An end to this life………….

The screams were deafening and she could no longer bear it. She slapped Mhasa on his head. “Stop hollering”, she said, half pleading and half angry. The infant was stunned into silence for a few moments but started afresh with louder wails. Nmabi could barely tolerate it now. She looked at the door impatiently, waiting for her mother’s arrival. She said I’ll be back soon but she’d been gone for a couple of hours. Nmabi couldn’t understand why there was always less food in her village, why the infants were always hollering, why women were always exhausted, why men were always away collecting food, why so many children were being buried everyday……..for her, all this was beyond comprehension.

She wanted to go out and meet Llamhasi and play with her. She wanted to go to her friend’s house so that she could touch her silk dolls, could eat as much as she wanted, could drink water off a pink colour plastic bottle………how she wished to have been born in Llamhasi’s house, the house of the riches.

Just then her mother entered the hut. Her eyes lit up and she began looking forward to going out to play. She started off to greet her Mom but stopped dead in her tracks. Her mother looked very very tired and her eyes were blood shot, just like the evening sky outside. After a few unsteady steps, her mother came crashing and fell near her feet. From her fist rolled up a few coins and a packet of refugee food. Nmabi looked at the packet and rushed towards it. She picked it up and eyed the white powder suspiciously….

The wailing infant, unconscious mother, the oppressive heat………it was all driving Nmabi crazy. Her mother lay there, unmoving. Throwing the packet back to the ground, she rushed to her mother’s side. Her mother’s mouth was full of white froth laced with red. “Mother is dead!!!!!!”, she screamed and ran out of the hut. She wasn’t sure anyone heard her as her father had been away for a few months and everyone else in the village was busy nursing to their ailing ones. She tried to tell some children playing in the dirt that her mother was dead but they didn’t care. She ran to the house of the Village Council, hoping to tell someone that her mother is no more but the place lay deserted as if no one has been there in months.

She stopped at the village dispensary but the sight horrified her. There were open wounds being stitched and the people were screaming in pain. She recoiled in horror and started walking towards her hut. Hot tears rolled down her cheeks. She wanted to close her ears to the cries of pain emanating from nowhere and everywhere. When she could no longer bear to hold the tears, she started sobbing openly. She had seen her younger siblings disappearing miraculously over the years. She didn’t understand why her mother made so many of them and where they went.

But this was different. Her mother was dead now. And her father was not to be found. She thought of the parentless children of the village and hugged herself to keep from a chill sweeping her. She didn’t want to be an orphan. As she was thinking of all this, she nearly collided with a man so huge that she thought he was some monster of some sort….

His stomach was round, like the baby elephant that she’d seen in the village fair the precious year. He had a beard neatly cropped and he wore a big straw hat.

” Why are you crying, little girl?”, he asked her.

“My mother is dead and my father went for getting food. It’s been months and he’s not returned. My brother cries all the time, he has no milk to drink”, she said weakly.

“Oh! Poor dear. Would you like some food and water? You can even take some for your mother and brother”, he said kindly.

“Really?”, her eyes twinkled with hope.

“Of course. See, I have so much food in my van right there”, he said pointing towards a bright orange coloured van standing about hunderd yards from where she stood. She couldn’t read what was written but she could see banana trees painted on it. Her mouth watered.

“Please give me some. Mhasa can’t eat bananas but I can mash them and try to make him swallow that”, she said concealing her excitement at the prospect of food.

“Come, little girl”, he beckoned and she followed him.

The door to the van was closed and a beastly looking man sat at the wheel. The kind-looking big man kncked on the door and said out aloud, “See this little girl has come for food, lady of the van. Take her in and give her some food”.

The door opened and a woman peeped out. Nmabi had never seen someone wearing such exquisite jewellery in her life. Her mother wore a armlet made of earthern beads and pieces of a boar’s hoof. This was the only jewellery she had ever seen in her life. But the woman in front of her wore a so many shining chains and bangles that Nmabi’s eyes dazzled for a minute. She smiled at Nmabi and beckoned her in.

The moment Nmabi got in, the door closed with a thud. The interiors of the van were very cool and she felt like she was in paradise. The woman gave her a glass of melon juice and a plate of banana salad to eat. Nmabi has never eaten to much food at one time in her life. Her meals were usually made of a thin rice soup in the morning, some rice and wild-berries in the afternoon and some rice soup and crumbs of hog meat in the evening, if she was lucky.

When she could eat no more, she set her plate down adn thanked the woman profusely. The woman only smiled and asked Nmabi to take a nap. For some reason, Nmabi’s head felt heavy at the mention of sleep. She never slept this early but her head wouldn’t just keep straight. She wanted to tell the woman about her dead mother and crying infant brother but no words came out. Her eyelids started drooping and she felt herself being enveloped in darkness. She could hear someone talking but she wasn’t sure she understood what was being said and who was talking……she could only catch phrases….

“She’s fresh……………checked her?…………..nice piece of meat………..10 dollars…………….very young……………..three days…………..demand is high……………start moving……….”

PS: This story was inspired by an article I read about AIDS in Africa in New York Times. The names of the characters are my own imagination. I’m thankful to Shruti T. A. whom I don’t know and who doesn’t know me either (I just read her blog today) but inspired me to write fiction………it’s a long time after which I am writing fiction.

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11 Comments

  1. October 10, 2006 at 6:53 pm

    Cool restart to fiction writing Pritesh.
    Where did you produce those authentic African names from?
    Well done! 🙂

  2. Rador said,

    October 10, 2006 at 7:08 pm

    hey!!! this is a pretty neat piece of work…. a lot to think about at the end of it as to where we are going to in this present world… made me feel that there must be something that we can do, play our part to contribute in whatever little way we can to alleviate the mental and physical pain in this world and at the same time i also felt that this will always be there… there will be those people who will try to benefit from the wrecked state of others. lots more to say on this but i must end it(as i dont want to get get addicted to these blog thingys :D)

  3. Sathya said,

    October 10, 2006 at 9:03 pm

    Until I read the post script, I thought this blog was all about call-centre employees. A striking resemblance nevertheless.

  4. Ananth said,

    October 11, 2006 at 1:31 am

    Wow!!!!!!!!!!

  5. October 11, 2006 at 9:27 am

    Thanks Sujit for you reply. And yes, the credit for realistic African names goes largely to “Roots” by Alex Hailey. I never ended up finishing the book but the names remained in my mind. I hope to continue to write fiction. And improve as well……

    Sudarshan, thanks man. I think the same way. There must be something that can be done. But till then, we can all make our contributions in our small ways….

    Sathya, thanks. I didn’t know Call Centre Employees are THAT food deprived…..:D

    And thanks Ananth……..I always have YOU to thank for encouraging me in whatever I do, no matter how boring your encouragement lectures get! 😀

  6. Shruti T A said,

    October 11, 2006 at 12:39 pm

    Why, that’s amazing! I’m glad I helped revive fiction writing by you. 🙂

    In your narration, the train of events maintains well the persepective of a bewlidered and innocent girl. It’s a chilling scenario. It makes you want to yell out a warning to her.

    Hope to see more from you. 🙂

  7. October 11, 2006 at 6:15 pm

    Dear Shruti, thanks for dropping by and bothering to leave a comment (and a very encouraging one). I am generally scared to pen my thoughts down (until I start it) for the fear of being ridiculed for my absurd thoughts (that hover anywhere between sadness and madness)……..but once I read fiction from you, I realized that an artist has to express himself/herself. Expression translates to vulnerability, yes! As you’ve opened your heart and mind to someone (many a time, an unknown person), you render yourself open to criticism (sometimes, done just for the heck of it)…….and criticism generally cuts deep……at least, to me. Being as perfection obsessed as I am (still less as compared to earlier)………

    A rather long and haphazard narrative but I really am glad that you got back to my blog…….thanks again…….

  8. Sathya said,

    October 12, 2006 at 1:55 am

    Well, I meant a large population of call centre employees are deprived of money that makes them act similarly. As usual I’m terrible at conveying my thoughts!

  9. Rajarshi said,

    October 13, 2006 at 9:34 am

    A very touchy one…..and holds a very clear message to the reader…It’s intricate details surely run shivers through the veins of ppl who belong to a class of society who is far from such dearth and pain in life…Again a very nice write-up and even a better theme..:-) It just brings me back everytime to read your blogs

  10. Apoorva said,

    October 15, 2006 at 7:05 pm

    hey Prits.. this s enthralling nd chilling! i feel intense pity fr d poor gal.. this s a real awakening.. wow…keep writing..ull be a hit!! i cnt wait to read more!!!

  11. October 15, 2006 at 10:02 pm

    Hey Apoorva, now THIS was sure a surprise……to see you here. Anyway, I would like to write as much as possible…..let me see…….


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