“Dog! Just think that he is a filthy dog who likes to bark all day long! Remember, Sumitra, God is always there… watching all his sins!”
Kaushalya, the seventy-year-old, childless widow, would console her younger sister, Sumitra, every week over the phone.
“Yes! Sometimes I wonder, too... Where are you, my God? Why are you not doing something? As if you are also on the side of these devils, prolonging the lives of these demons! How old is he now, your husband? Oh! Not too old then. God knows how many years more he’ll live and continue to make your life hell!”
Stuck in a miserable marriage through most of her life, either the fifty-five year old younger sister would call Kaushalya to seek hope, or Kaushalya would concernedly ring this distant, sole-surviving family member of hers, fearing her husband might have started a new trouble for her. In any case, this weekly conversation between them would take place without fail.
“That shameless man — calls himself a husband and father! Has he fulfilled his duties ever?!” Kaushalya would utter as soon as her sister stopped crying on the other end of the line. “Beating you and children… stopping them from attending school… keeping you all hungry, sometimes for days… spending no money on you all, even in sickness… Oh! Just wait, you dog! God is watching — one day, one day soon!”
Often their talks would be cut short by the arrival of Sumitra’s cruel husband on the other end of the line. But sometimes, when they were fortunate, the aggrieved sisters would go on for hours.
“How are the children?” Kayshalya would ask concernedly. “May God keep them healthy... Yes, I know… Pray that they grow up fast and get some job. Yes, it’s a pity your children get no education, but let’s pray that they will find some way to earn money. Then only you’ll be free from that devil of a husband of yours. A woman gets tied down, cannot free herself from a cruel husband, once she has children.”
The aged sisters, having gone through a lifelong of their own separate marital miseries, were helpless. Outpouring of these words and tears would be the only way they would release their pain and lighten their sad hearts for a while.
“Don’t you remember my man?” Kaushalya would recall her own husband painfully, damning him to hell, even though he had died a few years earlier and gone to hell in all likelihood. “He was no good either! At least he improved later in life, accepted his mistakes just before his death. But your husband… he is only getting worse with age!”
The conversation between the two sisters would never change, simply because Sumitra’s shameless husband would never change.
Each time Kaushalya would offer her sister the same hope for divine intervention—“After all, it is because of God that you’ve come this far… sustained that man’s madness for so long. Otherwise, any woman would have lost her mind by now! God must be having some plans for you.”—and the same curses for her sister’s abusive husband—“No, don’t lose faith! That husband of yours, the bastard… he’ll soon rot in his bed!”
During these talks Kaushalya would become so emotionally heightened, so intense that she could be heard outside by all those who went past her house, some of whom were the women from her neighborhood, as old as Kaushalya, taking their evening strolls. Behind Kaushalya’s back, her foul mouth became the center of their evening gossip. And when Kaushalya would be with them, they would incite her, behind their masks of sympathy, to further discuss her younger sister’s miseries. They would then watch in pleasure as Kaushalya would praise her lord persistently in the same sentence in which she would go on hurling foulest of curses for her sister’s husband.
And so, in this way, lonely Kaushalya’s conversations with her troubled younger sister and her gossip-loving neighbors went on — every week of every month for years to come.
A day arrived, however, which finally broke this routine of hers. After answering a phone call from her younger sister’s home, old Kaushalya, now seventy-five years old, packed a bag and left for her sister’s distant town that same blistering afternoon.
After thirteen days when Kaushalya came back and was climbing the steps of her building’s staircase, she encountered the same gossipy, old women from her neighborhood. They surrounded her right there on the steps and began inquiring about her trip. Kaushalya leveled her wrinkly face with theirs to speak, but before she could say a word, the women saw her weary black eyes flood with tears in a matter of seconds.
Wiping her eyes, Kaushalya informed them of her sister’s demise and took in their comforting words, one of the old women offering in genuine sympathy: “Your sister is free now from all her pain…finally in peace with God.“
“There is no God!” Kaushalya whispered bitterly, staring down at her own aging feet. “God can go to hell!”
She lifted her face, no sign of tears anymore, noticed the stunned faces around her, and picked up her bag to climb the rest of the steps to her house, hurling on the way the most foulest of curses for her God under her breath.