of motichor laddoos fell from her hands and crashed on the floor while Munna uncle slipped on them and hit his back.
He pulled a crying, struggling Ria to him. “This bitch has lost her mind. What is her problem?.” He shouted. Mom screamed as she raced to hold her big, little brother in her arms, “But what happened?!” and I walked up to Munna uncle to him and punched him in his face.
“Don’t you ever, ever touch her or any other child again!” I whispered loud just as the entire house fell into pin drop silence except for Arnab Goswami screaming in the background about the steel flyover.