She sat there on the stairs with her head down, dried tears on her face and some unshed ones still in her eyes. The voices were still screaming at her- “It is all her fault, had she not done this heinous task, perhaps he would still be alive!” Rupa Kaki accused
“Are! I always knew that she is jinxed, and today my words have come true! Like mother, like daughter!” yelled dadi.
“Come on bibi, don’t say this she is just 10 years old, I know what she has done is not right, but she is still a child.” said papa’s meekly.
“They were all correct, maybe, she was ill- fated” thought Priya.
Her mind took her a week back- when babaji had been taken to Delhi by an ambulance, doctors had said that he could now be treated only in a bigger hospital as his heart was in poor condition. Everyone- including papa, dadi, chacha and Rupa Kaki had gone with him. Priya and her little brother and sister were left in bari bua and manjhli bua’s care.
It had been so monotonous, the whole house used to be draped in sadness, they were not allowed to laugh or play loudly, manjhli bua said that they must not be jovial as babaji was very ill. So they all sat quietly and waited for some good news to come from Delhi . The only solace was school, at least in school they could play and talk loudly.
One day Teressa Aunty, who was chachaji’s friends’ wife, had called Priya to ask for babaji’s health and it is then that Priya saw Ekta a senior school girl selling bangles to the nursery school teachers. Ekta had made a lot of money and the teachers had been very happy too! Even Stella Aunty had bought beautiful blue and magenta colour bangles. Suddenly Priya had got an idea- “there are so many bangles lying at home just like that, I’ll also sell them and then all three of us can buy toffees and have fun!” Priya had been ecstatic at her wretched plan.
So the next day Priya counted 24 glass bangles of different colours from the jewellery box and without telling anyone took them to school. She went straight to Stella Aunty and told her that she wanted to sell her some lovely bangles.
Teressa aunty looked a bit surprised and said- “Well they are pretty. But how much are they for?” Without thinking Priya had said- “for 20 Rs.” Teressa aunty had immediately removed 20 Rs from her purse and had given the money to Priya and had taken the bangles. Silly unsuspecting Priya, without any inclination of what was in store for her at home had taken her brother and sister to the canteen and all three of them had had fun.
In the afternoon the rickshawalla bhaiyaji dropped them to the gate. Just when Priya was putting her bag on her back she had seen Teressa aunty coming from out of their house, she was still wearing the bangles she had bought from Priya. But there was a strange smile on her face.
All hell had broken lose when Priya entered the house, the moment bari bua had seen her she had started yelling- “ari nakti how dare you sell mummy’s bangles? You! You! Good for nothing girl, you are a witch like just like your mother, she herself died and left you creatures, so that we have to suffer! You wait till your father hears this, he will skin you apart.” And Priya had died of shame!
Never- ever had she thought of it like that, but who would believe her? “Everyone would think that she was as vile as her mother!” At that time Priya had hated her own face for everyone said that she was her “mother’s carbon- copy” That day had been hardest of her 10 years of life- none of the buas had spoken to her and Priya knew that they had told everyone in Delhi about it too!
Next morning Priya had woken up with sound wails- huge loud unmistakable wails- news had come that babaji was no more. Priya, little Adarsh and Mithika sat huddled in a corner while buas cried and cried and made arrangements for babaji to come back. The bed and other furniture were removed from the room and durries were spread in the chok. The grief of the loss was so strong that nobody had bothered about the three children.
At last babaji had come back; there was pain so much pain. Priya had cried in one corner, though it was Mithika who had been babji’s favorite she could feel the ache of his loss too. Just then Priya saw papa sitting with everyone else and ran up to him. Instead of hugging her papa had pushed her away- “Go away you despicable girl, it is because of you that my father today is no more!” Priya had felt as if papa had struck her.
And then she saw every eye in the room- every eye in the room said that it was her fault! Bua shrieked- “get away from us you witch! Go and hide your face elsewhere, you went and sold mummy’s bangles and see we lost our father!”
“It’s all your fault! It’s all your fault!” the words reverberated in Priya’s mind. She sat there on the stairs and wondered how? Just how would she seek for everyone’s forgiveness?