There is this story in the newspaper about a four-year-old girl who was married to a dog to ward off the evil eye from her family...
In comes Gauri, the matronly Bengali cleaning woman, two brooms in one hand and a can in the other. She lives in an unauthorised cluster of jhuggis and has been abandoned by her husband Haran, the father of her four children. She works for me not because she needs more work, but because of her daughter Sumitra, who used to be our cleaning woman, who has abandoned her husband and gone off to live with one Pontu, in another unauthorised shanty-town across the Yamuna river. Before she went away, Gauri tells me, Sumitra told her to take over her job in the TV Memsahibs house, because she does not follow you from room to room or inspect the plastic bag that you carry.
Move, Gauri commands me, and I put my feet up on the sofa. She sets to work with the bamboo broom. Come here first, I say, and point out the picture of the little bitch in the newspaper. See, she is from your part of the country. She is only four and her parents have married her to a dog! I add after a dramatic pause.
Oho, Gauri says, resuming her work. So? She is their daughter. They can marry her to anyone they like.
dont you see it is illegal? The police
Gauri takes a deep breath and speaks in chromatic and halting sentences:
Last year I had this neighbour next door... She is an evil person with a real black tongue... My children, they were playing outside and she began to scream curses at them for no reason... May the pox strike you... may you rot and turn blue ...! she does not have a husband or anything but does black magic for a fee... she can give you magic potions to attract a man or a woman beyond their good judgment... how else do you think I lost my husband to that daughter of a jackal in Seemapuri? How did that good-for-nothing Pontu get my daughter to elope with him? My younger son falls sick at night, vomiting his bowels out till there is nothing inside, and a raging fever... then I go to the other woman in the Patpargunj Mother Dairy jhuggi...
we were talking abut the girl married to a dog...
Mrinal Pande, television personality, journalist and author, wrote this for TLM in English. However, she continues to write fiction in Hindi, her first love. She lives in New Delhi