The lantern lamp was struggling its best to fight with the wind blows coming through the half-bodied door of the strengthens cottage. Rukmani was puffing her lungs out to keep the chulha alive with wet logs of sesame branches. The chulha finally started reciprocating with the same wind blow from the same door and was ready to cook whatever Rukmani had in her wooden container which never got filled with enough wheat flour to feed her family. She peeped into the container, collected the stuff and after her effortful cooking the result was -“One single ROTI”.
Rukmani was sweating after her efforts to cook that miniature and looked at the roti with eyes of a hungry animal but with a heart of a mother, heart of a wife. She gulped some cold water down her throat and it got stuck in her wind pipe…Amidst her coughing, Bhuvan, her husband entered; abusing the hot weather and the customers he carried on his rickshaw for the whole day. The stingy smell of “Tharra” made Rukmani nauseatic but she was used to it. Bhuvan fell on cot nearby like a sea-sawed tree trunk. Rukmani thanked god for Bhuvan being drunk as he slept without waiting for dinner and she did not have to ask him for it. She had to protect that roti for her boys. Bhuvan had accepted his poverty and had accustomed himself to sleep with wine in his belly without any roti, giving chance to others. Pradeep, rukmani’s elder son came after an hour. He was unhappy about no sell even today from his Ferry of household things.”Why are you looking so low, I have made roti, should I bring it for you?” asked Rukmani.
“Did pramod eat anything? Pradeep asked about his 6 yr old younger brother who was lying on the ground on a piece of rag, his belly swollen out and houseflies hovering all over her body. Rukmani replied “I will feed him when he gets up”. pradeep prevaricated “I had some bhajjis on the way, I am stuffed, I am going to sleep, don’t disturb me.”
Rukmani knew, he had told a lie. She has no one left now, she sat down near Pramod, her younger son, shook him to open his eyes, he did not get up, he just threw his head on her lap. Rukmani kept the roti in her hand, tears rolling down her eye, she put a piece of roti in her mouth, getting mixed with saline tears, she liked the taste… anyway there was no salt in the house.
The writer is a story-teller of Youth Ki Awaaz.