The Moonless Night - 1 in English Short Stories by Anirudh Deshpande books and stories PDF | The Moonless Night - 1

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The Moonless Night - 1


 Imarti handed the ten paisa coin to old Prithiviraj, picked up the packet of salt he had kept on the narrow glass topped shop counter and walked away from the shop towards the doctor’s house before he opened his toothless mouth. 

 Old Prithiviraj, the bald Marwari in a dhoti with white drooping whiskers had leased the shop in 1936 from the municipal committee and was known to offer unsolicited advice to his customers. 

Imarti recognized the louts from the dhobi ghat on Shakur Ki Dandi who stared at her hips and passed lewd comments from outside Kaluram Halwai’s shop next to the general store.

“Have a hot spicy samosa with us” Billu, the dark one in a red shirt shouted after her.

“Please accompany me to the company bagh for some ice cream after that my darling” Saleem, with thin legs encased in tight black terricot pants added his bit in a high pitched voice.

“Listen you two behenchods, am I dead that she will go with either of you?” Fateh, in a lungi and short dirty white kurta smirked.

Some urchins in torn clothes gorged on stale fritters thrown to them in a brown paper envelope by the swarthy oily haired Halwai grinned.

 The laughter followed Imarti till she was two houses away from her destination. She was in a hurry or else would have given the hooligans a mouthful of abuse in the language of rural Kasganj. She had stood up to the local goons who had lusted for her since she turned ten.

 Her scared parents married off the attractive girl at sixteen to Dulichand, a municipal sweeper in New Delhi. The couple inhabited a jhuggi propped up against two long sides of the houses in a small square piece of land behind the kind doctor’s house.

 She became the local boys’ object of desire as soon as the proud Dulichand brought her to the jhuggi on a sunny December afternoon.

Imarti had to cook a simple dinner for the Doctor’s family and had realized earlier that the kitchen was out of salt. During the monsoon the hedge of thick henna bushes had grown tall and could hide men well over six feet tall who might take advantage of lone young women passing by on any evening. The passage between the hedge and the front of the houses was narrow and unpaved.

Deepak, Rajiv and Alok appeared from behind the tall hedge startling Imarti. They had obviously spied on her movements.

“Stand aside, I have important work to do. I have no time for your nonsense” Imarti was firm.

“When your face turns pink you really look very beautiful” the thick set Deepu remarked, mischief lurking in his gaze.

“Do you know how sweet imarti is?” Raju, a fair complexioned Punjabi, asked his friends.

“How should we know? We have never tasted an imarti” retorted the pock marked Loki. The hooligans shared a glance.

“Why don’t you go and taste the sweets kept in your house? Don’t you have sisters and mothers at home waiting to satisfy your lust?” Imarti gave it back to them.

“See how long this lower caste tongue has become? Once I am done with you only a kotha on G B Road will give you shelter. That fucker Dulichand will rot in the drains like a widower. Tell her about me” rejoined Loki looking at his cronies. 

He was a known sex maniac among the local boys. They often enjoyed his dirty jokes and narrations from porn novels bought at the railway station.

“And once Ranvir is done with your sister, will she accompany me to the whorehouse? The rickshaw pullers and tonga wallas will hump her for only five rupees” Imarti raised her voice.

Ranvir, a strapping feared Gujar wrestler, was the local milkman who kept cows and buffaloes illegally in a large square behind Tagore Road. Everyone knew that Alok’s sister Reena, a buxom dusky girl, met Ranvir regularly in her Bengali friend Fulta’s house. 

“One of these days we will show you your place. High time you were screwed nice and proper…” Loki would have continued but for a distraction.

Rohit Ahuja heard the unsavory exchange of words from behind the henna hedge outside his house. He had returned from a game of cricket and was about to enter the house when the voices drew his attention.

“Imarti didi, is everything alright?” he glowered at the men cricket bat in hand.

“See, her savior has arrived and the villains will be beaten up. I am scared” Rajiv gesticulated with his hands feigning fear.

“I am sure the little fucker has already tasted the syrup” Loki’s crafty eyes radiated envy and desire. 

“How old are you? Ten or Eleven? Have you started jerking off already? You bloody hidden thief!” Deepu caressed his crotch. 

Raju winked at the petrified boy who stood rooted to the spot. 

“Is Dulichand useless that you need a mere boy to satisfy you?” he pointed at Rohit.

Blood rushed to Imarti’s face but before she could retort the men cast a meaningful glace at their victims and swaggered away. From a distance they looked back, shared a comment and laughed.

The embarrassed boy and angry woman entered the house which was soon engulfed in the aroma of the tasty simple fare prepared in the small kitchen where the cook felt safe. Later she bathed and returned to the jhuggi.