Crossroads

This is an image of crossroads when viewed from above. I've chosen it because it depicts the penultimate scene in my story where an abuser finally reflects at the crossroads before sadly returning to his old ways.

He grew up in a semi-urban, hot and humid neighborhood in India, and prided himself more in his caste than in his ethnicity. He believed that the term, ‘Brahmin’, brought with it a plethora of intelligence that fate denied men of other castes. He feasted on his social status, and the wisdom that the gods bestowed on the ‘chosen few’ or to use an Anglicized term, the ‘elect’ because his parents taught him exactly that: His father, an archetypal ruler of the household, erect and stiff-necked, and his mother, immersed in making sure prayers with bells ringing, and honey and milk were attended to with intricate detail. Both his parents believed in omens and the right alignment of the stars and called it ‘science’.

As he grew up, he lived his dream of making money, and making his parents proud, and giving them something to boast about, which was his father’s dream, and which in turn will be his son’s dream. He got the grades necessary, applying his acute intelligence, and won a scholarship abroad. He landed in the Bible belt, and lived there with a Southern Baptist family for the duration of his MBA. He found them odd at first, and could never reconcile with their religious beliefs, but their conservatism appealed to him, and like most Indian men who study abroad and then return, he came home with an accent that’s put on, and a façade of Americanism, while fundamentally clinging to his tradition. He got a high paying job as a management consultant, and soon traveled, sticking to his vegetarian roots, burps after each meal, and the loud, boisterous fart in public, while wearing an Armani suit, a Christian Dior watch, and fashionable leather shoes.

He gave his talks in his fake accent, while CEOs nodded in approval, secretaries gave him the look, although he wasn’t great looking, and women bosses found him alluring, despite the idiosyncratic fart. He returned to India later; spoke to the crème de la crème only, and soon owned a pristine white Contessa, because he preferred it to the Ambassador, and those were the only two elite vehicles then, owned by politicians in white and powerful men. Sure, there were the Fiats, and the small Marutis, but he jettisoned the very thought of them, like the thought of chicken curry that the ‘uncultured’ cooked. His parents soon decided on finding him a cousin he’d marry, and settled on a squint-eyed Brahmin girl, who’d be her mother-in-law’s devout assistant, and the bearer of his son. But, he was a man of untamed lust, and couldn’t picture himself settling down with his cousin. He’d after all seen the most beautiful women and had struggled to keep chaste. He’d furiously masturbate, in posh hotel rooms for hours.

Now it was too much to handle, and he needed a beauty. And so, he befriended a middle class Christian family, and set his sights on their daughter who was fourteen years younger than him. He was nearing forty, while she had just graduated from college. And her beauty captivated him; despite him holding the thought that Indian Christian women were ‘immoral’. He went against his parent’s wishes, seduced her, pulling the strings of her naïvety, and married her. He didn’t want a Church wedding and so it was a secular affair of sorts that his parents refused to attend.

Until he got home after the ceremony – the urge to bed her, pulsating within him – he spoke to her kindly. His voice possessed a deceitful charm, a soft tenor that made her blush. But he then couldn’t find the keys to the Bungalow he’d built, and suddenly yelled at her. “Where did you keep the bloody keys?” he bellowed. She stood flabbergasted, and shaken to the core, until he realized that it was in his pocket. “Now, don’t tell me it’s my fault!” He raged, and she stood mute, not knowing what to say.

Years of this transcended to physical violence, and since she couldn’t give him a child, he disregarded her as a barren woman. Adopting a child was beneath his dignity. He’d take her to parties though, where she’d smile though she wept inside, and he talked boisterously and farted. He imposed vegetarianism and Brahmin beliefs on her. Soon decades passed, and porn had arrived in its resplendent glory. His CEO friends gave him the CDs, and he got away with pretty much anything by gifting policemen bottles of champagne, or bribing them when the neighbors complained of a wife mistreated. One day, after one too many blows, finding catharsis in a group sex video, he strolled in his expensive, rich neighborhood, greeting influential men walking their dogs with their own trophy wives, and stood at a crossroads, when a thought occurred. “If I go back, I’ll continue abusing her, and somewhere it gives me no peace, but the roads to the right and the left eventually go back home too. So change is futile. And if I let her go, I’ll give her freedom and be frowned upon by society.” And so, making his choice, he went back to his bungalow with its red roof, white luxurious bathtubs, a new Mercedes parked in the garage, and a puppy that was her only consolation.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

Men of Perdition

This is a picture of the beautiful woods with an ominous face in the background. I've used it because it represents the depravity of some men who destroy everything humanity stands for.

The clip found its way to YouTube, and my friends in college showed it to others on their phones as if it was a video of a back-heel nutmeg by Ronaldinho. I was guilty too, simply because I shared in the excitement. Many years later, it haunted me. He knelt, reading out something they’d forced him to. You could see the pain in his eyes, the horror in that look that begged for mercy. He knew that death was nearby like a rabid dog, uncontrollable, and rushing towards him, but he still grappled with fate; wrestled with all his might against an indomitable force, and even though the contest looked like a scrawny one-armed man trying to take down a Herculean Undefeated Olympic champion, he didn’t give up. He wanted to survive. I’m sure he’d wrapped himself with a blanket of delusion, and refused to let actuality pry it free. Perhaps, he sincerely prayed, and asked for both justice and grace; his petition so different from his mechanical chant at the Thanksgiving table. He was, at that moment, in the dusk of his life; reading from that penultimate chapter of his novel, unable to digest the words because what once read like a metaphorical delight with a debonair protagonist, was turning into an unambiguous note, filled with grammatical errors, and written by an unwashed, tired, bedraggled slave robbed of even the right to think. I’m sure he envisioned returning home to her; thought of when he met her, and how that moment became the apogee of his personal life. He’d found true love at last, but it was now enveloped by a miasma of despair, and her laughter which always summoned an ebullience that poets like Neruda have immortalized was now a faint stutter that tried to give him hope but failed; and the world they’d sewn out of Rayon Challis, was now spinning in the laundry machine, looking like a coarse mop cloth. He waited, and then felt the sword, and you could see the agony in his eyes as it slowly tore through the Levator scapulae. They were sawing away as if his neck was the bark of a tree. Soon his neck was partly separated from his body, and the sight resembled a normal distribution curve with the hanging head rising to meet the laceration, and the rest of the neck descending from it. It had an odd symmetry to it, and maybe my description is callous, but what’s really ruthless is men with black scarves around their faces, robbing a child’s innocence, and creating fissures in his heart by brutally murdering his father; men with twisted notions of faith, killing in the name of religion; declaring war on an already fallen race that is struggling to get by, and hoping to find elusive peace. Men butchering men like animals to announce their credo, to create a cause founded on askew notions of truth, thereby constructing an anathema with no real backbone; an abomination that has flayed reason and emotion, with an unmitigated penchant for destruction like an unpredictable tempest. Men who’ve rapidly descended that ladder of depravity, lost all inhibition, and are now like animals, grunting and howling; carnal beasts, who rape, plunder and then castigate immorality; men driven by frightening, twisted scruples, and are willing to die for them. Men who’ve abandoned love, and are already in perdition, hoping to devour many as they walk their journey of corrupt instinct; jog their marathon of hatred, and run their race of devilry.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)