SOFT LEAD

We all do fade as leaf…

Woke up to a telephone call. 
Death. 
Body found on the street. 
Story worth a chase!
...

Murder? 
No.

Suicide? 
No.

Criminal suspicion? 
No.

At least a drop of blood on the scene?
No.

Not worth a lead.

A body found dead on street, cops investigate – doesn’t the road gets wet when it rains? 
No big news, just a SOFT LEAD.

...

It's almost two hours I'm lying here and I'm cold! Good I covered myself with this rag, thanks to some kindred soul who offered it to me last winter. I remember my head spinning and I almost trying to reach that lamppost which I usually lean on to pull the strap of the leather sandals. (An old pair - each time I did that I told myself I need to get a new pair, but priorities kept the need being pushed down on the list.) I remember faintly I could not make it to the pole, instead my legs gave away and then memory faded.

I wish someone helped me to get up. The transport guy, often rude, will not wait and if I miss it's another expense to take a cab, and can't afford that. A day off would also mean a day without pay. Oh my!

She tried to get up, but failed and soon fell into a slumber. In the trance she started jotting down her ‘to-do-list’ for the day.

Get a month's salary in advance (from one of the many houses that she worked as a domestic helper). Send it to her daughter, Jessica who is back home in a land so beautiful and green. (A smile lurked on her lips pale?). It was already late for Nathan, her grandson to pay his college fees. Also Jessy had wished for a bangle she saw at the jewelers, she said. Though she objected to it then, heart of hearts she had decided to surprise her with that. Fees at the de-addiction centre for Jonathan, her son who took to drinking at a young age…loan taken to fix up a leaky roof back home last rains and the rent share for the month were other financial needs.

Residence renewal formalities and its fees for two more years – at the thought, she woke up from the spell.
...

Another two more years? 
Will I be able to work like this for two more years? 
At 53, working close to 12 hours a day in all weathers – cleaning, washing and cooking - health was proving a challenge…
“Yes I will be able to...I have to.” - She choked and tried to wake up. 
...

I'm shivering and I feel suffocated. I felt myself sliding out on a tray, so cold like death...
“Am I draped in white? Oh, these cotton balls on my nostrils are suffocating me!
Why do people do such cruel joke??? Who dared to do it?”
...

She tried lifting her hands and they were tied too!
Screeching, a metallic platter holding her glided out, and she saw her sister wailing loud.
...

“Why are you crying? What happened? Did your son again yell at you?
Don't worry I will talk to him.
Or do you need more money? 
Are you feeling sick?” 
As always she had lots of questions and concerns, which often irritated her siblings, but she could not but be...
Suddenly she realised the long snuffles overpowered her words, which never came out.
Broken words amid sobs around, she heard – she realised - she was dead. 
Man’s uncertain date, which slipped her mind amid those umpteen ‘to-do-lists’, was here, in her life. 
...

After spending two hours in the cold on the street, now she lay colder in a morgue tray - alone.

Janet always dreamt of that day - tie up all loose ends, settle her debts and get back home to live her ‘rest of the life’, with her dear and near ones. 
Janet hated being alone, ever since a child. But loneliness was ever a dear companion and never ever gave up on her, even now…

Sorrows like waves, kept breaking on to her always...
Parents were nothing more than a pale childhood memory for her; marriage, a broken dream; widowed daughter and a wayward son, were more woes than a pang; smiling face of a grandson, perhaps, a string of hope? And it snapped. 
...

How long is the wait now, before I touch the warmth of my earth, my home? 
One push, the carrier slid back into the storage and she felt suffocated and alone. 
The chill grilled its way into her bones and she felt scared… of death?
...

Even death, when uneventful, is nothing but a SOFT LEAD. 
...
Dedicated to all those who struggle to support a family and make ends meet in a land far from home...

(Indebted to the cold body of KH, that lay on the pavement of a street in Manama on February 23, 2016. A divorced mother of two and grandmother, the 53-year-old is one among the thousands of ‘domestic workers’ in the Gulf, chasing their dreams of a mirage named tomorrow, where a magic wand would turn it all rosy in a swish!)

Raji Unnikrishnan

Feb 24. 2016.

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