Twenty-three

Nights when my 6 year old brother and I would be afraid of, thinking of the ghost stories that cousin Srini would tell us in the morning while playing outside across the hills and yards. The fairly built windows would be distanced as much as possible because according to what he’d say, long fingernails would emerge in when it got dark.
‘Children robbers are in town’
‘Don’t tell me! Srini, don’t scare us please!’
‘I’m not lying, girl. They come by these red cars. Itseems they carry knives and blades, rods and chains at the trunk of their colossal cars’
Both Sunil and I would listen to him with fear in our eyes.
‘I heard they’re gonna kidnap children. Better shut all the doors before it gets dark’
And we’d always have our mom’s back once the dusk was passed and the hours of night what Srini warned us of approached. We’d follow her wherever she went. It was like a train comprising of three compartments – mom, bro and I. Ofcourse mom would lead it, mocking us at how silly we were. I always managed to take the mid position pushing my brother to the end, so I wouldn’t be exposed to any attacks, not right away atleast. And the next day when Srini would arrive home, he would have a lot to listen from mom for scaring her children to bits and pieces.
Stories he’d bring home could be trusted only when it’d have supporting statements made by people other than him in the following days. The incident of robbery at Lingu’s place mushroomed like an ocean and everyone was talking of the silver polished Toyota car that had been standing before Lingu’s gate the previous night of the theft. And of the Klansman who as described by Kusa, who’d walk by our road twice a day to the diary clattering two cans of milk, was 6 feet tall with a great body, thick moustache trimmed to the alphabet ‘M’, slightly. He further added that there were sharp-edged knives spotted at the trunk in the lavishing car which was parked near a local hotel for a cup of coffee. And I would have the petrified imagination of it all for several nights that followed.
It wasn’t until a murder that took place in a house not too far from our lane, that my mother was seen worrying about. ‘When they haven’t left houses with full of men and folks, you think they’d leave us, who live in the middle of a holt with not even a single soul to be seen around after 6 pm.’
Everybody in the town knew that we lived alone, just a mother and her children, in a place where there was no room for escape if any threat appeared to take place. No neighbours, no men in the house for rescue. It was all on my mother who could only plead with the intruders if they got in. Julie, our dog was tough enough but we had heard that the bad men would first poison the dogs and then break the house doors open.
If it was out of mercy or if they were afraid of getting lost on the way, in the sidewalks of majestic trees and endless mounds; for whatever reason it maybe, they never made it to our house till the end. Perhaps they were entirely unaware of our existence. It could also be the goddess my mother was praying to every night before going to bed. ‘Keep us safe. Take care of my children. I leave it all to you’ she’d murmer her prayers laying awake in the bed and gazing at the wall, side of the small shrine down in the farm. She’d then curl us up in her arms and sing songs for us that had put her into good sleep by her mother when she was as little as we were now.
‘Darani mandala Madhyadolage… ‘ If the song ended and we were still up, twinkling our eyes, she’d knock at the bedhead and say ‘Close your eyes! I think the robbers have come in’ her low voice hushing.
I’d only half believe her. But my brother was too little to get the politics and would have his eyes pressed harder than required and in no time would have them released to snore. I’d roll my eyes and quest for that ‘someone’ she’d refer to every night, until sleep arrived.

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