Spending the summer season in Gujarat (India) was nothing short of punishment. The heat could be very harsh. Most part of the season was spent indoors, away from the ferocious glare of the sun. There was a deathly silence on the roads, life came to a standstill.
And yet, I could not think of a better time to come back home, five years after we had moved base to New Zealand. This was the first time Adi, now 4, was going to see his actual hometown, and his excitement knew no bounds.
As for me, I had grown old in this scorching heat. It reminded me of the times we used to perspire through the day, struggling with hand-fans and low-voltage electricity. Baths made no sense as we would be drenched in sweat soon after. Still, we bathed thrice a day. I felt nostalgic for the raw mango and onion chutney that Ma made, which protected us from the hot winds, and the many glasses of salted buttermilk we replaced water with.
I snapped out of nostalgia, peeped into the kitchen and smiled. There was Ma, grinding some spices in her mortar, making her famous chutney for Adi. My mind jumped to the kid.
“Ma, have you seen Adi?”
“He’s playing with his new friends on the terrace,” Dad’s voice came from the dining area. He took a sip of tea from the cup and added, “They were making fun of his accent.” He folded the newspaper and said, “Let me go and check what the kids are up to.” And with that, he made his way up the four flight of stairs, in what looked like a long, slow haul.
I cleared the table and went into the kitchen to help Ma. I had barely finished washing the teacup when I could hear my Dad’s heavy steps and muffled voice. I stepped out of the kitchen to see him trying to rush down the stairs, with a distressed expression on his face.
“What happened? I asked him.
“Where is my phone? WHERE IS MY PHONE?” He sounded distraught, almost delirious. “Ara, call the ambulance, quickly. And the police,” he said to me.
Panic started seeping in as I looked around for my phone. Mum rushed out of the kitchen, already calling for an ambulance. Dad then snatched the phone from her hand and dialed for the police, still mumbling incoherently. Mum and I ran upstairs.
I was scared of what I was about to see. My mind was running at full speed, churning out the worst possibilities because I had no idea what Dad had seen. I opened the door of the terrace and saw some 10 kids huddled in a corner, looking at something on the floor. “Where’s Adi? My mind panicked more as I was unable to locate him in the bunch of kids.
I pushed some kids out of the way and saw my child lying in a pool of blood, unconscious. I let out a cry as I saw his castrated organ lying a few inches away from his body. Ma slumped to the ground and started crying.
“WHY? Why did you do this to him?” I screamed at the boys. They were not kids, they were evil boys. I didn’t realize I was screaming at them. They all stood in a line in front of me with their faces hanging down in silence. No one uttered a word. “Why?” I cried once more and made my way downstairs.
My body was shaking uncontrollably due to the shock, grief, and anger. The boys followed me out of the terrace and sat down on the staircase. I turned around and looked at the bunch in disbelief. Their ages didn’t add up to 50. “Why do you’ll hate him so much? He wanted to be your friend,” I said.
One of the boys sitting on the last step snickered at my question.
I lost my mind. In a fit of rage, I ran to my room, pulled out the old wooden cricket bat that I had gotten repolished for Adi, and rushed back to the boys. Without thinking, I smashed the bat on the boy’s head. I heard his skull crack as he fell forward on the landing. All the boys heard it, saw it. But not a single one flinched, or moved, or even let out a whimper.
I looked at the heartless creatures in front of me, I looked at the blood stain glistening on the bat and started crying.
As the blood trickled down each step, I could hear the sirens approaching our house. And I woke up with a start.