“A Glass Of Water” is a flash fiction of exactly 1000 words.
Every time, I switch on the Ac in my room, I remember those fellow men and women, who work at the construction sites under the direct shelter of the blazing sun.
This work is dedicated to all the construction workers, who influenced me to write this short piece. My heart reaches out to them.
*Amma- Tamil word for Mother*
Scientists say, ’Memories fade with age’. They are not always right.
My memories of her have been etched in my mind since I was a three-year-old. I remember distinctly even after twenty-five years.
I was a Amma’s boy always holding on to the pleat of her sari to follow where ever she go, even to the lavatory, waiting at the door and banging my head against it until her return. She never got annoyed by my nagging but always hugged me, kissed me, and tickled my armpit to see me laugh. I didn’t sleep until I heard her unique lullaby. We were the world for each other.
Those morons whom Amma worked with at the construction site, always made a mockery of my love. They said, “After your son gets married, we shall see whose sari he holds on to” and busted out loud with their senseless, horrendous laughter. In the act of it, displayed their dirty mouth with either missing teeth or scary- black-teeth, packed with tobacco and betel leaves. Their pursed protruded lips held between their index and middle fingers spurted the blood-red colored saliva, leaving stains on the walls, to register their presence. Amma always responded to them with a gentle smile, unlike me with a cold-wild stare.
She walked supporting a huge pile of bricks on her head and carrying me on her waist. I never feared, the bricks would fall on my head as the morons scared me because I trusted my Amma. Even with their constant advice to unload her burden yet she never let me down.
The mason, a monster in disguise whose heart was filled with vengeance for Amma after his futile attempts of luring her with his sensual desires, often insulted and slandered to defame her and threatened to cut her daily wages.
Slanders in air
Hungry monsters near
Dirty eyes hawking at a young widow mother
Yet she remained pure forever…
During the renovation of beautiful mansions, well-dressed children impregnated with pleasant fragrance observed the work in awe. Some with ice-creams and chocolates melting in their mouth, dribbling over their hand stood near, and made sure that I saw them until the last bite.
While I and Amma ate our home brought porridge made of previous night’s leftover rice with a bite of either hot pickle or dried-fish fry, the aromas of fresh food cooked in those homes kindled my olfaction, and increased my appetite for it. But Amma knew too well, how to bury my desires and restore my heart to reality. The warmth of her smile always did the magic on me.
That fateful day, we didn’t heed the weather forecast warning of the highest temperature of fifty-one-degrees Celsius.
For the kind of Amma’s work, it didn’t matter
On the hottest days of weather, the blazing sun was her shelter
On the days of harsh and merciless monsoon, pelting rain was her shower…
But to its detrimental effects, she was not immune
She was just a thin and weak human…
The heat soon drained water in our bodies that even the glands stopped secreting sweat and saliva. She was walking unsteadily dragging her uncooperative legs as though they were tied to a huge mountain. Her breathing was heavy as though her throat had turned into an eye of a needle. Everyone turned possessive over their water bottles, carrying them all along like marsupials.
We ran of all water that we brought with us. Amma turned over all empty water bottles to wet her throat. After a long wait, a single drop fell from each bottle, but missing her tongue for her head kept wavering in dizziness. The only source of water for us was that home, for whose adornment, Amma drained all her energy for two hundred and fifteen rupees wages.
We stood there at the door that was ajar, in hesitation, as to whether knock or wait for someone to notice. But with passing time, Amma’s good manners were overcome by the need for survival. Holding my hand, she lurched forward toward the door, knocked first gently then hurriedly. With no response, she softly opened the door and peeped in.
We waited with hope that someone would call us in and offer a glass of water. Our hope turned soon into disappointment. As we were about to leave, a voice boomed like thunder, “Stop right there, you filthy bitch.” Terrified with the sound and the words, Amma froze, whole body shaking. I clung to her trembling body in fear.
A tall, middle-aged, elegantly dressed woman was standing at the doorway and her classic, rich lips blurted out cheap and foul words that I couldn’t reproduce. Amma with tears streaming spoke in her unique language of sign, ‘a glass of water’.
No one could understand the language of a dumb person.
Her language was soulful and unique, yet not understood by many
Her breathing sounds and heartbeats were my lullaby
Her hugs and kisses were sweet words for me
Her smile was the best of all voices, yet not recognized by any…
The elegant woman leaped out like a wounded lioness ready to take revenge on her prey. She blurted, “So it’s your ugly hands that stole my gold ring. Give it back else I am calling the police.”
Amma was shaking vigorously. Her body was hot as blazing sun, yet no perspiration. She fell to the ground as a dried autumn leaf.
The lioness howled with laughter with a conviction that her prey was dramatizing for the fear of her ferocious attack and for survival.
My tiny arms had no strength to lift her head to lay it down on my lap. I wrapped my arms around her and lied down on her bosom to hear my lullaby and fall asleep. Her heart had stopped singing.
A small girl rushed out of that home, “Mamma, I found your gold ring”.
Doctors said, Amma died of sun-stroke. They are not always right.