ZoharA Story by Zypy Kirubi
ZoharWednesday, May 04, 2010; Zohar’s nightmares were nowhere close to night terrors but they kept her awake for hours. The streets and the children kept flashing through her mind throughout the night. She was in Mumbai for the second time in one year, on a vacation that was meant to ease her mental fatigue. Her husband had left her in Maui, Hawaii during their honeymoon three weeks ago. She loved him so much, tears clogged her throat every time she thought of him; he did not love her. In fact, he had admitted his fading affections the night after their marriage. Probably he was succumbed to the anxiety of having to put up with her habit of waking up too early in the morning, at 5 am, to watch movies. Perhaps he disliked her obsession of picking her nose with her pinky finger at the age of 35. He was a 40 year old construction worker and she kept hoping he would come around. So far, he hadn’t.
For a whole week, she waited but nothing happened. First, she moved in with her 25 year old sister for two days in Ohio then visited her cousin, Rowling, in Seattle for five days. She was still depressed and madly in love with her husband. His first letter to her arrived right after she discovered she was pregnant with his child. According to his letter, he had secretly filed for a divorce because he was in love with somebody else, a woman she had met in one of her random visits at his college in Wyoming when they were dating. Her hope dissolved, a marriage with him was not part of her futurity and she thought of herself as a walking corpse. She decided to extend her stay in Mumbai to pass time at the beach for a week, alone. There was nothing else for her to accomplish since she had quit her job as a chronicle newspaper editor.
Her brain clogged with unending thoughts of her past and present. It was her fourth night in Bombay. She only wanted morning to come knocking at her door sooner so that the long night of wakeful thinking would end. A Muezzin at 6 am awoke her; the exact moment when she had begun to fall asleep. She climbed out of bed and went to use the bathroom, but couldn’t because the toilet wouldn’t flush. They were experiencing shortage of water in India. Zohar recalled her first time in Mumbai in the same hotel when she joined a non-governmental organization that posted her in India to work with homeless kids, way back in 1995. The toilets flushed then and meals were served at the dining hall located on the roof where the view was breathtaking. From there, she could see the beach line and the rows of houses mostly painted white, a color that had since faded. Another room had been added to the hotel’s roof and meals were no longer served there. There were other small restaurants near the metal gate that took care of the residents and the only place left for relaxation was the back yard facing Indian Ocean. She had already spent two evenings watching kids play soccer at the beach.
Her head ached and her stomach churned. For two days, she had only eaten a little and only for the sake of her unborn child. She felt weak. There was a bottle of water on a stool near the sink; she brushed her teeth and grabbed a sweater before struggling with the padlock and flying down the stairs. It was humid and hot. The stuffy air choked her and the squalid streets, full of waste discarded randomly, forced her to harbor ill feelings against the town. There were cows wandering along eating anything they found. She knew about their origin but what she did not understand how they belonged. Were they wild or domestic? Indians called them holy cows and claimed they lived in harmony with everybody. They believed the cows brought a good Augury. Nobody was allowed to slaughter them. Most of them appeared emaciated and had not reached Embonpoint due to lack of food.
In order to survive on the streets some people developed diverse creative knacks for coming up with ways of making money. A young teenager played Harmonica on a side walk; A man in his mid-twenties performed tricks of dexterity in the old town Piazza; A young girl, not above twelve years, blew flageolet outside a prominent historical palace; A group of youngsters put on a show of awesome handsprings, painting, and kowtowing to a good number of tourists. She passed by in wonder.
Being alert was necessary because Larceny was common. She watched out for footpads whose aim was to hocus vulnerable and confused people- like her. There were light-fingered and indigent citizens whose leaning was to take with inequity what did not belong to them. It was not however, their fault, she reflected. Life had proved heavy-handed to them and survival became a matter only for the fittest. Flivvers galumphed by and jostled people on the sidewalks. Space was limited and traffic deadlocked which slowed down people's movements and made her clumsy. She noticed homeless mendicants and got into one of the Flivvers so she could pay more attention to the street shops. There were alarming prices on every item. The same destitute woman she had seen two days ago was now standing with her go-cart at the entrance to one of the fancy shops, she could not afford to buy herself anything; Zohar had not bought anything for herself either. The saris were expensive. The shops did not have to crouch for the needy but at least they could have sold things with reasonable prices and some benefits and discounts for the poor. They could have also tried to introduce a lay away plan where diverse buyers could continue paying for a held item until payment was complete.
Due to fatigue she sat back in the Flivver's back chair and tilted her head to her right with her eyes half-closed. A puzzling scene she only half noticed at first, forced her to sit upright. Without knowing it, her eyes were popping out of their sockets. Was she hallucinating? To confirm, she nudged her head side to side. There was a horse trapped between her Flivver and the rest of the vehicles. When she was here last, there were no horses in the roadways, definitely not in the streets.
If the horse decided to bend its head anytime, she was going to be in trouble. It could easily pop its head in through her side aperture, uninvited. The animal was actually part of traffic and so were the cows she had seen earlier. They knew exactly how to navigate the congested paths. The horse rider, she supposed the Hackie, was comfortably dressed in a stylish attire with something that looked more like a Shako on his head. His legs draped along both sides of the hefty horse and his surrounding air was that of an intellectual; Peradventure a Mullah. She looked in every direction and realized she was in for more surprises. There was more than one horse. They were all caught in traffic and two of them, ahead of her, were trying to cross the road with extraordinary caution as they first waited for the vehicles to slow down.
She could not stifle the chuckle which came out just when her cell phone rang. At first, she hesitated to pick the phone up but then she recognized the number; her husband, who had taken her through so much pain, was calling from Wyoming. She reluctantly said hello and realized he was crying like a baby on the other end. His so-called girlfriend had kicked him out of her house. He wanted to join her in Mumbai for reconciliation. It was time to go back to her hotel; she had been out for hours.
© 2011 Zypy Kirubi
Added on May 4, 2011
Last Updated on May 4, 2011