Shubha gasped for breath as she broomed the floor of the Iyer household. Heavy work coupled with inadequate diet had led to her failing health. The Iyers who paid her the highest salary among the five employers were famous for mistreating people of her class.
Shubha looked at Mrs. Iyer offering sweets to the deities. Shubha felt her stomach crying out for some food. Her alcoholic husband had run away with all her savings last night. She had barely managed to feed the kids and had to sleep without a morsel of food.
In another corner of the house, Iyer’s toddler son was emulating his mother’s actions. The deities had been replaced by his favorite toy called poochie – a dog made out of clay. The little one placed poochie on top of his favorite donut urging it to eat.
“Please let me be born as a toy dog in my next birth. In our world, an inanimate object gets better treatment than people like me,” she spoke to her God with tears in her eyes.
On the morning of Independence Day. the roads were deserted and Shiv could drive the tractor down from Alwar to Jaipur in just two and half hours. He had planned to surprise his sister Vandana by making this sudden trip. It had been a year and half of her wedding to the family of rice merchants in Jaipur. During this period, Shiv had come only once to meet her during rakhi last year. His younger brother Raj had probably fallen asleep at the rear end of the tractor. After losing both his parents within a period of six months, Shiv had single-handedly taken up the responsibility of his younger siblings. His father, a poor farmer who toiled in other’s fields hadn’t left behind a single penny.
Shiv started working odd jobs eighteen hours a day to finally buy a piece of land for farming. He had been saving up for Vandana’s marriage simultaneously. Raj had started helping him on the fields. After Vandana got married, the brothers started pulling up money to purchase a tractor. The microfinance firm had lent them a tractor loan three months back.
His heart had always been set on meeting his sister but it was she who kept encouraging him to focus on his work instead. She had always been very proud of her Dadbhaisa (elder brother). He was relieved that she had been married to a decent family that cared about her happiness. That’s what she always told him.
Shiv looked at the boxes of sweets that Raj had bought for Vandana and her in-laws. They had reached the destination. He parked the tractor on the opposite road of the lane where lay Vandana’s marital home. Waking Raj up, he washed his face with the water from the nearby municipality water tap. There were three to four people who were probably on their way to celebrate the day through flag hoisting.